Chapter 5: An Unlikely Friendship
With so much injustice and hardship, it was not easy to stomach and things started to really hurt my psyche. Unlike before, I DID start to have nightmares. I hadn't started seeing a therapist yet, but I knew it was needed. Part of the last chapter happened during this section, so I need to rewind a little.
Remember that obnoxious but talented kid from March 2007? The one who tried to kiss me after our competition... Yeah, him... Remember how he had told me he was gonna work out all summer and within a year I would love him? Super arrogant and cocky. Well we were partnered together again my Senior year. It was late August 2007. He was a Junior but still the best male dancer on our team.
I was far from the best female dancer, but they kept pairing us together. He made me a better dancer. He was a great leader, which was what most of the other boys were lacking. The girls often had to lead the boys... But this kid was strong, knew how to lead and was insanely talented. I had seen him the previous year, unintentionally, at a ballet. My friend was dating a dancer and he asked me to come with him to her show. As I am watching the performance, this familiar looking guy gets on the stage... I stare long and hard... No way... it's not... I look at the program- Holy crap it IS! It's my dance partner... Guys, he can also dance BALLET. Like, really well. What can't this kid do? Color me impressed. He looked strong and masculine, yet graceful and fluid. His skill was incredible. I gained a little bit of respect for him that day.
This year I was kind of looking forward to partnering with him. So when he started acting odd, I wasn't sure what to think... Normally he made eye contact in the hall and gave me a half smirk, but every time I had seen him the past week he had his head down, headphones in and wasn't making eye contact; with ANYONE. He hadn't shown up to our night practice and it was weird... He was usually early. Our coaches asked if anyone had heard from him or knew why he wasn't here. I started to get really worried. What was going on.. Was he okay? I turned to his girlfriend and I asked if she had heard from him or if he was going through something. She scoffed and said "How should I know?" as she turned into her best friends arms for comfort. Super lost..... I asked a girl named "Tiff" if she had any idea why "Ashley" was acting so weird, and she told me they broke up just after school got out last year.
Well now I felt stupid and awful for asking her! I took a little pride that I didn't know what was going on with everyone. I wasn't privy to everyone's gossip and inner lives and that was awesome! Except that I made someone upset by not knowing. Well, we continued practice and used an alternate to be my partner. About 20 minutes into practice, Jake walked into the room. His head still down, dressed in all black, headphones in... He didn't even acknowledge our coaches when they asked where he had been. They couldn't stop for him, so they asked me to catch him up and see if I could get any info out of him. I walked over to him and sat down. I pulled an ear bud out of his ear and said "Hey you, you okay?" He shrugged and stayed silent. I told him I had been thinking about him and worried about him for a couple days because he didn't seem like himself... His face got stoic and blank... I reached way down in myself and decided I was going to share my trauma as a way to connect.
" It's pretty personal I bet, and I know we don't really know each other. But I would be willing to tell you a secret of my own, so you know you can trust me. I really do want to know what's going on with you, and how I can help." "I doubt your secret is as personal as mine, but sure." he said solemnly. Boy he was in for a treat if he thought my secret wasn't personal. "Do you remember the Black Light Dance last year?" he nodded "Well my date turned out to be an even bigger jerk than I knew... On our way home from the dance..." I had never said it out loud to anyone not family. I took a deep breath and said " Well.. he raped me. I haven't shared this with anyone but my parents and best friend. SO you are kinda the first person to know, and I am really trusting you with this part of me." His eyes were shocked and sad. I had never seen him be soft or concerned about anyone but himself. It kind of threw me a little. He had really kind eyes under all the arrogance. "Well, anyways- we should learn this part so we aren't behind, and you can tell me yours after practice?" He gave me a soft smile and a slight nod. I caught him up, which took like 2 seconds- because he was THAT good. Not fair... It had taken me 20 minutes to learn that part. I walked him through it once and he had it down. We continued practice and we joked a little to lighten the mood. I could actually maybe be friends with this guy. I did notice our banter bugged his ex... I felt kind of guilty for that, but I was focused on being a trusted friend for him at this moment.
When practice was over I walked him through the halls to the parking lot. He was waiting for his parents to pick him up, he was a junior and not yet licensed.
As we waited, I told him I was ready to hear his secret if he was ready to share. He took a deep breath kinda swayed as we walked and said, " I'm dating this girl who lives in PG, 'Katherine'... or WAS dating...well her parents don't like me much and told her we couldn't be together anymore." His voice got shaky, and I could tell there was more. I took in a breath and waited. He stopped walking, turned toward me with his hands in his pockets and his head down. As we stood in the barely lit after hour lighting of our high school, I waited patiently but anxiously. " She tried to hurt herself... They had to take her to the hospital.. She told them if we couldn't be together, she didn't want to live. Her parents are blaming me and said it's my bad influence on her that is making her act that way. Like I told her to hurt herself, but I would never do that. I love her. She is the first girl I can say that about. I love her, and I can't be with her. I can't even visit her. They took her phone, so I can't text her or call her. It's just been really hard to deal with. It hurts."
WOAH... That was definitely not what I thought... I don't know what I thought, but it wasn't that.
This kid had a deep heart... His first love was taken from him and he had no closure. Didn't even know if she was okay. I pushed up to my tip toes and reached my 4' 11" body to wrap around his 5'9" shoulders and embraced him tightly. "I am so sorry. I can't even imagine what you are feeling right now." He slowly embraced me back and hugged tightly as tears started to fall. I told him he may not be able to talk to Katherine, but I would always be around to talk, if he needed a friend and we exchanged numbers. As we got out of the building his parents were there. He gave me another hug and said thank you... His mom kind of gave me a dirty look, but what was new? Most moms did. I waved politely and she smiled, but didn't seem too happy that I hugged her son...
Before I even got in my own car to head home, I got a text from him.... "Thx 4 being so nice, & don't worry, ur secret is safe with me. <3" This was going to be a fun new friendship from what I could tell. We started texting every day, getting to know each other a little. We flirted a little while we danced, adding a little chemistry to our Rumba and Samba. There were some days he was dark and twisty. I even had a day I rushed to his house after we were talking and he quit responding making me worry he would hurt himself. I didn't have his home number, so I drove to his house and apologized for showing up unannounced but I felt strongly I needed to check on Jake because of our conversation. Annoyed, his mother went to get him. He was drenched as he had just been in the bath before his mother made him get out to come to the door. He came outside and we had a long talk about how hurting himself was not the answer and just let 'Katherine's' parents win. He had to stand strong and move forward so when she was able to see him again, they could see how wrong they were about him. This seemed to resonate with him and we didn't have any more scares.
Two weeks passed from our first deep conversation in the hallway after practice, and he invited my to come watch him perform with our school's dance company at a football game halftime. ODC was a highly respected and talented dance team of about 20 girls and one boy... Jake. Talk about heaven for a teenage boy! But seeing as he was used to being around a lot of girls in the ballet wold where he again was the only boy. Not that he didn't love it, but it was normal for him. I came to the game with 3 of my friends. I said hi to him before he performed and watched in awe at his skill. My friends who hadn't met him yet kept making jokes and comments about how attractive and strong he was. They teased me saying he should be more than my friend. I brushed it off and laughed... "Yeah right, he is a Junior. We are just friends."
After his performance we met up, I introduced him to my friends and we invited him to come eat with us, my treat. We went to a restaurant my friend worked at and we got some fries and sodas. He sat pretty close to me and had his arm up on the booth above me (not quite around me...) we enjoyed our snack and shared our favorite hangout spot above the water towers with Jake. Our favorite past time was belting broadway music at the top of our lungs as we overlooked the
city and danced. I don't know how he felt about that, but he was a good sport. My friends set on continuing their teasing by putting on a slow song... well... There was one guy and he only really knew one of us, me. I rolled my eyes at my friends and they smiled knowingly as they climbed on top of the car to watch the city lights below. I turned back to Jake with a chuckle, ready to apologize. He had his hand out stretched and said, "Do you want to dance?" It was charming and caught me off guard. "Sure." I said with a suspecting eyes and what I call 'Tinkerbell lips' (when your lips are pursed for a kiss but you push them all the way to one side like Tinkerbell does). I took his hand and he pulled me close and wrapped his arm around my waist. He started by twirling me and dancing almost an old fashioned style slow dance... Then he pulled me closer. My heart started beating faster and my breath more shallow. I wasn't sure what I was feeling and I wasn't sure if I liked it. Here I was chest to chest, resting my head on his heartbeat that seemed calm. As the song started to end his heart rate picked up... Alarms went off in my head.. Why was his heart racing? What was wrong?
As the song ended we started to separate and everything slowed down to slow motion. As I looked up at him, I knew he was going to kiss me. My head kept saying 'oh no what's this... wait is he going to kiss me? crap... what do I do... he isn't, is he? oh my gosh he is, here it comes... huh?.... This is kind of nice. I kind of like this.' As his lips gently pressed against mine, it was the softest most respectful kiss I had ever had. It was almost as if it said "Thank you". It was not demanding or urgent. It was soft and.... meant something... I didn't know what... As I bit my bottom lip while pulling away, trying to figure out what was happening in my head and my heart, I smiled and giggled slightly... the night progressed normal... He didn't get weird or act possessive or like we were something. Just our normal friendship. When I dropped him at home, he hugged me goodbye like normal. He didn't expect a kiss or more from me... This was new, and I really liked it. Something was starting here, but what was it?
Good things do happen, and it's up to us to see them and remember them. Especially when it's been a long time since we had some good. YOU are worth it, mama. You deserve goodness and joy. If you need help finding it, I will talk you through it, I will help you find some joy to hold you over until we rise together to find you consistent joy! Until Next Week!