Crooked Half Smile

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Thank you for reading yet another story from me. Sometimes things in life don’t work out the way you want them to, and one of the perks of being a writer is the ability to rewrite the stars. This story is for the one that flew away… may the heavens always be happier with you there.

All characters are over 18 when any sexual acts take place.

Please favorite, comment, rate and send me some feedback.

Thank-you to my beta reader and my favorite editor for the time put into helping me give you the best story I can.

A very special thank-you to my favorite girl from the north for simply being you.

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“Do you remember the first time I kissed you?” I smirked at her as I spoke, knowing the feelings my words would incite for us both.

Her wavy, nearly black hair fell over one of her blue green eyes as she turned slightly to look at me. That soft crooked half smile I adored spilled onto her face. My heart jumped just a little, pulse quickened as it did any time I looked at her. “I do.” Then she reached over and brushed her hand along my cheek. It lingered as our eyes stayed locked together. “I’m sorry I slapped you that day.” The hint of sadness that laced her words had the ability to span time and heal a wound from a lifetime ago.

I didn’t even have to concentrate to still feel the sting of that slap. Or the heat that filled my face in that moment. It had been twelve years since that fateful day.

I covered her hand with mine. “Are you?” A bigger smile spread across my own face remembering that day. Remembering all the days we had prior to that one. Her face didn’t mirror mine. We saw our pasts differently. Saw that moment differently. I was just about to apologize when we were interrupted.

“Okay you two, enough lovey-dovey bullshit.” Alex thrusted cups of tea in both our hands then sat down next to Nadine. She looked at us and let out a deep sigh. “Are we walking down memory lane…again?”

My eyes had not left Nadine’s. “Maybe.” Walking down memory lane with her is my favorite activity. Well, second favorite.

Our road to this point, to where we stood in the here and now, had been long and twisty. A veritable roller-coaster of emotions and life events. Each one had lent a hand in how we had gotten to today.

There was a lot for us to reminisce about. Some good, some not so good. Some so filled with the pure innocence of childhood it still made my heart swell this many years later. And some filled with such pain and sadness that my mind tried to block it from its own view.

We had history.

Together.

Apart.

A literal lifetime of memories that included one another.

Gaps in those times together that rivaled the Grand Canyon.

“Okay okay, out with it. I know it’s the only way to get real life moving forward again, and it’s rather important that real life moves forward today ladies.” Alex, with her bright red hair and spitfire personality, usually got her way. I learned long ago not to bother fighting her, because not only is she usually right, but she didn’t fight fair, which typically led to her winning anyways.

Alex had been my first real girlfriend.

But Nadine, she was my first love. I just didn’t know that until the day I kissed her. I was a day shy of eighteen and she was closing in on sixteen at the time, and that slap, that was heard ’round the world’.

We barely spoke for over two years after that.

“Earth to Mallory!” Alex was waving her hand in front of my face. I smacked it away and she stuck her tongue out at me. “So, do share with the rest of the class, what childhood moment are we reliving?”

Nadine gave me a look as she hooked her pinky into mine, squeezing just a little. She didn’t like talking about that day, at least with other people. The three years that followed hadn’t been great for either of us. Her more so than me.

That didn’t stop my mind from going backwards in time as it so often did. Nadine told me I had an uncanny talent for time travel, but it is hard to not want to remember our lives together. Especially the good times. We had twenty-seven years of shared memories. She is the only person I wasn’t related to that had existed for as long as my memory itself had.

I was three and she was not yet one when we first met. She could barely crawl. Our moms both had government apartments in the project by the river. Nadine, her brother Mike, and her mom. I didn’t realize how young her mom was at the time until we were much older. She had Michael at seventeen. Nadine at nineteen. My mom, she was in her thirties. Myself, the youngest of three girls.

Our moms would sit sipping coffee on the front porch, loosely watching the older kids play on the playground set in the middle of the complex. I was fascinated with the baby and stayed close to her. She clung to me, followed me around, wanted to do whatever I did. I was used to being the youngest, wanting to be with my older sisters, that never wanted me around. canlı bahis Now, I had this smaller human who looked at me the way I looked at them. Like I was amazing. Like I could do anything. Like I was someone.

Years later, it would have been impossible for anyone to tell me she wasn’t mine and have me believe them. I felt it in my soul, even at five years old. She was three and had already moved away from the cute way she said macaroni and cheese. ‘Racamoni cheese’ then became code, part of our own insider secrets. Part of our history. She had gone from crawling behind me, to chasing after me, to walking besides me, usually with our pinky fingers interlocked.

We were inseparable. She was my best friend from moment one. The housing project was loud. Untamed kids running wild, parents arguing, older siblings who didn’t want us around. Nadine, she was quiet. Nothing else in either of our lives was quiet, except the space we shared when we were together. Even that wasn’t always quiet. But we filled our time with laughter. We filled it with things that mattered to us.

Back behind the last building of apartments, lived small trees in large cement planters. Maybe in twenty years’ time, the trees would fit in the planters, but right then, there was so much room deep inside their depths. We used to hide from our older siblings and their friends in there, sometimes even from our moms. Giggling the whole time. But quietly giggling, because we didn’t want anyone else in the little world we had created for ourselves.

In our world, we mattered. To each other at least. In that world, population two, it didn’t matter that our mothers paid little attention to us. That my sisters went out of their way to be mean to me. That the teenage babysitter my mother could afford when she went out drinking, found pleasure in hanging me over the upper railing of our two-story apartment by my feet, threatening to drop me onto the stairs below. My sisters often egging her on. Or that Nadine’s brother smacked her at will whenever her mom wasn’t looking, which was often. All that mattered was we had each other.

Along those asphalt sidewalks, I learned how to ride a two-wheeler when I was six, but Nadine couldn’t master it. So, I stayed on my big wheel so she wouldn’t be left out. We would race down the community building’s ramp, the sound of the plastic wheels on old asphalt permeated our ears, our laughter filling in the very few dead spaces. My left tire had a hole worn in it that I kept making my big sister wrap with duct tape. It stayed that way until Nadine finally mastered her two-wheel bike at five.

It was around that time that I would scale over the fence at the northern section of the project. My mission, to pilfer rhubarb from the little old lady who lived in the house on the other side’s garden. Nadine loved it. But only if we stole some sugar from one of our kitchens and dipped it in. I can’t say rhubarb was my favorite, but it was hers and I loved the thrill of climbing that fence. I was always waiting to get caught but I never did. Now, I wondered if the little old lady knew I was stealing it. If perhaps she planted extra just for the poor kids from the projects.

“I’m moving.” Never in my seven years on this planet had words caused me so much pain. I cried. When I was told. When I told Nadine. When my mother’s car drove away from the project. In between I screamed and yelled. Toys were thrown about when I was supposed to be packing. I was a ball of immature young emotions.

Eventually, my mother had enough of my disruptions and told me to ‘get the hell out’ as she and my sisters finished packing up our apartment. I sat in the dirt patch that had been worn in the grass between my front porch and Nadine’s over the last four years. My tears fell and mixed with the dirt below; small rivulets of pain created in the footsteps of our past. As I watched the last box make its way to the rented U-Haul, Nadine sat down next to me, hooked her pinky into mine and sat there, quietly.

I hardened myself as I walked away from her. Refusing to look back. The wall I put up that day to shield myself from the pain would haunt me for years.

The next few days were spent unpacking. Fighting with my sister over the space inside the room we were to share. She was twelve and did not want anything to do with sharing with her seven-year-old sister. But this house, the one that matched the other forty-nine in a different kind of government project, had only three bedrooms, so someone was going to be stuck with me and she had drawn the short straw.

Outside my bedroom window though, was something I had never known. A yard all my own. A birch tree stood to the left, a weeping willow to the right. I knew without a shadow of a doubt it would be within the limbs of that willow tree that I would hide myself away. The rustling of the leaves just loud enough to mask my lonely sobs. They would camouflage me against some of the new ways my sisters would come up with to make my days miserable.

“Mallory, bahis siteleri get inside.” My body shuddered as the words hit me, then I quickly walked around the house to the side door. Knowing if I didn’t move fast enough I would regret it. My mother didn’t pay me much mind, until she did. The belt was her favorite form of asserting her dominance. We had been here for three days. The belt was already hanging in an easily accessible and highly visible location.

Inside, it was lunch time. My mother had a friend over, which meant we had food, and she cooked for us. A rarity. I sat. Ate. Stayed quiet. She was old school. Seen and not heard, that was what was expected of us. The doorbell rang. I wasn’t allowed to answer, so I didn’t move.

“Mallory, go get the damn door.” Her words hit me again, causing a physical reaction. Sheepishly I left the table, wondering if this was the start of not knowing which version of my mother I was going to get from one moment to the next. These phases came out of the blue and I never knew how long they would last.

I opened the door but saw no one standing there. Inching closer to the screen, I lifted myself up on my tippy toes and pointed my eyes down.

“Racamoni cheese?” My head shook, trying to clear the vision in front of me. Had my ears joined in on this illusion or was she really here? Opening the door, still not believing my own eyes or ears, I began to step outside.

“Mallory!” I jumped back inside. My mother was behind me in the small galley kitchen. Peering over my shoulder at the world outside, she smiled. “Well, go already.”

And I did.

I learned that day that her Gram lived just three houses down. No one had told me. She would be around, not nearly enough but more than I ever thought I’d get to see her again.

The next few years were filled with more memories than even I could hope to remember. Instead of planters, we hid away in forts made from lawn chairs and blankets. Weekends and school breaks, summers in the sun belonged to us as we slowly grew up, together.

My sisters still tormented me. The swing set purchased by guilt ridden grandparents often saw me tied to it as my mother worked. Untied just in time to be threatened into silence. I was tickled until I wet myself, then laughed at as I cleaned it up. Games of hide-n-seek were played in the wooded area on the other side of the fence ended long before I was ever found. Knives to the neck if I talked out of turn, always made better by jumping in piles of leaves with the person I was utterly convinced was mine forever.

Nadine’s mom escaped the project, taking her, her brother Mike, and her new baby brother to a government half-a-house. Nadine spent more time with her gram since the baby joined the world. I was more than okay with that. Soon we filled summer days with sunbathing on the roof of my shed. The one that, like the house, was identical to the other forty-nine in the development. The roof slanted just enough for us, and now that the willow tree had been taken down, a little more sunlight hit the black asphalt roof.

Halloween after Halloween saw us dressed as hobo twins, the only time in my life you would ever see me in flannel. As we got older, our sunbathing moved from the roof of the shed to us scaling the peaked roof of the house, lowering ourselves over one side and landing on the flatter roof of the bathroom. Up here, we had the entire day of sun. Baby oil covered us as we lay and bake. Sometimes music filtered out of her small pink radio. The only worry on our minds was getting back off the roof before my mother came home from work. The baby oil on our skin made this an adventure of unparalleled excitement. I would use her back and the frame of the skylight to hoist myself up and over to the roof of the kitchen. Laying on my belly, I had to reach for her and pull her up to me. Even with the slippery baby oil, I never once failed to get Nadine to safety.

I could still almost smell the exhaust that stung my nose so long ago as her gram’s boyfriend Jim drove down the street, the two of us propped up on opposite wheel wells of his rusted-out truck. A sudden stop always tossed one of us into the bed of the truck. It was usually me and Nadine’s laugh rang louder than the sounds from the broken muffler. Never one to admit defeat, I would quickly scramble back up and hold on even tighter. Laughing with her as we raced down the dirt road.

Years later, I would realize it was in those moments that I learned the importance of holding on. Falling. Getting back up. Never giving up. That some of the best lessons in life, were learned with her by my side.

As we entered our teen years, our world began opening up, expanding. New neighbors with girls just about our ages moved in. We spent time in the woods behind Noelle’s house. That world was so vastly different than the one we created in the planters so many years early. It was filled with couches and tires and traces of fires.

It was while sitting on those couches bahis şirketleri and watching those small fires that I would realize, I was different. I didn’t want to be different and concealed it all with my easy access to alcohol.

Noelle and Sarah spoke of boys. Giggling as they did. Who was the cutest. Who had the best hair? Whose voice was the ‘dreamiest’. Nadine joined in whenever the mood struct, she was still the quiet one in the group, and the youngest, though not by much. I never joined in. These conversations did little more than fill the air around me.

We all went to different schools, because while Nadine spent so much time at her gram’s, this wasn’t where she lived. So, she went to one school, Noelle, and Sarah another, and I was the poor scholarship kid at the expensive private school. It was just another way I stuck out. Stood out. Stood alone in a crowd.

In the years that followed with us still hanging out in that little spot behind the house, I became the quiet one in the group. I said little, listened extensively. Watched everything. Everything that made them seem ‘normal’ and me seem so…not. I started hiding myself away. Became okay with making myself small.

Eventually, it wasn’t just the two of us, or even the four of us any longer. That plot of land saw neighbors and schoolmates come and go. New old couches replaced the ones that had once been there. Games of spin the bottle forced my lips up against boys I wanted nothing to do with. Their hands groping and roaming. Stolen whisky dulled my senses just enough to tolerate those moments, to keep me from standing out any more than I already did.

My eyes always found their way back to Nadine. Those tumultuous years in the woods behind Noelle’s house had changed us. We didn’t rely on each other like we used to. Some days I barely recognized us. We were hidden away, so much less hidden.

My sisters had both moved out years ago, and the time my mother spent noticing me was even less. I was close to finishing high school and had thrown myself a life preserver by way of enlisting in the Air Force. I took the ASVAB, scoring in the top 1% and all that was left was my mother signing me over. She didn’t even hesitate. Nadine’s aunt was in, I had watched her with awe over the years, the few times she came home. She seemed to have her life together and I wanted that. I wanted to have my life in order, because it was spinning completely out of my control.

In the months between joining via the Delayed Enlistment Program and shipping out, I started staying home more. Staying away from the parties that had filled my weekends for years. Saw Nadine less. Our paths in life already diverging before we had hit sixteen and eighteen.

I was due to leave for basic training two weeks after my graduation, on my eighteenth birthday. It was my own last-ditch effort to find comfort in my own skin. To find order within the chaos of my being.

Noelle, Sarah, Nadine, and I and about thirty other teens sat on logs, and couches and coolers in the buggy woods. No different from many other nights over the years, except I was leaving the next morning to check in then I was getting on a flight to San Antonio, Texas, alone.

This was my goodbye party. So long. It’s been real. Oh and ‘Mallory, did you remember the beer and peppermint schnapps?’ As if I had ever let them down before. One perk to being in that private school, I had easy access to more than booze. I was the party purveyor. A job I had been slacking at, but not tonight. I just would not be partaking in all the fun. I stuck to my go-to, cheap whisky that burned just the right amount as it went down.

‘Happy Birthday Mallory’ and ‘Kick some Air Force ass’ among other phrases, could be heard coming in waves off the intoxicated teens.

I sat surrounded by everyone I knew, barely anyone I liked, and no one that knew me. Not really. Not even her. She was once the person that knew me the best. Knew every fear, every worry. The one who went on any silly adventure I could think of, never worrying because she knew I would make sure she was safe.

Now, I sat next to an almost stranger, our pinky fingers locked together as they always seemed to be when we were close to each other. Except, I still knew her. Knew that her favorite way to wake up was to the birds singing outside her window, made even better if the sun peaked through and washed over her eyes. That watermelon sherbet with hot fudge and peanut butter was her perfect dessert, with a black and white movie on the tv, and me sitting next to her. I knew that she hated the way Brett grabbed her ass when he kissed her. That her older brother finally moving out had allowed her to relax even just a little for the first time in many years.

I knew her, maybe better than she knew herself. I had been there for all the moments in her life. Big. Small. All of them. There was barely a minute in either of our memories that didn’t include the other. I just hadn’t allowed the me I was still getting to know, to be around for those moments recently. I was physically there. I was taking it all in, but I wasn’t sharing myself any longer. And now, I was changing that too. Removing myself from her life. Removing myself from this life.

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