Saturday, July 01, 2006

Semesters of Our Lives Chapter 10

The Proposition

This was not at all what Richard had in mind. After repeated requests that Jennifer go out with him, the best she would do was lunch. And at the Pizza Pit, no less. The slices were dried out and the Coke was watery. Why the kids came here he had no idea.

And the kids were all over the place, leering at the both of them, and interrupting them at the oddest moments. They’d have gotten more privacy in the filthy, wretched school cafeteria (It suddenly occurred to him why the kids came here). But when Jennifer looked at him he tried not to show his disappointment.

It didn’t matter because she read his mind.

“I’m sorry, Richard,” she said.

“No, no, it’s fine,” he lied, trying to put on a convincing smile.

“Look, you have to understand—things are a little complicated for me,” she said.

“Complicated? Are you married or something?” Richard asked. “Do you have a crazy boyfriend who’s an axe murderer?”

“No it’s nothing like that. I live in a house with my Tia Dolly, and she’s very …mmm…traditional.”

“You’re all grown up,” answered Richard. “This is a free country. She can’t keep you prisoner.”

“Well, actually, she’s a little crazy. She had a daughter when she was very young, and her daughter did too, and she’s always thinking I’m gonna do the same thing. You have to understand, that’s just the way she is.”

Richard had never heard of anything like this. He looked at her.

“No, I’m not gonna make the same mistake,” Jennifer said. “There are ways to avoid them, you know.”

“Good point, but that’s not what I was thinking,” he said. Why don’t you just move out?”

“I want to. I plan to,” she said. “But it’s very expensive. I send my family in Colombia money each month. And I save money too. I want to buy a co-op or something, but the only way I can save anything is by staying with my aunt.”

“Can’t you even go out to dinner sometime?” he asked.

“I go to school two nights a week, and I teach two others. It’s a lot of work for me to get out. You could come to our house for dinner. She doesn’t speak much English, and she won’t like you because you aren’t Colombian, but you can come anyway.”

“That’s not the best invitation I’ve ever gotten,” he said.

Jennifer bowed her head in thought for a moment. Then she leaned close to Richard. She looked him straight in the eye and said quietly, “Maybe…you could forget about dinner and just come visit me.”

Richard asked, just as quietly. “How could we work that out? I don't think your aunt would go for it in a big way.”

Jennifer took a pen and pad from her bag and wrote her address for Richard. “Once she's asleep, she's asleep. I live upstairs, in the room in the dormer. You could climb up the side of the house, where there’s a window. Then, pull yourself up and over, knock on my window, and I’ll let you in. Really, you can do it. You can climb trees, can’t you? Anyway, I’ve done it.”

Richard wondered why a person might have to climb into her own home. Then he wondered if he could climb half as well as Jennifer. She was in great shape. Probably from all that compulsory clean living.

“Okay,” he said, hoping for the best.

Next Week: Richard Gets Called into the Principal's Office
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