This is part of a serial fictional story I’m sharing on my blog once a week. Did you know that Catcher in the Rye was actually released as a serial first? I didn’t, until this week. Did you know I never read Catcher in the Rye? Gasp! I know. I’ll have to remedy that ASAP.
You can find links to the other parts of the story below:
One day when I was in ninth grade, I saw Edith sitting outside the ice cream shop next to Eddie Parker on my way home from school. The way she laughed every time he spoke made me roll my eyes. No one was that funny. I couldn’t figure out why talking to a boy made her act like she’d lost part of her mind. I vowed never to give up my brain for the attention of some boy.
When I was a junior in high school I must have forgotten about that day. I wouldn’t say I gave up any part of me for Hank’s attention, at least at first, but I know there were times I threw caution and common sense not only into the wind but into the gutter.
I was surprised by how many nights I was able to leave the house in the middle of the night without my parents hearing me. There were some nights Hank came but I couldn’t slip out because Mama and Daddy were still awake chatting in their bedroom or sitting in the living room watching Ed Sullivan.
On those nights I kneeled at the window and waved him away. He’d take a drag on his cigarette, blow a stream of smoke into the dark and blow me a kiss before he left with a shrug and a smirk. When I could slip away I always made sure I wasn’t wearing shoes and I tip-toed across the floor, skipping the boards I knew squeaked.
The mornings after we met I was always tired, but I knew Mama thought it was because I’d been up late reading.
“When I started singing it made my dad angry and I liked that,” Hank said one night as we sat under the maple. “He never liked anything I did. I didn’t even cry the night he kicked me out. I was glad to finally be free. I was only 16 at the time.”
He flicked a leaf at the ground and stared at it wistfully.
“Where did you go?” I asked.
“I went to live with my grandma at first, but then she died so I found a place in town and got a job,” he said. “I won’t lie that I miss my mama and grandma a bit – at least their cooking, but I’m doing al’right on my own. I can cook a mean can of beans.”
He laughed and I laughed with him.
“I saw you with your mama at church on Sunday,” I told him.
“She asked me to take her so I did. The old man never does anymore. Too busy drinking on Saturday night to get up early on Sunday morning. I’m not much for that religion stuff, but I’ll go for mama.”
I could tell he seemed interested in changing the subject by the way his gaze drifted to the field lit by the dim light of the moon.
“So, what new books you been reading?” he asked.
“I started reading Catcher in the Rye,” I said with a shrug. “Mrs. Libby at the library gave it to me, but I don’t know what I think about it. It’s about this kid who is sort of depressed all the time and rebelling against his parents. It’s kind of new I guess.”
“Maybe you’re not sure you like it because it’s too close to how your life is right now,” he said.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“I mean – aren’t you rebelling against your parents by being out here with me?” he asked. “Maybe you’re a little like that guy in the book.”
I shook my head.
“I’m nothing like him,” I said. “I’m not that depressed or moody.”
He was smiling at me.
“Well, most of the time,” I admitted, thinking how I had yelled at Edith that morning to stop stealing my clothes. “But I love my parents. It’s just – I don’t know – sometimes they try to tell me what I’m going to be and I don’t like that.”
“They try to live their lives through you,” Hank said. “It’s a parent thing. I was lucky. My dad just hated me. He’s never cared what I did with my life. And Mama is too afraid of Daddy to care much about what I do. I think that’s easier because now I just live my own life. I don’t have to answer to anyone but me and most of the time I don’t even answer to me.”
I looked at him again, watching as he pulled leaves off the tree while leaning against the fence post. He was wearing a white undershirt with a plaid button up shirt over it and a pair of faded blue jeans and black dress shoes. His hair was long in the front. While we talked he pushed his hand through his hair and pushed the longer strands back on his head and I could see his eyes better.
Even though the moon was only a quarter moon and the light by the old shed was dim, I could see how beautiful the shape of his mouth was. I hated how I wished he was kissing me again. I felt silly and childish at the way my stomach felt like butterflies were alive in my belly as I studied him.
“Why do you care what I’m reading anyhow?” I asked.
“Because I like to know what you like,” he said and shrugged. “I don’t read a lot so I like to know what kind of stories spark your interest. Plus, if you tell me all about what is in those books, then I don’t have to take the time to read them. More time for singing and playing and dancing with pretty girls.”
He noticed my eyes dropped to the ground when he mentioned dancing with pretty girls.
“Now, don’t you worry, little Chatterbox. I’m only dancing for fun. I’d much rather be dancing with you, but you won’t come with me.”
I shifted my weight from one leg to the other.
“You know I can’t –“ I said, softly. “My parents –“
He sighed. “I know, I know. Your parents would blow a gasket. But I don’t get it. What have they got against me anyhow? I’ve never done anything to them. They don’t even know me.”
I shrugged. “I don’t know. Daddy just said you like a lot of women and aren’t good to be around.”
Hank threw a handful of leaves at the ground and laughed.
“Yeah, I like women. I like a lot of women,” he was smiling and watching me as he moved closer to me. “And right now, I like the woman who is right in front of me.”
I didn’t close my eyes until his mouth was on mine. I loved the smell of him. I loved how his hands felt when they fell to my waist and pulled me against him. I loved when he deepened the kiss and slid his hands into my hair.
“You feel good, Blanche,” he whispered against my ear, his hands slipping up to the middle of my back, then starting to slide down.
I pushed his hands away and stepped back from him.
He cleared his throat.
“Sorry about that,” he said. “Sometimes my hands get away from me. It just felt right to move them there.”
“I know, but I don’t want to – to –“
“And I won’t ask you to,” he said, his finger under my chin, gently lifting my face to look at him. “I won’t. You hear? Not until I put a ring on that finger and the preacher says we’re married.”
Ring? Married? I was surprised by his use of the words. They held a heaviness in them I wasn’t ready for. I still had another year of school and I knew Daddy would never let me marry him.
I nodded silently and he kissed me again.
“Hey. I was thinking. Let’s meet somewhere else one day,” he said, still holding me. “Can you sneak out on a Saturday? I’ll drive us to town and we can watch a movie.”
“I don’t know. What if someone sees us together?” I asked.
“We’ll go in separately. You meet me in the back when the lights go off.”
“I don’t know.”
“Come on. It will be fun. Don’t you want to have some fun once in a while?”
I did want to have some fun. It was time someone had fun besides Edith and the characters in my books.
“I’ll see what I can do,” I said.
“I’ll meet you at the bottom of the hill in my truck about 6:15. Wear your best dress. Tell your Daddy you’re going to Bible study or something.”
I laughed softly because I knew Daddy would believe me about the Bible study, but then I felt guilty about even considering lying to my daddy.
“I’ll try,” I said as he kissed my neck.
“I can’t wait,” he said. “Now get your butt back inside before your parents catch us and your daddy shoots me.”
His hand slapped my bottom as I turned to run toward the house. I looked over my shoulder and smiled. He was smiling back.
I’d never felt so alive.