Identical, p.17

Identical, page 17



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  iced tea, one of Mom’s Power-

  Bars, and a handful of grapes.

  Eating healthy? So not me.

  But at the moment, nothing

  inside needs to be killed with food.

  No shame. No pain. No loneliness.

  Every demon is fast asleep.

  Notice I Didn’t Say Gone

  I’m not stupid enough to

  believe one magical afternoon

  can vanquish my monsters

  forever. And what is


  anyway, but enough time

  for monster to beget monster?

  No matter, I take a big bite

  of the PowerBar, which


  stale, the texture of rubber,

  and mostly flavorless, though

  the wrapper claims “great

  chocolate taste.” It takes

  a long

  while and too many teeth-

  grinding chews to swallow

  a single bite. I toss the rest, gulp

  some tea, and just about the


  I consider my homework,

  I hear the garage door open.

  If I hurry, I can slip out the front

  before Daddy knows I’m here.

  Too much of me is happy right

  now to allow the rest

  to worry

  about his current state of mind.


  The Library

  Is busy this afternoon.

  Lots of little kids running

  around. It seems like it takes


  to find a quiet place in an

  unobtrusive corner. I put my

  sweater on the chair across

  from mine. Wait. Mr. Lawler


  late, and it crosses my mind

  that he might stand me up.

  I pretend to be working,

  and after what seems like

  a long

  long time (though the clock

  insists it’s only ten minutes),

  I sense eyes and smell Lawler’s

  woody cologne. Sorry I’m late.


  got away from me this afternoon.

  Is this yours? He points to

  my sweater and I nod. “Saved

  you a seat.” He smiles and sits

  across the narrow table from

  me and seems not

  to worry

  at all that our legs touch.

  Glad I Wore Jeans Today

  I haven’t shaved in a few days.

  Nothing less sexy than stubble,

  when you’re leg to leg

  with an amazing guy.

  And, teacher or no teacher,

  ten years (or maybe more) my

  senior or not, he is def amazing.

  I lean forward slightly, notice

  his eyes fall to what almost

  passes as cleavage, with a good

  Victoria’s Secret push-up bra

  helping out. Glad I wore that, too.

  He clears his throat. Of all

  my students this semester,

  you seem to have the best

  grip on history. Not just

  dates and events, but also

  their relevance to today.

  So how can I help you?

  I smile. “Loaded question.

  But what I’d like is your take

  on conspiracy theories….”

  We spend the next twenty minutes

  discussing the Kennedys, Martin

  Luther King Jr., Castro,

  Lyndon B. Johnson, and government goons.

  Who knew conspiracy theories

  and sixties politics could be

  such a major turn-on?

  The entire time, my legs rest

  gently between his, knees

  touching the inside of his,

  and despite my “lunch” with

  Mick today, I’m starting to

  feel incredibly, um…aroused.

  And what’s more, I can tell

  Lawler feels the same way.

  While we talk, his hair strays

  down close to his eyes and

  I start to reach up, move it out

  of the way for him. Reconsider.

  Damn, the man is totally hot.

  Just as I think that, my cell

  phone rings. Once. Twice.

  I glance at who’s calling.

  Daddy, of course. “Excuse

  me one second?” I turn my

  back to Lawler, take the call,

  explain where I am and when

  I’ll be home. After I hang

  up, Mr. Lawler says,

  Sounds like it’s time to go.

  Any more questions?

  Questions? Yeah, I’ve Got Them

  Do you or don’t you have a girl-

  friend? If you do, is she prettier

  than me? If you do, do you

  sleep around on her?

  If you do, would

  you sleep with me?

  Even if you don’t

  have a girlfriend,

  would you pretty

  please sleep with

  me? Have you ever

  slept with a student?

  If you have, was she

  prettier than me? Even

  if you’ve never slept

  with a student, would

  you pretty please sleep

  with me? Is this over-

  whelming attraction

  really mutual, or

  is my believing

  that just a sign

  of impending

  insanity? Is my

  lunacy on the

  horizon, or is

  already here?

  I Don’t Actually Ask

  Any of those questions, although

  I’d really, really like the answers.

  Instead I say, “No more questions

  right now, at least not about

  conspiracies. But I’m seriously

  thinking about majoring in history.

  When I start looking at colleges,

  will you help?” I still haven’t moved

  my legs. Neither has he, and that

  encourages my next move. I slide

  my arm under the table, rest

  my hand on his knee. Okay, now

  this can go either way. “I’d like

  your views on schools. And maybe

  you’ll honor me with a good reference?”

  Lawler Doesn’t Jerk Away

  Doesn’t run away.

  In fact, he barely

  even blinks.

  All he does

  is smile and cover

  my hand with his own.

  His palm is smooth,

  and it wears a thin

  patina of sweat.

  You know you’re

  my favorite student.

  A good reference is no

  problem at all. And of

  course we can talk

  about schools.

  You still owe me

  that cup of coffee. I’m

  not likely to forget. Next time?

  Next Time!

  There’s going to be a next time,

  and darlin’, it’s gonna be a lot

  more private than this time,

  I’m guessing. Don’t want to

  look too anxious, though, so

  I simply agree, “Next time.”

  Neither of us has moved yet,

  not a finger, not a knee. I think

  maybe before my next history

  class I’ll shave my legs, buy

  some nylons, and make sure

  my shortest skirt is clean.

  Finally he lifts his hand away

  from mine. I sigh and he smiles.

  Thanks for an enlightening afternoon.

  He lowers his voice slightly.

nbsp; You really are an exceptional

  young woman, you know.

  I look forward to coffee and you

  very soon. Better take my leave

  before the gossip mill starts to spin.

  I Watch Him Go

  My heart races and my brain

  buzzes, replaying his words:

  I look forward to coffee and you

  coffee and you

  and you


  Maybe I’m reading way too much

  into it. It’s weird, because I so

  believed there was something

  between us, but now I’m not

  so sure there really is, even

  though just a second ago, I was.

  I look forward to coffee and you

  coffee and you

  and you


  Take out the “coffee” and what

  have you got? Words. Decaf words.

  Coffee Actually Sounds

  Pretty damn good right now

  (coffee and…him).

  All I had for lunch was a big

  fat doobie and an overdose

  of Mick. My blood

  sugar has bottomed out.

  I told Daddy I’d be home about

  six, and it’s only a little

  after five now. I’ll grab a quick

  something before I try to walk

  home. It’s not too far,

  mostly downhill, but a quick

  carb injection will not hurt one

  bit. I drop into the little

  market nearby, grab a Nutri-Grain

  Bar and a Diet Coke. Mmm. Well,

  at least it will get me

  home. As I exit, a silver car zips

  into the parking lot, radio blaring.

  Hey! calls Brittany.

  What’s up? Need a ride somewhere?

  I Know Daddy Has Issued

  A “no rides with Brittany” edict.

  But that was to Kaeleigh, not me,

  and I really don’t feel like walking.

  Besides, he’s probably halfway

  to drunk by now. If I’m lucky,

  he won’t notice me come in at all.

  “Sure,” I agree. “Why not?” Just in case,

  I point Brittany in the opposite direction,

  around the block from how I usually go.

  No need to tempt the devil, I always say.

  As she cruises slowly up the street,

  something makes me turn my head.

  We’re passing Hannah’s house.

  She’s the not-yet-nurse with the big

  mouth, the one who busted Kaeleigh.

  She’s standing on her front step,

  talking to the devil himself. In fact,

  she is standing very close to Daddy.

  To an outsider, they are the picture

  of propriety. Neighbor to neighbor,

  discussing the weather, perhaps.

  But I see something more

  in the way he leans toward her,

  close, as if he’s hard of hearing.

  Darkness has closed in, but Hannah

  might recognize Brittany’s car.

  I think I am too obvious, and duck.

  “Don’t slow down. Keep going.”

  Yeah, sure, she says, and she does,

  apparently used to such deception.

  I poke up my face, barely over

  the seat, look out the back window,

  fingers crossed I remain incognito.

  Daddy and Hannah are lost in each

  other, and Daddy’s body language

  tells me everything I need to know.

  I’m an Expert Interpreter

  Of body language: slant

  of face, arc of hand,

  frame of shoulder,

  the whisper of knee

  against willing knee.

  I know that one well.

  I recognize anger in

  a certain arch of Mom’s

  spine; obstinacy, double-

  clenched in her jaw;

  the tip of chin signaling

  imminent tears.

  Desire? Every man

  displays it differently.

  Some, like Mick, wear

  it puffed up, peacocks

  strutting ostentation

  in lieu of real substance.

  Men like Ty are harder

  to read—granite-faced,

  molded smiles that can

  mean anything. You find

  their fire in the unfathomable

  pewter of their eyes.

  Lawler-types store lust

  not in sinew or bone, but

  rather just beneath the skin,

  a steady pulse at the wrists

  and temples. And when need

  rises, easy beat becomes throb.

  But I know one man

  better than the rest.

  I know when it’s safe

  to be near him—when

  booze or pills divorce

  every muscle from stress.

  I know when it’s best

  to sneak away—when

  he comes in the door

  stiff and heavy as iron,

  eyelids wide and ears

  practically steaming.

  And I know when his

  face flushes and his breath

  comes in raspy little pants

  and his red-rimmed eyes

  fall on all the wrong places,

  it’s definitely time to run.

  Right Now His Eyes

  Fall on all the wrong places,

  and those places belong

  to Hannah. I should yell,

  “Run!” It doesn’t really


  me that he’s hitting on her,

  I suppose. She’s only a few

  years older than me, and

  looks like she’s twelve. I


  she’s about five feet tall

  and size three. (And how will

  someone that little handle ER

  work, anyway?) She’s married,

  I’m pretty sure, to some guy


  I’ve never seen. Soldier?

  Merchant marine? Jailbird?

  No matter. He’s not around

  much and hey, lucky her,


  just down the street, and

  always up for some young-

  looking meat. And just

  maybe this little detour

  means Daddy won’t be


  Kaeleigh, too, at least not

  for the foreseeable future.


  Today Was Incredible

  Today was impossible.

  Today was perfect and

  terrible and filled with


  after surprise. The thing

  with Ian scares the living hell

  out of me. Love, I know,

  isn’t something to second-


  but in my world, love is

  always defined by ulterior

  motive. To say yes, give

  my whole heart away,

  simply terrifies me. But


  can I ever trust, if not Ian?

  Trust—another indefinable

  word. I’m not sure how to

  process learning about


  possible affair, not that there’s

  much overt proof of it. Even

  if it’s the real deal, I doubt

  Mom would care. It’s not like

  the two of them do much


  at least not with each other.

  So why should I care?

  My Parents Aren’t Real

  Parents anyway.

  They’re cardboard

  cutouts. I mean, aren’t

  parents supposed
  to care about their

  kids? Care for their

  kids? Not abuse

  them or use them or

  lose track of them.

  And aren’t they

  supposed to care for

  each other? Not use

  each other or lose

  the love that was

  once central to each

  other’s existence.

  Not toss each other

  aside because life

  threw a curveball

  their way, even if it

  was a major curve

  ball. No wonder

  I’m a little paranoid

  about giving away my

  love. What if I go

  ahead, give it, and he

  decides to re-gift it?

  Of Course, Maybe Daddy

  Isn’t really sleeping with Hannah.

  Maybe it’s a harmless flirtation.

  (Harmless? Daddy?)

  Maybe they were just having

  an innocent conversation.

  (Innocent? Daddy?)

  Maybe Daddy was just trying to

  be helpful with some legal advice.

  (Helpful? Daddy?)

  Maybe he was just trying to offer

  a selfless act of kindness.

  (Selfless? Daddy?)

  And just why am I offering

  him such an easy out?

  (Easy? You?)

  Am I overly generous,

  or just totally ignorant?

  (Ignorant? You?)

  Am I being loyal, or am

  I, in fact, a little jealous?

  (Enough said.)

  Whatever Daddy Did

  With Hannah wiped him out. Okay,

  that and his usual Wild Turkey dinner,

  plus OxyContin dessert. He’s snoozing

  in front of the TV set, and the TV is off.

  Kinda creepy, but oh so very Daddy.


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