CHAPTER 11 – EMI
“Are you okay?” my mom asks as soon as I shut the door.
“I’m fine, Mom.”
“Why’d you do that, Em? That was stupid! We were looking all over for you!”
“I just needed to get away,” I explain, still standing in the foyer. Everyone else is standing, staring, and I don’t feel like I have anywhere to go. “I’m feeling that way right now, actually.”
Jen is the first to sit down. She pats the couch cushion next to her, offering me a seat. Reluctantly, I go to her, dropping my purse on the floor and sinking into the sofa. Chris takes the recliner seat and Mom grabs a chair from the kitchen table, setting it across from me.
“This place is so small,” I say. “It’s claustrophobic. I used to be able to go to the game room, or the other living room, or outside, but now, I can’t go anywhere. I go in the bathroom, someone wants me out. I stay in the living room, some guy I don’t care to talk to invades my privacy. I go to my bedroom, my sister barges in, uninvited. I hate it here.”
“I know it’s not ideal,” Mom says, “but it’s the best we can do right now.”
“Why’d he get the house? There’s more of us.”
“Because I don’t want it. She’s been there. That woman was in my home, and I don’t want to be there anymore.” I didn’t know that. “It’s just a year and a half, Em. And then you’ll go to college and have all the freedom in the world. And next year, it’ll just be me and you,” she says. “That’ll give you a little more space.” I know she’s trying to be helpful, but being without Chris scares me. I smile to be polite.
“I want to learn how to drive, Mom. I want a car.”
“Well, we can enroll you in lessons this summer, but you’re on your own with the car.”
“But you got Chris a car.”
“Your father and I helped Chris get a used car so he could work last summer. But that was before all of this happened. I’m not sure we can afford it now… and you’d have to get a job to help pay for it.”
“I could, over the summer. I just want to be able to go places.”
“I understand. I’ll look into the lessons. But with a car, you definitely can’t just leave without telling someone where you’re going. Do you understand?”
“Yes. I’m sorry, Mom. I was just angry.”
“It doesn’t matter. I’m just grateful Mrs. Wilson called us. I was just about to go to the police.”
“I would have called you myself,” I tell her. “I’m not that inconsiderate.”
“Did you meet up with that boy?” Mom asks, squinting her eyes as if the answer might be difficult to hear.
“Not intentionally. I just went to this ice cream shop. I was reading for my lit assignment. He just showed up.”
“He was at Nino’s when Joey and I were there. He was out front when Jen pulled up,” Chris says. “Was he eavesdropping?”
“I don’t know,” I tell him honestly. “He overheard you somehow, because he told me you guys were looking for me.”
“He’s in your art class?” Chris asks. “So you met him Friday?”
“My seat’s right next to his, so yeah.”
“Why didn’t he just bring you home?”
“Because I told him I didn’t want to come. He tried to.”
“And what did you two do?” my mother asks.
“Nothing,” I groan. “I went to sleep. I was exhausted.”
“Where’d you sleep?” Jen asks.
“Not that it’s any of your business, but they have a mansion and I slept in a guest room.” I want them to know I was safe, and alone. I don’t want them to be threatened by Nate. I don’t want to ruin my chances of hanging out with him again.
“Yeah, his mom is very wealthy.”
“Are his parents divorced, too?”
“No, his dad passed away.” My mom just nods. “Do you think it would be okay if we could do this third degree thing after I take a shower? I want to get out of these clothes.” The last thing I wanted to do this morning was put my scratchy sweater back on when Nate’s t-shirts had been so soft and comforting– and they smelled nice, too.
“Yeah,” Mom sighs. She stands as I do. “I’m just so happy you’re okay.”
~ * ~
After I bathe, I find my sister making my bed.
“Did you sleep here?” She nods. “With Josh?”
“No.” She frowns a little. “He left.”
“For good, I hope,” I mutter, pulling the towel tighter around my body as I go into the closet. Finding a soft sweatshirt, I remove it from the hanger, then look around for some jeans. I find a worn-in pair folded on top of a short tower of cubby shelves. “Mom did my laundry for me?”
“She was up all night, Emi. Please don’t ever do–”
“I got it!” I interrupt her. “I won’t, alright? This is easier for you. You’ve been out of the house for three years.”
“It doesn’t make it easier, seeing our parents’ marriage fail.”
“I don’t mean that. The living situation.”
“Can you get over that, Emi? Can you try to realize what’s important? Who gives a shit that you had to get rid of your queen size bed, and that you had to keep your summer clothes at his house? I don’t care. They don’t care. Dad was the only man Mom ever dated. Do you realize that? Can you imagine being her age with three kids, faced with putting them through college? She’s been a housewife all her life! She has to get a job! Someday, she’ll have to start dating–”
“Well you can help her with that.”
“Why are you so mad at me, Emi?”
“You can do better than Josh,” I tell her. “You can do better than all the guys you bring around us. They don’t respect you. You don’t even respect yourself.” I glance at her shirt– more specifically at the deep V neckline that leaves little to the imagination. “Look how you dress–”
“That’s enough.” The throws down the pillow she had been gripping.
“I didn’t expect you to say any of that,” she admits.
“I could lie. They all probably do–”
“I said that’s enough!” Her shout startles me. I take a step backwards toward my closet. Jen stares at the floor, nervously taking her heel out of her stiletto and setting it back down, over and over again.
“I need to get dress–”
“I dumped him, alright?” She finally meets my eyes. I blink at her in shock. Just last night, she delivered news of an impending marriage and baby, and now she broke up with the guy who was giving her this future?
I close the door, assuming she didn’t tell anyone else her news last night. “What about the baby?”
“This all happened so fast,” she whispers, sitting down on the bed she just made. I lean against the bedroom door so I can listen for Mom or Chris. “I’m just a few days late,” she says. “We went out to dinner the other night, and he said he wanted to talk. And I panicked. I didn’t want him to break up with me, so I told him my news first. I just wanted it to be something that kept him around while we worked through some of our fights. I didn’t expect him to propose.”
“Why’d you say ‘yes?’”
“No man has ever asked me that before,” she says. “I said what I thought I was supposed to say. And if I’d said anything other than ‘yes,’ it would have been another fight, and I’m so tired of those fights. He says awful things…” She starts to cry. “He said awful things last night.”
“I’m sorry, Jen.” Ignoring the cold from wearing nothing but panties and a towel, I sit down next to my sister. She grabs my hand with hers and holds on tight.
“I stood up for you,” she says, her throat tight with choking sobs. “I stood up for you, and why? All you’ve ever done is judged me–”
“You broke up with him over me?”
“I broke up with him for a million reasons, but that was what pushed me over the edge.”
“What’d he say?”
“I won’t repeat it,” she says “It was horrible. And he said it in front of Mom, too. If I hadn’t dumped him, she may have killed him,” she chuckles lightly.
“What could be so bad?”
“Remember that word you asked me about last year?” I’d overheard a guy call some girl at school a name in the hallway. I’d never heard it before, but I could tell by the reaction of the teacher nearby that it was not an appropriate word, even for an insult.
“He called me that?!” I can’t imagine how I offended him so much to warrant such a name.
“Yeah, but the context was even worse. Emi, I don’t want to say anymore, but it was completely disrespectful, and I can’t be with a guy who talks about my family that way. Especially my little sister.”
“Jen, I’m sorry I called you a whore,” I tell her as I put my arms around her. She hugs me back.
“I know in your mind, I must be. I date a lot of guys, but Em, I don’t sleep with them all. I swear,” she says, as if she has to justify her behavior to me. “But I like their attention. They make me feel good about myself.”
“You should feel good about yourself on your own, though,” I tell her. “You’re pretty, and smart… when you try to be, anyway.” She has a way of acting ditzy around guys. It’s always driven me crazy, because she really isn’t. It’s rare that anyone gets to see the girl I grew up with. I know she’s there. I like that girl. I’m proud to call that girl my sister. “You don’t need a guy.”
“I might now,” she says, pulling away and putting her hand over her stomach.
“Not even for that.” I shake my head. “You know Mom and Dad would help you. They’d be mad at first, but they would help. You know how Mom is around babies anyway,” I tell her with a smile, trying to lighten the mood. Jen smiles just a tad. “How late are you?”
“Five days,” she says.
“Sometimes I’m that many days late,” I say. “And I’ve never had sex.”
She nods her head at me. “I’ll pick up a test. Maybe Chris can drive me to the train station. We can stop on the way.”
“Did you tell him?”
“No. And maybe I won’t have to,” she says, standing up. “You should put some clothes on, sis. I don’t want you to get sick.”
“Okay. I’ll be downstairs in a minute.”
“You know, Em?” she asks, pausing in the doorway. “I really hope this is a false alarm, but if there’s anything I’m certain of… it’s that I know you’ll be a good aunt someday. You’re a bright girl. You’ve got a good head on your shoulders.”
“Thanks,” I tell her.
“Don’t ever let a guy tell you any differently. Even cute ones in leather jackets who put you up for the night without taking advantage of you–”
“I wouldn’t,” I try to stop her.
“He didn’t take advantage of you, did he?” she tacks on quickly.
“No. Nate was just being a good friend.”
She smiles sweetly. “You should keep it that way. For awhile, at least.”
“I plan to, don’t worry.” She shuts the door softly and leaves me to get dressed. Is Nate a good guy? Because aside from my brother, I’m really not sure any exist. Josh is just one more confirmation of that.
~ * ~
That afternoon, when Chris takes Jen to catch her train back into the city, Mom joins me in the living room as I’m watching MTV.
“Can we talk, sweetie?” I sigh, but I knew it was just a matter of time. I turn off the TV and set the remote down, pulling my knees into my chest. Mom taps my shoes lightly. I kick them off, not wanting to get her new furniture dirty.
“I didn’t have sex with him, Mom. I don’t want to. Don’t worry.”
“That’s it?” I ask her, breaking her silence.
“No.” She smiles sympathetically and settles into the couch. “While I’m elated you didn’t have sex with that boy–”
“Nate,” I correct her.
“Nate,” she amends, “there will be a boy someday that you do want to have sex with.”
“I don’t think there will be, Mom.” I shrug my shoulders, staring at the dark television set.
“Or a girl?” she asks.
I roll my eyes at her, staring at her incredulously. “If I were to choose one or the other to love, Mom, I’d choose guys, but since I don’t really believe in love anymore, I don’t even see the point in talking about this.”
“That’s my sweet Emi,” she says. “While it makes me happy that you see such a strong correlation between sex and love, that’s not always how it works.”
“Right,” she says with somewhat of a frown. “I hope, for you, that you will love him before you sleep with him. I do. But if you really don’t believe in love anymore, you’ll have two options: chastity or being with someone that you don’t love. I’m not sure, but Sister Emi doesn’t have much of a ring to it.”
“Sister Emily, then.”
“So becoming a nun is something you’re considering?”
“You don’t have to be a nun to stay a virgin. Maybe I’ll just die an old maid.”
“Even old maids have sex, you know?”
“Are you trying to talk me into it? I thought it was the other way around! I thought you’d be happy that I have no desire to be with anyone like that.”
“I am, sweetie, but I also know that you’re very angry… and I don’t like that. Six months ago, you’d come home with little pink and red hearts all over your book covers. You and your friends would whisper about boys in your class. You went to dances. You liked love songs… There were posters of actors and singers on your walls.”
“I’m growing up,” I explain with a shrug. “Plus, nothing will fit on the walls here. Nothing will fit in the apartment, period.”
“I can’t keep apologizing for where we ended up, Emi. This isn’t my fault. Your dad chose someone else. I have to move on.”
“I know, Mom. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean anything by it.”
“Tell me why you’re so mad.”
“You know why I’m mad!” I rant. “He cheated on you, Mom! And I caught him! And he didn’t even try to work things out! What kind of example is that for us, huh? How can I ever trust any man, when the one you devoted your life to went and did this to you. You waited until you were married to have sex. You told me yourself, you wanted to give him that ‘gift,’” I say the word mockingly, because it still sounds cheesy. “And what’d he do with it? He used you for twenty-four years to raise his children while he went behind your back and lied and cheated and–”
“Not all men are like that,” she says.
“I don’t know that. You don’t know that. Maybe Jen has the experience to confirm or deny it, but if I was gonna guess, Mom, I think she’d probably think they’re all scum.”
“Your sister needs to have higher standards. At this point, she might agree with you. But again, there are good men out there, Emi. And one day you might find one that you deem worry to give your gift–”
“Please don’t say that. It sounds so stupid,” I tell her. “Just say virginity, Mom. I can handle it.”
“Okay, your virginity,” she says, then swallows. “I just want you to be able to follow your heart, Emi. Because even after all of this, the years I spent loving your father, the years that he loved me, were the best years of my life. This hurts,” she tells me, putting her hand over her heart, “but it will pass. Every day seems a little better. And the moments when it feels worse are the moments that I remember what it felt like to love him, unconditionally.”
“You still do,” I remind her. “I don’t know how, but you do.”
“I wish I could turn it off, Emi. I do.” I remember Nate saying something similar last night. “But I have love to give, and it seems a waste right now. It would be great to erase what happened and get back to our lives together, but you and I both know that’s not going to happen. I just hope that, someday, I’ll be able to share what I have with someone who appreciates me.”
“But how could you ever trust someone again, Mom?”
“You have to have a little faith, Emi. And once you’ve been in love once, you’ll want it again, and again. I promise you that. All other feelings pale in comparison to love. I just think that, next time around, I won’t take anything for granted.”
“This wasn’t your fault,” I tell her.
“No, it wasn’t,” she agrees. “But I’ll be more aware of my actions, and of the actions of whomever is with me. Maybe there were things that I could have done differently. Maybe there were signs. I wasn’t looking for either, because I never imagined this would happen.”
“He’s a horrible man, Mom.”
“He was once a good man. What he did to our family is horrible. Those are two different things, though.”
“Not in my mind,” I tell her. “He’s ruined my life.”
“Oh, honey,” she says, putting her arm around my shoulder and pulling me into her. “He hasn’t ruined mine… so I won’t believe that he’s ruined yours. He’s just made it more real. He’s teaching you lessons you may not have wanted to learn, but maybe it will just prepare you for things, later in life.”
“I don’t want to ever have to be prepared for a man to cheat on me, Mom. That’s why it will just be easier to stay single.”
“You are my stubborn child,” she says. “I just hope you don’t expect me to stay single forever.”
“I don’t,” I tell her. “I want you to find the most handsome, richest, smartest man in the world… and I want your wedding to be broadcast on every news channel in America so Dad has to watch it… to see what he lost.”
“I think he already knows, Emi. I know you don’t want to hear this, but this wasn’t an easy decision for him to make.”
“No, I’m never going to feel sorry for him, Mom. Never. I wish you wouldn’t, either.”
“Like I said, you can’t just turn feelings off. I would have done it already if I could.”
“I know, Mom. I think you’re amazing, though. And we don’t need him. We don’t need any man.”
“Well, it would be nice if someone would fix the leaky faucet, and your brother has been no use,” she jokes with me. “Sometimes, they are just nice to have around.”
I think about last night, how well I slept even though the cushions were quite hard on the wood floor. Nate has a calming effect on me. He was definitely nice to have around. “I can see that.”
~ * ~
Later that night, the phone rings as I’m laying in bed, decidedly not wanting to read this love story. “Emi, it’s Jen!” Mom calls out from downstairs. I pick up the cordless phone on my night stand.
“Well?” I have no doubt why she’s calling. “Mom, I got it!” I yell down to her, having not heard her hang up. I grip the comforter in anticipation, wondering how I should react. I blew it last night. I can’t do that again.
“No baby!” she says loudly as soon as we both hear the click of the phone. I know she’s happy by the jubilant sound of her voice.
“Thank God!” I breathe a huge sigh of relief. It’s my natural reaction, and a good one, I think.
“No kidding. Because that man should not procreate,” she laughs.
“No, he absolutely shouldn’t,” I agree.
“I’m going out to celebrate,” she tells me. “I’ll call you later this week, okay?”
“Okay. I love you, Jen.”
“Love you, too, sis.”
“Jen? Be careful, ‘kay?”
“I will,” she says. “I promise.”
©2012 Lori L. Otto
Do you like what you’ve read so far? This is a prequel to my Emi Lost & Found series. You can download the first book, Lost and Found, for only $.99!