Three Toasts from The Year 2003

1. Little Emma 

Vivien Marie Lopez

I first met her when I saw her sitting and crying at my favorite spot in our school garden. When I asked why, she told me she was hungry but she didn’t have any money left. Her luck. I was supposed to hang out with my group at the Pizza Galley, but I begged off to see my boyfriend- only to find out that he had basketball practice. So I bought her ice cream, and while we sat together, she told me stuff about herself and instantly we became friends.

She came from the middle school at the other block. She’s only nine years old, quite petite for her age, and she was fun. I never really liked kids, actually, but she’s different. She talked and thought like a grown-up: mature.

Her name was Emma.

The following days we talked together every afternoon, if I’m not with my friends. They thought I was crazy. It was hard picturing out the campus hottie together with a little girl. I told them to say whatever they want. Emma might want my opinion for fashion and dating tips; she might grow up into a lovely chick.

“You don’t understand, Summer,” my boyfriend, Jagger, objected. We were near the basketball court, arguing again.

“No- it’s you who doesn’t understand,” I shot back. “Why would you always act like that? I’m sick of you being jealous.”

“Summer, I don’t want anyone to take advantage of you,” he snapped. He grasped my shoulders with both hands.

I threw my hands up and whisked his hands away. “Take advantage? Are you out of your mind?” My voice cracked a little.

“Maybe I am,” he said bitterly. “And if you don’t want to listen, fine. Go out with Jake. Go with him and let him screw you.” He glared at me and then turned his back. He left without even looking back.

I slapped my forehead and ran my fingers down my hair in surrender. God. I loved Jagger so much, but he’s just nuts in keeping me for himself. He thought he owned me. We have already discussed this a million times before, but now look at us.

I headed for the garden, my sanctuary. I don’t want to go anywhere too noisy. And I needed someone to talk to.

A hand tugged my tank top. “Hey!” I cried, startled. I spun around.

“You look ready to cry,” Emma commented. She crossed her arms.

“You scared me,” I confessed. I noticed she was wearing the shirt I’ve given her for her birthday. She looked really cute.

We settled down the bench. I buried my face into my hands, and for a while we were silent. Finally, I looked up and she said, in a low murmur, “You can share it with me, Summer.”

I straightened up and tucked my hair behind my ears. I let out a long sigh.

“But if you won’t,” she added quickly, “I saw it all, anyway. That guy’s a jerk.”

I chuckled softly at her comment. “Right.” I shifted my position. “I want to cry, Emma. Honestly.”

“Told ‘ya,” she said. “It’ll pass. I’ve seen those situations in those corny movies.” She looked at me, made a face, and smiled.

“I hope so.” I forced a smile back. “But I won’t cry now, thanks to you.”

“I love you, Summer,” she said.

“I love you too, Emma,” I replied. “You’re a real friend.”

“Well, now that you have told me what happened and if you’ll just always tell me how you feel, you don’t have to be sad anymore,” she said.

I did not see Jagger the next day. Who cares?

Well, I did. I just hated to admit it. I missed him, and I wanted so much to see him. Just a glimpse of his damn, mesmerizing face.

My prayer was granted just before I stepped out the classroom at the end of last period.

“Summer Sheldon,” Mr. Farren, our Math teacher, called. “I got something for you. He held out two sheets of paper.

I took them, and saw that it was homework for tomorrow. “But I already got a copy,” I protested.

“No, that’s for Jagger,” he said. “I know you knew him. If you could just give it-”

“Sure,” I agreed immediately. I was about to shout, “Yes!” but it would be embarrassing. “Sure.”

“I’ll give you extra credit,” he offered.

I climbed down my Porsche and drove through Parkside Drive. The long way to Jagger’s. Why? I guess I just wanted to think about what to say when I get there. I don’t want a lousy conversation later. He might still be angry.

Wait- I haven’t told Emma I’ll be away. Gosh. She might be waiting for me the whole afternoon. Where was she, anyway? I haven’t seen her. If I had, I would not have forgotten to tell.

I parked my car a few houses away from Jagger’s. I didn’t want him to know I drove all the way through.

I nervously walked towards his house. My hands were cold. Brr. What if he’ll reject me? No… definitely no. He’s crazy over me. He’s just overreacting.

His parents’ Sedan was nowhere to be found. They probably had a business trip.

I pressed the doorbell and waited. My hands clutched the papers carefully, tightly, that it ached. I pressed again. After several minutes that no one answered, I went in myself.

He wasn’t in the den. Nor in the kitchen or in the pool. I headed upstairs.

The sound of cold water was crisp, absolutely clear. Great. So he was in the shower.

I knocked twice at the bathroom door and got in. The shower curtain was closed. “Hey, Jagger,” I called out. “I brought something. It’s for you. And I have an appointment to keep, so you’d better get out of that shower fast.”

Silence.

“Come on, Jagger.” I looked at my reflection in the mirror. I looked good, perfectly stunning.

“Jagger…” I called out playfully. He still did not answer.

Playing games, huh? “I know you’re there, Jagger. And if you won’t speak, I’ll open the curtain myself,” I threatened. Still silent. I laughed.

Oh, well. He’s in it now. Typical of Jagger, and we do play a lot. “You won’t say anything?” I said out aloud. “Here I come!”

I pulled the shower curtain apart – and screamed.

A chill shriek escaped my throat.

Jagger was lying on his back. Blood was all over him, the water slowly washing it away. His throat was open. I saw flaps of butchered skin in his chest, his abdomen. He was all cut up. And there was a stump of blood clot and a grayish mass above his head, as if a sharp, heavy object had smashed it.

I gagged. “Oh. Oh God… no.” I wanted to embrace him and get him out of here. But I stepped back, scared. The papers crumpled. Hot tears fell down my cheeks.

Jagger – dead. Oh God. This couldn’t be true. But it was.

I felt dizzy. I felt like throwing up, so I clamped a hand on my mouth.

And that’s when I saw the red paint. Or was it blood? Right there on the wall beside the shower. I saw my name, and it caught my attention. I read the words, slowly, trying to absorb everything: So did you get my point, bastard? I warned you before. I told you not to hurt her. But you did. Summer’s mine. I love her so much. I’ve been having fantasies about her. Sometimes, erotic dreams. I’ve been longing to kiss her the way you did when you made out last time. I’ve been wanting to make her mine. I know I can’t. But you hurt her. Call me a maniac. But I love Summer. She’s hot. She’s mine.

I blinked. I felt so sick. Who had written it? Who?

A loud crash followed. I spun around, shocked.

And I saw my boyfriend’s executor. Little Emma, blood all over her clothes – the ones we shopped together last Christmas – a knife in her hand, her eyes staring menacingly at me.

___________________________________________________________________________

I am twenty-nine now, but I can’t ever forget that day. The police never believed me; instead, I was the one who went to jail and spent the rest of my adolescent years there, when I should have been falling in love again, skinnydipping with friends, partying, enjoying youth. Instead, I was plagued with nightmares, and the worst of all, I was plagued with her.

I’m out of the jailhouse now, but she never disappeared in my life. She always calls me her “special friend” and that she’s waiting for me.

She would visit me in my dreams, in my jail cell, outside my apartment, just waiting for me to come with her.

And she never grew up. Still nine years old, still with her big brown eyes. But no, I don’t ever think I find her cute, not anymore.

Oh my god, there she is again, outside my window as I am typing this story.

Maybe I should come with her now, just to end. Or I can put a bullet inside my brain.

After all, I’ve told you about me, and most especially about her. You have been warned.

If you see a nine-year-old girl with jet black hair and brown eyes and…..

(c) 2003

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2. Short Taxi Ride

Vivien Marie Lopez

Written in class, circa highschool

“You really look great in your outfit, Clara,” Mindy Watson commented. She was the richest kid in our school and the president of a VIP’s-only group, Club H. I was one of the members, one of the Big Persons On Campus.

I was dressed in designer flared jeans and a very very cute camouflage tank top.

Marc Holmstein approached me, holding a pizza. “Your party’s so cool,” he said in his cute macho voice. “And you got an enormous house.” He waved a towel in front of me. “Mind swimming with the jock?” Marc actually plays football in our school and his team had won a lot.

“No, thanks.” I adjusted my top. I gave him a flirtatious smile. “The pool’s… crowded.” I looked at our family’s Olympic-size, leaf-shaped pool. Three guys were tossing some Baby Ruth bars around. The Baby Ruths sank down the pool as soon as they hit the water. Then the guys all dived in, trying to get the Baby Ruths back.

“So… I’d better go get some Cokes,” Marc said as he headed for the buffet table. “And, oh, by the way, I want a really hot date next time,” he called over his shoulder. “Invite me, okay?”

I just grinned. Suddenly someone kissed my cheek.

“Hey!” I cried out, startled.

“Nice going, Clara,” my boyfriend Gary McCullough whispered.

I gave him a playful shove. “You pig!” I teased.

He put his arms around my waist and drew me close to him. I placed my hands behind his neck. We kissed. A long, sweet, lingering kiss. “I love you Clara,” he said sheepishly when we finished.

He slowly stroked my hair. I was so lucky to have Gary. Most of the girls have major crushes on him, dying to go out with him. But of course, he’s already taken… by me.

I rested my cheek on his broad chest. I could really feel his warmth, his love… that he really cares for me…

“Claridad!” A voice boomed. “Nanu ka nga timbang ka, gadamgo ka naman! Ga tinamaran ka? Abi panghugas na to plato kay damo ka pa di lalabhan! Si Jessa late na sa school wala mo pa naplantsa iya uniform!” (What kind of a housemaid are you? you’re daydreaming again. are you being lazy? go wash the dishes now, you still got a lot of laundry to do. Jessa’s late in school and you haven’t ironed out her clothes yet!)

Ay teh… guba na man damgo ko. “Oo ma’am, ra na.” (omfg, my daydreaming’s been disturbed again. “yes ma’am, i’m here.”

Kag nagdali-dali man ko ya hukas sang akon hairdo-hairdo kag uba sang bag-o nga t-shirt ni Jessa nga ginhimo ko costume-costume. (And I hurriedly took off my hairdo and Jessa’s new shirt that I used as costume.)

(c) 2003

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3. The Kinder Wicked

Vivien Marie Lopez

I whispered my goodbyes finally
Don’t bother to drive, I’ll get my keys.
(Will you get yours and follow me?)
I know my taillights will give you clues
To where I’ll go when I don’t need you
(That’s what I said, will you stay true?)
And maybe I’m driving with my death
You know the shit and all my secrets
(Will they know what I’ve done or you’ll keep them?)

I won’t stand these games anymore

Will it cost you scars if I’ll be gone?
Will you be honest ’bout having fun?
(I hate it when your friends ask if I gave you some)
I thought I’m safe ’cause I played then too
You got what it takes to make me lose.
(Will you tell them that I’m crazy for you?)
I just don’t know if I can make it
Close to safety intact and in one piece.
(You got my dad’s cell number on your fridge).

And you told me “So far, you’re my best girlfriend.”
Did I get what is stealth or what is honest?
There are a million things I could rather do than “I can be your worst ex.”
Don’t tell me you’ll gamble love, I know I’m the bet.

I saw your phone in your hand and my heart’s in flames.
(I know you’ll wash your hands and point someone else to blame)
I started the engine and you just smoked out at the back of your car
(Why won’t I just drive fast into the far?)
You know i’m trying too hard.
You know YOU’RE trying too hard.

(c) 2003

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