The corporal extended his hand to Paris after he’d safely seated Mike in the passenger seat of the car.
“We were kinda half watching when we saw you guys come up to us. Your girlfriend is pretty smart to not try to do something like confront them. It only makes things worse with guys like that.”
Paris scratched his head as he took the Marine’s hand and shook it, scratching the back of his head. He was embarrassed at having to be escorted to their car like that, but he pushed it down because Mike was ok.
As he turned to leave, the corporal put his hand on his shoulder for a moment. “I know you wanted to stand up to those guys back there, but that’s pride talking. You were right to listen to her and not try to fight. I know it doesn’t seem like it, but it was the right thing and you shouldn’t feel bad about it. Everyone needs help sometimes.”
Paris smiled at the compliment. “You sound like my dad… But thanks.”
The two servicemen said their goodbyes and tipped their hats to Mike as they left. Paris got in the driver’s side and put the key into the ignition. He felt a more than a little humbled at backing down, and even a little embarrassed by being bailed out by Mike’s asking for help.
Mike looked at him with a worried glance. “I’m sorry.”
He dipped his head just above the steering wheel for a minute before turning to her. “No. I’m the one who should be sorry. I just don’t like running away like that for something so stupid as a gaggle of hip hop wannabes.”
Mike looked down at the floor and shifted in uncomfortably the passenger seat. All of the energy seemed to seep out of her as she confessed. “I was afraid… At first I wasn’t but as they followed us I got scared. I got worried that they might hit you and I panicked. I wanted to stand up to him, but I couldn’t stop worrying… It would have just been you against them. Like this I’m not much help...”
Her eyes watered, as she struggled to truthfully express her emotions without letting go completely. “I tried to get him to leave me alone but he just wouldn’t.” She clasped her hands in front of her face to hide her own embarrassment. “It’s my fault we had to go so soon.”
Paris looked at his friend, who was struggling to rein in a torrent of emotions. He could see that she truly felt like she was the cause and not the victim.This has to be terrifying for her to have to adjust to. She’s still so inexperienced…
He pulled her hands away from her face. “Mike, it wasn’t your fault. You didn’t ask that guy over, and you asked him to leave and he didn’t. It’s not your fault he’s an asshole.”
“I’m not ready for this... I don’t know what to do when my emotions run away like this. Dr. Rigby said that I have to adjust, but it’s frightening. I don’t want to feel this way… I don’t want to be scared like this. I’m afraid all the time now. When I was a boy, I didn’t have to deal with any of this –no one looked at me like that. I wish I could go back… To the way things were…
It makes me uncomfortable; being like this. He wasn’t even trying to know anything about me –like I didn’t even matter. When someone looks at me like that I don’t even feel like a person –just an object. It hurts. Is it always going to be like this?”
Paris held onto her hand, while she worked through her emotions, trying to let them take shape on their own. Mike had her first real experience as a woman and found the whole thing to be terrifying.
It was easy to forget that before she woke up, she was on the verge of turning fifteen. Seventeen months can be so long.
“I don’t know what to say, Mike… If I’d have known it was going to be this bad –I wouldn’t have suggested this trip. I had no idea... I’m sorry…”
Mike took a handkerchief from her purse and dabbed at her eyes to dry them. She let her hands fall back into her lap as she sighed heavily. It looked as though she was trying to collect herself and get her emotions back under control. After a moment of silence, she turned to look at him. Her eyes were still shiny with tears, and she smiled a broken smile. Paris felt his heart grow tight seeing her vulnerability. It hurt to watch her struggle –it wasn’t a side of his friend he was used to seeing.
“Don’t apologize for them. You haven’t looked at me once like that. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you treat any girl like that…” She paused for a moment, as though she was unsure of what to say next, or if she wasn’t sure if it was okay for her to speak what was on her mind. “But it’s okay… I have to learn how to deal with this. If I don’t get through this now, I’ll never be able to have a normal life.”
“I can’t imagine how hard this has got to be for you.” He offered. “But I’d be lying if I let you think that. I have eyes, Mike. That hasn’t changed. I can’t help looking because this is new and I’m still trying to come to terms with it, myself. I’m going to look, I can’t help that. You have to keep in mind you’re a girl now –not only that, but you’re a very beautiful girl. That’s not something that’s easy to get away from. Guys like that are gonna be a daily occurrence. I wish I could say otherwise, but that’s just reality.”
She seemed to take comfort in what he said. Her smile seemed to brighten a little, but she was still hesitant and looked down nervously. “You’re not helping…” she said.
“I know. I’m making things worse, aren’t I? Sometimes I wish I had a better sense of when to say something clever.”
She literally lunged forward and wrapped her arms around him, squeezing hard. She buried her face in his neck, and held to him tightly. He was taken aback for a moment, but then he realized that she might have just needed to let go of the moment now that drama was over. Hesitantly, he wrapped his arms around her and gave her an encouraging squeeze. He could smell the scent of jasmines in her hair and on her clothing. Mike shuddered for a moment, but then seemed to relax afterwards. As she pulled away, he could see her face was beet red with embarrassment.
“Please don’t tell Mom and Dad about this. I promised them both that I would be able to deal with it… but I just realized how far I have to go and I’m scared. I still have no idea what it takes to be a girl. But I just don’t want them to worry…”
“What are you talking about? If you hadn’t stopped to ask for help, I’d have gotten my ass kicked twice. First for getting into a fight, and then by your mom if I’d brought you home after having got in said fight.”
His humor managed to elicit a smile from her as they pulled out of the lot.
Marco Jones, hip hop wannabe, clutched at his nose as the blood oozed down his face and onto his oversized t-shirt.
“Fuck!” he cursed. “You broke my fuckin’ nose!”
Cold hazel eyes stared blankly back at him. Marco tried to sit up, but he was caught roughly by his signature hair and slammed back against the concrete wall of the parking deck. His eyes lost focus for several moments. The dark haired blasian teen with light eyes crouched before him, wiping his hands on a moist towlette.
“That hair gel is completely disgusting… Now where were we?”
Marco looked at the prone forms of his friends and inwardly cringed. The five of them had rushed to the parking lot in hopes of catching up the girl, only to find their path impeded by the tall blasian teen. He stood silently in front of them with his arms tucked in the pockets of his black chinos.
“This is as far as you go.”
The young man looked unfazed by their numbers and in the covered corridor to the parking lot, his challenge echoed throughout the halls of the covered parking deck.
This was just too much. Marco was tired of being challenged. First that bitch in the café, then by those marines she got to cover for her, and now this. He’d had just about enough and so had his boys.
He slipped off the oversized Hawaiian shirt exposing his cut physique, adorned with a wife-beater t-shirt. “Just get out my way, “Brah”. We got a beef—“
That was all he remembered. When he came to, he and his crew were all laid out in the parking lot in various states of injury, and the blasian kid with the hazel eyes was crouching in front of him.
“You remember the girl. The one you were chasing?” he asked.
He surged forward, attempting to grab the kid in front of him. From a crouching position, the blasian kid with the hazel eyes spun effortlessly to the side, shifted his back foot and brought a bone shattering cross chop to the bridge of his nose, spraying blood everywhere.
“I don’t like repeating myself. Do you remember her?”
Still clutching his shattered nose he nodded yes as he whimpered in pain. The blasian teen’s eyes narrowed to mere slits as he spoke with a low malevolence that would have turned the devil white to hear it.
“If you desire to live a long and fruitful life, you and your buddies will do well to stay away from her. If you see her again –move in the other direction. Run for your life because if I ever lay eyes on you again, these eyes will be the last thing on this earth that you see.”
Marco cried like a schoolgirl as he nodded over and over again. “I got it! I got it!”
The blasian teen stood up and turned to walk away, unconcerned at any retaliation he might render. He paused, without a care in the world and said. “The same is true for the boy she was with. Am I making myself clear?”
Marco realized that he managed to whimper “Yes, sir…” before he passed out.