Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Revised Chapters 10, 11, 12

Here's three more chapters! Yay! My post on Dear Teen Me got bumped to Monday--I'll post a link when it's finally up. 




Kimbo69 says: Report. Report. How did the big move in go?
Leesie327 says: I’m like Frankenstein living in The Bachelorette Mansion.
Kimbo69 says: You mean his monster.
Leesie327 says: Everybody’s a critic.
Kimbo69 says: Your roomies are that hot?
Leesie327 says: Alex isn’t hot—just like Michael said. But the guys? Droolworthy in the extreme.
Kimbo69 says: Stuck up?
Leesie327 says: Not really. Gabriel is a bit too good for the rest of the world, but when he walks by with no shirt on you don’t care.
Kimbo69 says: You’re typing way faster than last time we chatted.
Leesie327 says: Using two hands. Don’t tell my doctor.
Kimbo69 says: Is Michael regretting moving you in with all those hunks?
Leesie327 says: Did you actually use the world “hunk”? I thought we banned that word when we were Juniors.
Kimbo69 says: If you’d give me more details, maybe I’d be more inspired.
Leesie327 says: The guys didn’t look twice at me. Well, they took in the mess and looked away fast. Michael did seem kind of jealous. It’s cute. He got all romantic.
Kimbo69 says: Mark would be dragging me out of there by my ponytail.
Leesie327 says: Ouch. Don’t talk to me about ponytails.
Kimbo69 says: Sorry. Lame one. How’s your head?
Leesie327 says: Itchy. Prickly. I guess that’s a good sign. I’ve got five o’clock shadow all over my head.
Kimbo69 says: Back to the men folk . . .
Leesie327 says: Alex is cool.
Kimbo69 says: I don’t care about Alex.
Leesie327 says: She helped me unpack then we stayed up until two in the morning talking.
Kimbo69 says: You haven’t described in breathtaking detail the rest of the guys.
Leesie327 says: You’ll never believe what I found on the bottom of my second suitcase.
Kimbo69 says:  A digital camera so you can send me pictures?
Leesie327 says: Rough drafts of all the poems I wrote last year.
Kimbo69 says: I don’t get it.
Leesie327 says: Michael. He saved them from the wreck. Even scraps. Scribbled envelopes. There’s mud smudges and water stain’s on every page, but it’s dry. I think he ironed them. I would have lost it all, but he saved them.
Kimbo69 says: I can’t believe it.
Leesie327 says: I don’t deserve him. I should be alone, miserable, locked up somewhere banging my head on a wall, instead I’m with this beautiful boy who kisses me when I cry and saves my life every day.
Kimbo69 says: Maybe he finally deserves you.
Leesie327 says: I’d be so lost without him.
Kimbo69 says: So you’re computer got smashed?
Leesie327 says: Everything I took to school was in the back of the pickup.
Kimbo69 says: Even your hideous desktop?
Leesie327 says: I don’t know. It’s all gone.
Kimbo69 says: I’ve got all the poems you sent me. Do you want me to email them?
Leesie327 says: No. Maybe later. Keep them, okay? I’m not up to email. I’ve got three hundred unopened messages. All my mom screaming at me, probably. I don’t know who else.
Kimbo69 says: Did you leave your chapbook from high school at home?
Leesie327 says: Yeah. And the dive log Michael gave me. That’s safe.
Kimbo69 says: Let me know if you change our mind. You should write. You can’t do anything else.
Leesie327 says: I can’t focus on anything. The pain pills they gave me aren’t helping that much. Wears me out.
Kimbo69 says: What are your plans?
Leesie327 says: Plans? That’s a good one. Today I’m nibbling on toast and drinking tepid water.
Kimbo69 says: And Michael’s just sitting there staring at you.
Leesie327 says: They are all working. I think I’m going to have the place to myself a lot.
Kimbo69 says: Is it going to hurt forever?
Leesie327 says: Today’s a big improvement. I don’t feel like throwing up.
Kimbo69 says: Try chicken broth.
Leesie327 says: There was a chicken wandering down the beach this morning. Maybe I can get the boys to catch it and I can cook it up for broth.
Kimbo69 says: Get that man of yours to buy you some of those little packets of dried up noodle soup. I live on those.
Leesie327 says: As soon as I can, I’m going to turn this place upside down.
Kimbo69 says:  What does that mean?
Leesie327 says: It’s a pig sty. Filthy. Bare cupboard. Beer and ketchup in the fridge. I need to get HAZ-MAT gear to attack the guys’ bathroom.
Kimbo69 says: Don’t hurt yourself.
Leesie327 says: Too late. Already did that.
Kimbo69 says: I got to go but I need to tell you something…don’t know if I should.
Leesie327 says: What? You have to tell me now.
Kimbo69 says: Have you seen your wall?
Leesie327 says: No. I just come straight to chat.
Kimbo69 says: Go look at it. People love you, Leesie. A lot of them.


My mouse drifts as far away
from the link to my wall as it can linger.
I thought I was safe here in chat
with online status eternally turned off.
Only Kim can find me.
The wall? Nothing much is ever on it.
It’s not like I’m a ChatSpot queen
with thousands of friends.
What did Kim do? She promised.
I’ll click her off, too. And that
will be that. ChatSpot?
Who needs it?
Friends? I’ve eve got a new
one of those. Rare thing for me.

Look at it.
Look at it.
Look at it.
No. No. No.

I move the mouse to click
the site closed. My finger
hovers over the mouse pad—
draws a line to the wall
and taps.

That’s all it takes for it
to bloom before my eyes.
Tiny square pictures—roomie’s
and friends, a girl from my English class,
even kids from home who hated me
and liked Phil—
all saying one thing:

“Leesie, we love you.
Come home.”

There’s even one from Phil’s
glittering Krystal, “Leesie,
I love you. Come home.
We don’t blame you.”

Tawni says she wants to room
with me next year. Dayla
sends hugs from her and Noah.
Roxi, Cadence and Lily
join the refrain,
“Leesie, we love you.
Come home.”

Hardest to read
is from Stephie.
I vaguely remember her
friending me last month
thinking, wow, she’s growing up.
On ChatSpot already?
What happened to Barbies?
“Leesie, I love you.
Come home.”

Nothing from Kim.
She kept her promise.

Nine pages down
I discover the culprit.
In a few quiet words,
Jaron spills all my secrets
to the world: the accident,
Phil’s death, my injuries,
and flight. He asks
them to pray. He asks
them to understand
my grief, my pain, my guilt.
He closes with,
“Leesie, I love you.
Come home.”

Never. Never. Never.
You spoiled, self-righteous jerk.
This wasn’t your right. I rage
at the screen. This isn’t your
story to uncover. Don’t flay
me with kindness,
unending understanding.
You aren’t my keeper.
Don’t you dare remind God
I exist. How can you be so cruel
to break my heart with all
this lost, lost, love?

Come home?
How can I ever?
I killed my brother.
His blood drips in my dreams
every night. My hands
are crimson—never to be white.
You can’t love me.
You can’t forgive me.
No one can.
No one will.
No one should.

I slam down the screen,
need to get far, far away,
grab my crutch and hop
a long down to the boat dock.
A white boat crashes through
the foaming break in the reef
into the aquamarine
jeweled water of the safe inlet.
Yes. It’s his. That’s him
waving, smiling, flexing
his bare pects at me
that sheen with sweat
when he finally hugs me hello
after hefting hundreds of pounds
of gear and tanks out of the boat
and onto the deck.

“I love you,” he whispers
and kisses my cheekbone.
“You wanna go home?”

I tense, clench my teeth
and then realize he’s taking
about the apartment.
Our home.
My home with my Michael
where I can hide forever
embraced in his strong arms
that keep me afloat.


Dive Buddy: Leesie           
Date:  05/10
Dive #: 2nd day in the apartment
Location: Grand Cayman
Dive Site: blow holes
Weather Condition: sunshine
Water Condition: wild
Depth: don’t know we’re on the shore
Visibility: to the horizon
Water Temp: feels cold when it sprays us
Bottom Time: all afternoon

            After our dive Sunday morning, I’m the last one up to the apartment. Even Leesie goes up ahead when I get stuck filling some Nitrox orders. When I get up there, it’s a pretty cozy scene. Leesie made mac and cheese for everybody.
            The guys—even snooty Gabriel—are wolfing it back.
            “How did you make this?” Alex scoops up a giant spoonful of golden yellow macaroni. “We were out of milk.” She shoves the spoon in her mouth and closes her eyes like the stuff is ambrosia.
            Leesie scoops more mac and cheese out of the pot in a new bowl. “I found some margarine behind that giant bottle of ketchup. I used that. My grandma always made it with butter. That’s even better.”
            Cooper’s face lights up. “Ketchup. That’s just what it needs.”
            Alex laughs. “Now you know who owns the ketchup.”
            “Did you jackals save any for the guy doing all your work?”  
            Leesie hands me the steaming bowl she just dished. “Of course.”
            “Thanks, babe.” All the chairs are full, so I boost myself onto the counter closest to Leesie. “What did you do with yourself this morning?”
            She holds up pruned fingers. Her cast is soggy around the edges. “The dishes.”
            I swallow my first mouthful of buttery mac. “That took all morning?”
            She looks around at the gleaming kitchen. “Did you see the place when you left?”
            I take another bite so I don’t have to answer.
            “I need to get some rubber gloves.” She shakes water out of her cast. “Especially,” she talks loud enough for all the guys to hear, “before I tackle that bathroom. What did you guys do in there?”
            Ethan points to Brock across the table. “He’s got lousy aim.”
            “No way, brother. That’s you.”
            Cooper raises his hand. “I plead the fifth.”
            Seth looks up from his bowl. “You’re not an American. You can’t plead the fifth.” I was on the boat with him today. He’s all right. Not fun like the Commonwealth trio, but he knows his stuff.
            Gabriel looks down his long, straight nose, his nostrils flair. “Disgusting.” He flashes his full-on play-boy pearly whites at Leesie. “You should not go near that room. I don’t.”
            “That’s right, eh.” Cooper squirts more ketchup in his bowl. “He showers in the buff down on the dock.”
            Leesie dishes herself a small bowl of mac and hobbles over to the table.
Alex scoots over so she can share her chair. “Don’t clean it for them.” She sticks her tongue out at all her male roomies. “They don’t deserve it.”
Leesie perches on the edge of Alex’s chair. “But it reeks.” She sets her bowl down.
“Keep the door closed.” Alex scrapes the last of the cheese sauce from her bowl.
Brock pushes himself back from the table. “No way we’d suffocate.”
“Here’s the deal.” Leesie puts down her spoon and glances around the table, gathering all their attention. “I’ll clean it if you’ll close the door when you’re using it.”
Ethan laughs and looks toward me. “Ye’ve seen a wee more manliness than you’re used to, have you?”
“Just close the damn door, okay?” I slide off the counter and cross to the table. “She doesn’t want to hear you guys on the john.”
Ethan backs off, still laughing.  
Leesie catches my eye. Calm down. It’s cool.
Yeah, right, babe.
She gets up to clear the dirty bowls. Cooper and Brock rush to help. She flashes her full on smile that makes her beautiful. My smile—that I haven’t seen for weeks. At them. “So the big question is—what’s for dinner?”
Brock takes a dirty bowl from her. “We usually go out.”
Alex stares into her empty bowl. “But there’s no place close.” She picks the bowl up and licks it clean.
“I can cook if there’s food.” Leesie gazes out the window to the water that most of us will be diving in again soon. “It gives me something to do until I get this crap off me.” She stares down at her blue cast boots.
Alex hugs her. She’s big on hugs. “Bonus. I’ve got the afternoon off. Let’s drive down to Georgetown and get groceries.”
“It’s Sunday.” She actually says it. Good sign.
Alex shrugs. “The big stores are open at least until 4:00.”
Leesie stares right at me. “Okay.”
“I don’t think so.” I glare back at her, and she gets the message. No tea. No shopping on Sunday. I’m not that dumb, babe. “Better wait until tomorrow. The doctors said to take it easy.”
She can’t argue that in front of everybody. I don’t give her a chance. “Alex, I’ll take your afternoon dives tomorrow so you can go together.”
Alex gives me two thumbs up. “Deal.”
Leesie won’t talk to me. I don’t care if she’s mad.
Everybody clears out. Alex walks down to the corner store with a shopping list for tonight.
I don’t have to dive. Sunday’s are slower. Tomorrow I’m scheduled for morning and night. Now I’ve got afternoon dives, too. Better go nitrox all day. Wouldn’t want to end up bent just when I’m starting a new job.
I sit down on my cot and pick up the laptop. It’s warm from being left on all day. “This is nice. Just us.”
Leesie’s sulking over by the sink. “Can you help with the dishes?”
“Just a second.” I need to check my email. I might have a note from Stan. He promised to let me know if the police are going to lay charges. I flip open the top. The screen dilates on to a ChatSpot wall.
And a post from Jaron is front and center. I should have thought of that. Told her friends about the accident. I glance up at Leesie. She would have killed me. I read the post again.
Come home. I love you.
The guy’s got some nerve posting that. I scroll up through all the posts on her wall. They all say it. Every post makes me feel worse and worse for taking her away. I didn’t steal her. I’m not the bad guy. My fingers are on the keys typing.
Leesie bangs a pot down on the counter. “Are you going to help or what?”
I nix the post, nix the site, jump to clear the rest of the table. “I’ll wash.”
“You bet you will.”
I take the dish cloth from her and reach into the hot sudsy water, pick up a bowl, scrub it and scrub it until she takes the bowl from me. She knows something up. I don’t look at her, keep my eyes on the sink.
She saw that wall. She read those posts. Especially the one from Jaron. Does she regret choosing me? Look where we’ve ended up. In this hole with a bunch of  jerks with bad aim. I can’t believe she opened up ChatSpot. I guess she has to when she talks to Kim. I should ask her. Maybe she wants to go home. I saw your wall, babe. Do you want to talk about it? That’s it. All I have to say. I saw your wall. I don’t want to push her. Upset her. Right. Truth is I don’t want to take her home. I don’t want to lose standing beside her scrubbing dirty bowls.
I hand her another overly clean one. “We’ve got all afternoon. Do you want to do something.”
She shifts from one sprained ankle to the other. “I’m kind of tired.”
I scrub yellow gunk off a hand full of spoons and think. “How about a drive down to the blow holes?”
“Where you wouldn’t stop yesterday?”
“We can sit in the sun and watch the waves crash into them.” I hand her the last bowl to dry.
She polishes it up. “Sounds pretty lazy.”
“Yeah.” I lean against the counter. “I could use a break, too. And we need to get out of here.”
Her eyes drift to the bedroom. “Not really.”
“Are you kidding?” I throw the dishcloth in the sink. “This place does reek.”
She snaps the dish towel in my face. “Good thing I’m an expert at cleaning up after pigs.” And she gives me that smile that made me fall in love with her.
I grab the end of the dish towel, pull her close, kiss her, and then hustle her right out of that apartment so we don’t end up where we shouldn’t.




Dive Buddy: Leesie           
Date:  05/13
Dive #: lost track of how many times we’ve been here
Location: Grand Cayman
Dive Site: Rehab Center
Weather Condition: nice breeze
Water Condition: only one tear
Depth: up to my ears
Visibility: gorgeous
Water Temp: steamy
Bottom Time: 20 minutes

Leesie waits in the garden when I pick her up at the rehab place after her appointment. She got her stitches out. I don’t know what else they did. Lots of physio? I hope she isn’t too tired. I want to take her out to dinner, but she hasn’t been able to eat much. I think its the drugs. Her old ones wearing off or the new ones making her sick.
I spy her yellow dress and hat from the distance. She’s sitting on our bench. The first thing I notice is legs. Long bare ones. “Hey, babe. How’d it go?”
She looks up. I stop and stare. Walk closer. Stare more. They took that thing off her face. She’s got make-up on and flashes me that smile again. Hair or no, she’s beautiful.
“What do you think?” She touches her nose.
I sit down on the bench beside her, cup her face between my hands, kiss her unveiled nose, her cheeks, her eyes. I draw back so I can see her face up close, and my eyes fill up.
Leesie wipes away a tear that escapes out of the corner of my left eye. “What’s the matter? Do I look that bad?”
I swallow hard. “It’s good to have you back.”
Our lips find each other. It’s a massive relief to kiss her without that metal splint on her nose, to rub my nose against hers, to explore every inch of her face with my lips. Her hat comes off while we’re making out, and my hand moves instinctively to stroke her head. I haven’t touched it since the hair started coming in more. It looks prickly. I’m surprised at how soft it is. Like fur. My mouth moves there, too.
I rest my cheek on the top of her head and wrap my arms around her. We embrace, zoning into each other while a gentle evening breeze wafts warm sea air perfumed by the gardenia bush a few yards away.
“Look what else!” Leesie whispers into my neck and holds her legs out straight—pointing the toes on her bare feet.
“I noticed that first, babe.”
She pivots on the bench and puts her feet in my lap. I pick up the left foot, kiss it, pick up the right, kiss that, too. I kiss her shins and her knees. Her dress is pushed up exposing her thighs.
I pull her skirt down over them and kiss her lips one last time. “We gotta go.”
“Can you carry me? I forgot my shoes.”
“Nope. If I carry you, I can’t be responsible for what happens when we get back to the car.”
“Carry me.”
“Watch your step.”


Leesie327 says: Guess what? My ankles are better!! I can walk again.
Kimbo69 says: Did you go dancing to celebrate?
Leesie327 says: Me in a club? That’s a joke.
Kimbo69 says: Buy something slinky and make Michael take you.
Leesie327 says: Michael in a club? That’s unthinkable.
Kimbo69 says: There’s got to be some hot spots in Cayman.
Leesie327 says: Gabriel would know. Don’t you have to be twenty-one?
Kimbo69 says: Depends on the club. And the country. It was so easy in Mexico. Who you’re with counts, too. And the guy checking IDs. Go with Gabriel. He’ll get you in.
Leesie327 says: Me and Gabriel? I don’t think so.
Kimbo69 says: You and Michael and Gabriel. Take the whole gang.
Leesie327 says: How do you get in? You guys even went in high school.
Kimbo69 says: Fake ID. And I don’t wear a bra. Low-cut clingy top. Works every time.
Leesie327 says: Michael would hate me dressing like that.
Kimbo69 says: It turns Mark on.
Leesie327 says: And everyone else who looks at you.
Kimbo69 says: Who cares about that?
Leesie327 says: Michael.
Kimbo69 says: Didn’t he buy you a bikini?
Leesie327 says: And a giant T-shirt to go over it.
Kimbo69 says: There’s nothing wrong with showing some skin. He’s too possessive.
Leesie327 says: I’m pretty possessive, too. Alex hugged him last night, and I wanted to slug her.
Kimbo69 says: Why did she hug him?
Leesie327 says: She hugs everybody—all the time. Uber friendly. Uber nice. I like her a lot. We’re going to go buy clothes on Saturday. Michael has to work, but he said I can buy anything I want.
Kimbo69 says: Get some really sexy stuff. You’re grown up now.
Leesie327 says: I’d look ridiculous. I’m sporting a short, short crew cut these days. I’ve still got a cast on my hand and have to wear this stupid sling on my right arm because of my collarbone.
Kimbo69 says: How much longer?
Leesie327 says: Three, maybe four weeks. My hand is dong well. The doc said I can use my right hand and arm a little bit if I’m really careful.
Kimbo69 says: That’s progress, right?
Leesie327 says: I’m hungry today, too. I got up early and made everybody French toast with extra cinnamon like Michael’s gram makes it. I ate two whole pieces.
Kimbo69 says: Congratulations.
Leesie327 says: The pain seems to be less intense. My pills are strong enough now.
Kimbo69 says: The transition has been rough?
Leesie327 says: Kind of unbearable.
Kimbo69 says: You kept mum about it?
Leesie327 says: Michael would have taken me back to the rehab place.
Kimbo69 says: But now you’re okay?
Leesie327 says: Turned a corner. Another week and I can start tapering off these drugs.
Kimbo69 says: Be careful with that stuff. My mom’s best friend is stuck on them. It’s not pretty.
Leesie327 says: I hate them. I’m pitching the whole bottle as soon as I can.
Kimbo69 says: Good plan. So you’re shopping. What else are you doing for fun this weekend?
Leesie327 says: Sleep. Eat. Michael has to work. He’s off Monday afternoon, though. He promised to take me out in the sea kayak. We want to buy a nice double one to take out free diving when I’m better. We’re using the resort’s ugly plastic one, but it’ll still be fun.
Kimbo69 says: You’re going to go free diving?
Leesie327 says: No. Just paddling in the lagoon here.
Kimbo69 says: That sounds romantic—until you capsize.
Leesie327 says: Are you kidding? That’ll be the best part.
Kimbo69 says: Won’t it mess up your ouchies?
Leesie327 says: I’ll tape my cast into a grocery bag. My clavicle bones are stuck back together now. It’s just weak. It might jar it.
Kimbo69 says: That would hurt, right?
Leesie327 says: Maybe.
Kimbo69 says: And it’d wreck that thing on you’re face.
Leesie327 says: That’s gone.
Kimbo69 says: I think I’d still stay on dry ground.
Leesie327 says: You’re missing the whole point. He’ll have to rescue me.
Kimbo69 says: You’re going to wear that bikini?
Leesie327 says: Nothing but.
Kimbo69 says: You’re torturing him—you know that?
Leesie327 says: He won’t do what I want. I’m just helping him change his mind.
Kimbo69 says: Wake up, Leesie. I know I’m probably not the best one to go and get all preachy on you, but he IS doing what you always wanted.
Leesie327 says: That girl is gone forever.
Kimbo69 says: You need to find her.
Leesie327 says: Why?
Kimbo69 says: Because that’s the girl he loves.




Saturday I’m strong enough to don
oversized rubber gloves, fill
a bucket with bleach, dish soap,
and the hottest water, open
the window, flick on the fan
and scrub down every inch
of that nasty bathroom.
I change the water twice,
bleach all the towels
and throw out the rug.
I wipe down ours, too—mine
and Alex’s—while I’m at it.

“Now keep it clean!”
I scowl and try to look stern
while I serve the guys
grilled cheeses between dives.
Cooper eats four.
Brock and Ethan two.
Michael one.
Seth says, “Thank you,”
after his third.
Gabriel doesn’t show.
“Should I make one for him?”
I sit down with the sandwich
I’m splitting with Alex.
“I don’t think we’ll see him
much the rest of the weekend.”
Cooper tips back in his chair, points
out the sliding glass balcony door.
“Hot babe on our boat today.”

I lean around Michael so see
Gabriel sporting Speedo trunks
lingering with a bikini body
wrapped in thick golden hair.
I hold my hand down so
it can’t rise to
my shorn head.

“Why do they always go for him?”
Cooper pulls a sad face.
“When they could have”—
he rises, pulls off his shirt—
“all of this?” He turns slowly
so Alex and I can assess.
Alex gives him two thumbs up.
“They must all be blind,
right Leesie?”
I nod. “Especially when you’re
sunburnt like that.”
He grins, flexes. “So I should
go down there and get in his way?”
Alex and I pull faces at each other.
Michael gets up from the table.
“We gotta go.”
He’s kind of abrupt, kind of mad,
doesn’t kiss me before they leave.

Driving into Georgetown,
Alex and I crack up over
Cooper. “He’s always like that.
Sweet. Funny.”
“So Gabriel isn’t dating
the Governor’s daughter
or a supermodel?”
Alex shakes her head, but flashes
me a wicked grin. “He could
date anybody. He’s awesome
in bed.”

I try not to choke on the sip
of water I just took. Swallow.
Steady my voice.
“You slept with him?”
She nods, bragging. “Oh, yeah.”
My eyebrows shoot then, “I thought—?”
She shrugs. “Kai and I moved down here
together. Three years I gave that dude.
And that skank Dani steals him. Seth
figured it out first, told me.
Before we could confront them, they
were gone. Our Commonwealth
brothers took Seth into Georgetown
to get him plastered.
That left Gabriel to look after me.”
She wriggles, remembering.
“I was crying on his chest,
and then we were kissing, and then
we were in bed. He’s one I won’t forget.”

“Did it make you feel better?”
I blurt it like a fool.
“He got me through the night.”
“Are you going out?” I touch her arm.
“Am I in the way?”
She laughs. “One nighter. I’m not
his type.” She says it likes she wants
to be. His type.
“What is his type?”
She rolls jealous eyes
in my direction. “Waitresses.
“Isn’t it awkward now?”
Her face grows puzzled.
“I’m too busy being livid
at Kai to worry about Gabriel.”
“Would you do it again?”
I can’t believe I asked that,
but I need to know the rules
in this new kingdom I’m in.

“Maybe. It was good.
But in the morning I felt
as bad as Kai and Dani—
the creeps.” She punches
the accelerator and shakes
her head. “Yeah. I would do
it again. I’m not going to let
Kai wreck my fun.”
Fun? Not love?
Not commitment?
Fun. She pulls in the parking
lot and turns off the car.
“Hey, girl. Let’s shop.”

I buy a white island scarf
with fringe and beads to wrap
my poor head in. It drips
down my back like cloth hair.
Next we find sandals that jingle
with gold charms, a white on white
floral print sundress, spaghetti straps,
and a low, bare back, a padded
underwire bra that gives me
a fake sense of cleavage,
low cut clingy T-s, shortest shorts,
and silky thongs that feel like sin
between my fingertips,
another bikini, a gauzy wrap,
and three more hats.

Alex’s phone rings. “Dinner?
Tonight? You in?”
I nod, glance down at my bags.
“Sounds like fun.”


Dive Buddy: the whole crew plus 2           
Date:  05/16
Dive #: haven’t been here for a long time
Location: Grand Cayman
Dive Site: Rum Point
Weather Condition: night
Water Condition: placid
Depth: 40’ when Isadore hits
Visibility: dark
Water Temp: cold
Bottom Time: all night

            Alex and Leesie meet us for dinner at Rum Point. Funky place on the north side with painted signs pointing to Liverpool, Russia, India. Good beach. Restaurant on the sand. Only gets crowded if there’s a cruise ship in port. Today’s Saturday so we’re safe from the masses.
            I nod hello to Alex and then get a load of Leesie getting out of the car. She’s got a white scarf wrapped on her head like a halo. She’s wearing a new white dress that shows her shoulders and back—too much in the front when she loses her sling. After two weeks here, she’s getting tan.
            “You like it?” She spins around when she sees me. The full skirt flairs and falls back against her bare legs.
            Brock and Ethan come up behind me. “Nice.”
            Leesie gets pink, and I put my arm around her exposed shoulders and guide her to the big round table where Gabriel and his pickup hangs with Cooper and the chick’s friend. I wanted Leesie to be too tired when they called to set this up. No luck.
            “This is a first,” she says so only I can hear.
            “I don’t think we’ve ever gone to a real restaurant together.”
            I pull out her chair and whisper as she sits. “Only your stupid Cougar Eat.”
            “That doesn’t count.”
            Ethan takes the chair next to her. “What doesn’t count.”
            She gets even pinker. “Nothing.”
            I squish into the seat next to Leesie. We’ve got eight around a table for six. Kind of close quarters. Nobody seems to care.
            Alex slips into a chair in between Gabriel and Ethan. “Where’s Seth?”
            Ethan shakes his head. “Couldn’t get him to come.”
            Brock grabs a chair from the table behind us and shoves it in between me and Cooper. That makes us nine. Brock runs his hands through his hair. “He’ll be hitting the bars again.”
            Alex leans forward with her elbows on the table. “And you let him?”
            “We can’t hold his hand forever.”
            Gabriel clears his throat and introduces the women but their names go in one ear and out the other. Blonde One and Blonde Two. Both made-up and slinky. Gabriel’s is hotter, but Cooper’s is hungry.
            While I study the menu, Leesie swallows a couple of pills with the ice water the waiter brought before we arrived.
            Blonde Two’s been staring at Leesie. “What happened to you?”
            Blonde One tears her eyes off Gabriel long enough to give us a glance. She assesses me like a piece of meat and then rests her critical gaze on Leesie.
            Alex leans around Gabriel, and spits, “Car accident,” into the chick’s face.
            Blonde One backs off. “Too bad.” The blondes go back to seducing Cooper and Gabriel.
            Alex sticks her tongue out behind her hand.
            Silent sparks fly back and forth between her and Leesie. Raised eyebrows. Squints. Stares. Maybe they didn’t know these chicks would be here.
I hide in the menu. I haven’t eaten here for awhile. I turn to Brock. “What’s good these days?”
            Brock peals his eyes off the two chicks with his room-mates. “I like the crab.”
            Crab. No way can I order crab. It’s been a year and half since that crabfest on Dive Festiva, but eating it would seem like sacrilege.  
            “Crab?” Blonde Two pipes up. “Sounds good.”
            Most of them order it. I order shrimp. Safer. I’d hate to freak here. Leesie gets a salad. She doesn’t say much while we eat. Her eyes keep going to Gabriel and Cooper and those chicks who are falling out of their dresses and giggling at everything Cooper says. Gabriel wears his superior smile. They all crack crab and dip it in butter. Blonde Two feeds Cooper with buttery fingers. He sucks on them staring down her dress.
Leesie’s eyes dart to Alex when Blonde One leans over and plants her buttery lips smack on Gabriel’s mouth, then excuses herself. Gabriel gets up and follows her down the beach.
I need to bail. All these crab legs are freaking me. I don’t want Leesie around this crap. “Let’s go. You’re tired.”
She yawns and nods. “Thanks, Alex.” She touches her head wrap. “It was fun.”
Alex gives her thumbs up. “Any time.”
“Sorry about tonight.” Leesie glances down the beach.
Alex shrugs. “There will be other nights.”
Leesie leans hard against me on the way to the RAV4.
I shift my arm to support her better. “Too much. Too soon.”
She doesn’t agree, but lets me lift her into the passenger’s seat.  When I get in the other side, she holds out her arms and says, “Do you like me like this?”
I turn the key. “You look like an angel.”
She pulls a face. “Guess I shouldn’t have bought white.”
It’s an hour drive back to the apartment. She’s sound asleep by the time we get there. I carry her upstairs, lay her on her bed, slip off her sandals and scarf, stroke her soft furry head, tuck her in—dress and all. And she’s still sound asleep.
I tiptoe out of her room, shut the door, throw myself down on my cot, wondering how I can get the thought of Leesie in bed alone in the next room out of my head. Isadore sneaks up on me and pounces.
Crab legs. Giant ones. Walk through her waves. Grasp me with their claws. Pull me off the deck of the boat and down into the water. I fight, choke, sink, surface, kick, thrash, call out to my mother, “Save me. Save me,” until a small, pale hand shakes my shoulder. “Mom?”
It’s Leesie, glowing white kneeling on the floor beside my cot like I dreamed her every night back in Tekoa fighting Isadore nightmares in my dad’s old room under that quilt Gram made out of his old jeans. I groan and lift her into bed with me, clutch tight to her reality.
“It’s okay. I’m here.” She kisses away my terror, presses her body to mine.
Instinct takes over. I shift to get her body under me. The flimsy cot we’re lying on collapses.
She’s on her feet, pulling me out of the wreckage. “Let’s go to my room,” she whispers. “Alex is cool. I’ll put a note on the door.”
I stumble after her.
In her room, she turns her back to me. “Can you help?” She can’t reach the zipper that holds the flowing white fabric around her slender shape.
I press my face into her neck, fumble to find the zipper, grasp it, pull it down—stop. “No, Leese.” I step back. “No.”
I get out of her room. The apartment. Try to sleep in the back seat of the RAV. Beat myself up for getting so close. Freak. That can’t happen again. Freak. Freak. Freak.
I should go back up there.
Tell her to her face.
I get out of the RAV.
I know exactly why I want to go back up there and it’s not to tell her, “No.”
I stare at myself in the black reflection of the RAV’s window. Alex’s car pulls into the parking lot. She gets out and opens the passenger door. Seth falls out on her. No sign of the other guys.
I sprint across the lot. “Can I help?”
I lift Seth off her.
“Thanks.” Alex ducks under Seth’s left arm.
I take the right side and get my arm around his back so I can half carry, half drag him up the stairs. “What happened to Brock and Ethan?”
“The bar we found him in was having a whisky shot contest. Did you know Scots invented whisky?”
“Ethan couldn’t resist the challenge. Brock will get him home.”
We make it up all three flights—freak Alex is strong—and dump Seth in his room on his bed. I trip over Cooper’s cot trying to get out of there. He sleeps in there with Seth. Gabriel, Brock, and Ethan sleep out in the front room with me.
“Thanks,” Alex grabs my arm and guides me out of the messy room. She closes the door. “You’re a lifesaver.” She glances at the closed door of her and Leesie’s room. “You know, if you and Leesie want the room, I don’t mind roughing it with the  Neanderthals.”
I hold up my hands and shake my head. “No. We wouldn’t dream of kicking you out of your room.”
“I thought you’d be in there tonight for sure. I told Leesie you guys could have it.”
“Don’t do that again.”
“What’s with you two? You’re engaged aren’t you?”
“Long story.”
She flicks on the kitchen light. “I’m not tired.”
We sit up at the table drinking milk and eating Leesie’s homemade chocolate chip cookies. I tell Alex about my parents, how me and Leese met, the whole Mormon thing, Suki, the accident, Phil. It feels good to spill my guts to her. She’s freaking easy to talk to.
Her eyes move from her glass of milk to me to Leesie’s closed door. “So you guys have never—?”
“Not until we’re married.”
Her eyebrows lift. “And you’re going to convert to Mormonism?”
“No.” Freak. I hadn’t thought of that.
“She’ll marry you now without that?”
“Yeah. I don’t know. Everything’s messed up since the accident.”
She studies me hard—like she’s trying to see the gears churning in my thick head. “It’s not fair to her if you don’t.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You said she wouldn’t marry you before because you aren’t a Mormon. If you marry her now, you’re taking advantage of her tragedy. That’s so wrong.”
“Who are you to judge me?”
“Do you know what I’ve done for her? How hard all this is?”
“It doesn’t look easy for her, either.”
She doesn’t say it, but I can tell exactly what she’s thinking. “I should take her home?”
She studies the cookie crumbs on the table, mashes them with her thumb and licks it. “Probably.”
I shake my head. “She’d hate me forever.”
“If it’s right—”
I bow my head until it rests on the table. “I don’t know what’s right anymore.”
Alex puts her hand on my shoulder. “I think you do.”
She slips behind that door where Leesie’s probably seething mad at me, and I bend back the legs of my stupid cot until it supports me again. I fix the blankets, lie on it—waiting for the crash—pretend I’m asleep when Brock and Ethan stumble in laughing and cursing and peeing all over Leesie’s clean bathroom. I want to jump up and starting swinging, smashing, bashing their heads together. Instead, I roll over and the freaking cot collapses again.
Brock and Ethan stand there joking while I throw the useless piece of crap off the balcony. I grab a pillow and a sheet and fling myself on the lounge chair outside. My mind races round and round.
How could I be so stupid?
How could I think this would work?
This stupid apartment.
Running away.
Me and Leesie.
Getting married.
We’re nineteen. Legal, but—come one. Get real.
And the Mormon thing.
Crap. Stupid Alex.
She is so damn right.

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