A glass of crazy, p.21
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       A Glass of Crazy, p.21

           Tina Laningham
Monday morning, I trudged through my classes like a zombie. Dealing with Dad and the Kat had obliterated whatever teensy bit of parental trust I had left. I expected Rafa to be wildly entertained by the photo and especially the video of the Kat creature, but he kept giving me this weird look that I'd never seen before. At lunch, I found out why.

  He opened a sack of tamales and handed one to me.

  "I actually made tamales in Mexico," I said, opening the corn husk.

  "The Kat woman cooks?"

  "God no." I shot him a look. "Berta and Gabby, I told you about them in my emails."

  Rafa handed me another cornhusk with a string tied around it that looked more like a present. I pulled the string and unwrapped the cornhusk. The ring inside reminded me of the zillions of silver rings I'd seen in nearly every shop in San Miguel, only this one looked a lot like a wedding band.

  "In Mexico, we have a saying," he said, sounding all serious. "If you feel love in your heart for someone, you should tell them because it is a message from God."

  "Berta told me that in Mexico!" I was so caught up in the coincidence, it took a moment to grasp what Rafa was actually saying.

  Placing both hands on his chest he said, "I feel love for you, in my heart."

  I may as well have been shot with a stun gun.

  "I want you to wear my ring." He leaned over and kissed me, and I don't mean on the cheek. The kiss only lasted a second, well maybe three, or five, ohmygod. At first his lips pressed softly against mine, and then he sucked my lower lip into his warm mouth, gently tugging with his teeth. When I thought it was over, he raised up from the ground, his body tensing, and came at me whole mouth. My breath caught. His hand gripped the back of my neck and his tongue reached in, massaging mine, warm and wet, and then forceful, his grip tightening, and then soft again, reaching in, tugging my lip, until my body tingled and I wanted him to devour me. I'm not sure how long that part went on, but when it was over, we both breathed heavily and everything about Rafa seemed different. His face softened and his eyes looked as if a fairy had waved a magic wand and put him in a trance. Or maybe I was enchanted. Before I knew it, I had taken the silver band from the cornhusk and slipped it on my finger.

  "You accept?" he asked, looking totally surprised.

  I giggled like a girl, which I had never, ever done in my entire life. I always thought it was lame when girls acted that way around boys, but I didn't seem to be in control of myself anymore.

  When Mom picked me up after school, I pulled the ring off and squeezed it in my hand until we got back to the apartment. Having a conversation about the ring was the last thing I wanted, especially since Mom had already accused me of having sex. Today I'd had my first kiss and I didn't want Mom to ruin it.

  When we got home, Mom went to the bathroom and I went straight to the kitchen. I poured vodka in a glass and put a little water back in the bottle. The toilet flushed. No time to add juice. I took the glass of vodka to my room and closed the door because I really just wanted to put the ring back on and stare at it.

  The vodka still tasted like rubbing alcohol, but it made me feel good inside. By now the whole love spell thing had eased up and I was thinking more practically. What had happened with Rafa was still hard to believe because I knew him too well, but this was a part of him I had never seen, a part that didn't make sense. For years he'd been my friend, which was completely different from the whole boyfriend-girlfriend thing. I guess when you get older things have to change whether you want them to or not. Considering all the major changes that were already going on with my parents, I wasn't sure I wanted anything else to change.

  Still, most of the girls in high school had boyfriends and if I had to have one, I wouldn't want it to be anyone other than Rafa. I did love him, so maybe this was all perfectly normal. Really though, I wouldn't know normal if it bit me on the butt. All I knew was that I needed my friend, so if he wanted to be my boyfriend too, that was okay.

  I twisted the ring on my finger and stared at the white ceiling that looked like it had been splattered with cottage cheese. Our old home had smooth ceilings and layers of carved molding. I closed my eyes and remembered Rafa's lips touching mine, but when my mind went deeper into the kiss, I had visions of Dad and the Kat all over each other.

  The door swung open and there stood Mom with a grin the size of Texas. This I had never seen. The only grin I'd known was her perfect-family-photo grin, which did not exactly ooze happiness. Like a cheerleader waving a pom-pom, Mom shook a piece of paper and made little squealing noises that were so not her.

  "Everything's going to be fine! Our lives can go back to normal."

  "Okay, first of all, no." I pulled the ring off fast. "Nothing on that piece of paper can fix what's wrong with our family."

  She came over and sat on the bed. "Honey, there's something I need to tell you, now that you're old enough to know."

  Now see, that's the part Mom and Dad don't get: I'm not old enough to know. I braced myself for whatever was coming next.

  She shoved the paper in my face, which was actually a check with a three and lots of zeroes. When I read the part that spelled out the amount, I nearly choked. Three million dollars and zero cents. The old Mexican curandera was for real.

  "This may be a dumb question," I said sarcastically, "but why is Price Pharmaceuticals giving you three million dollars?"

  Mom gazed at the wall, her mind busy formulating an answer. "Four years ago, I filed a lawsuit and apparently, I won. Actually they settled, according to the letter."

  I cocked my head. "Let me rephrase the question," I said in my most sarcastic voice. "Why did you sue them?"

  "Well, I'm not proud of this, honey." Mom said softly, folding the check. "For years I took medication to get my emotions under control. A painkiller. It was really for migraines, but I took them whenever anything upset me and somehow I got addicted."

  "An anti-depressant?"

  "Well, I was taking that too, but this was an addictive narcotic drug."

  "My mom, the druggie. Nice."

  "When they recalled the painkiller for causing heart disease, I got checked and found out my heart had suffered damage." Mom batted her eyes. "I found the whole thing ironic since I started taking the medication because your father was breaking my heart."

  "So, like, are you okay?"

  "I can't get too stressed out anymore. The heart doesn't heal."

  Okay, so the curandera had obviously confused Mom's heart with mine. At least nothing was wrong with my heart and the money had come, which was the important thing because I was so over being Ghetto Girl.

  At school, Rafa had a new strut-like a rooster-as if having a girlfriend was the same as winning a hunting trophy. I rolled my eyes.

  Even though I'd been back for nearly a week, the reality of what had happened with Dad in San Miguel hit me while walking through a crowded hallway with Rafa strutting by my side. When you're little, parents are just another body part, always there, like an extension of you. But that's not exactly true. Obviously, a parent can love you for a long time and then stop whenever they want. My mind was busy with all that when Megan bumped me and said, "Check friendworld lately?"

  "Um, like no," I replied.

  With a smirk, her eyes swept up and down Rafa's cocky stance. "You should," she said and winked at Rafa before sashaying off.

  "What's she talking about?" I asked Rafa.

  He shrugged and kissed me on the cheek before turning the corner to his last class. Rafa knew. My own boyfriend was hiding something.

  After school I didn't feel like talking to Rafa, even though he rode all the way to the apartment with me. I wasn't sure why, but I still hadn't mentioned that Mom and I were rich again and that we'd be moving out of the ghetto soon. Maybe it seemed too good to be true. Maybe I didn't trust him.

  When Rafa said, "See you," I didn't even look at him. As far as I was concerned, the jury was still out on whether he was lying.

  Mom wasn't home and that was a hug
e relief because I had one thing on my mind. I grabbed a can of orange soda and the vodka bottle Mom seemed to have completely forgotten about, and headed to my room to read Megan's friendworld page. On the bed, I powered up the laptop, took a big gulp, and clicked. The first sentence sent orange vodka spewing from my nose and I couldn't stop coughing long enough to wipe the laptop with my T-shirt.

  Does Your House Have Unfaithful Furniture? Abby's ex-furniture gives a whole new meaning to foreign affairs. When Abby and her mom had that international estate sale, who knew it was unfaithful furniture? Uh-huh, every time Senator A got caught cheating on his wife, he tried to make up by taking Mrs. A and Ghetto Girl on fabulous shopping sprees around the world. Now that unfaithful furniture is all over town. Do you have a piece in your house?

  Hunkified: I have the CHEATING COUCH!!!

  Sweets: we got the two timing table!

  The comments went on, but I shut the laptop. Only one person knew the truth about the furniture and that was Rafa. I should've known when Megan winked at him, he'd betrayed me. Rafa could've socked me in the gut and it would've felt the same. I took another gulp of orange vodka. New rule: Trust no one.

  The front door closed. After stashing the vodka bottle under my bed, I fell back like a dead animal shot in the wild. Mom knocked on my door. Why even knock when she immediately opens the door afterward?

  "I bought a house," she said, without noticing I could be dead.

  I opened my eyes and stared at the cottage cheese ceiling.

  "We're moving over the holidays."

  I blinked slowly. "I'm visiting Dad those two weeks."

  "Oh honey, I forgot to tell you." She sat on the edge of the bed. "Your father cancelled your visit. He's going on a cruise with the floozy. They're getting married."

  I sat up.

  "She's pregnant," Mom said. "Twins."

  "Oh. My. God."

  Mom patted my knee. "I'll show you the new house. That'll cheer you up."

  I collapsed on the bed. "In a minute," I said in a distant monotone.

  After Mom left, I picked up the phone and called Dad. While the phone rang, I tried to think of what I wanted to say if I had to leave a message, but then I heard, "Hey Babe."

  "Hey Dad."

  "How's my girl?"

  "Totally weird question, considering." Long pause. "Is it true?"

  "I was lookin' forward to seein' my little girl over Christmas, but then this thing came up."

  "Define thing."

  "Well, babies." He sounded kind of proud. "We're havin' two." Another long pause. "I've asked Kat to marry me and she said yes."

  "Big surprise there," I said.

  "She wants to get married on a cruise ship."

  "What Kat wants, Kat gets."

  "Try to see it my way," Dad said.

  "I am. You're not inviting your own daughter to your wedding."

  "Look baby, it's not me. Kat doesn't want you to come." Silence. "You two didn't exactly hit it off and she wants this to be a happy occasion."

  I nearly choked. "So it's my fault?"

  "No baby, the wedding is supposed to be about Kat. You know how it is."

  "I know exactly how it is," I said. "Oh, and have a great life." I clicked off the phone and rolled Rafa's ring in my fingers. Just like Dad had lied to Mom about the Kat creature, Rafa was lying to me about Megan. That's exactly how it was.

  I blazed through the living room and slammed the door with Mom saying, "Wait, where-."

  Pushing the handlebars, I jumped on and pedaled past the crack house to Rafa's street. Veering in the driveway, I skidded to a stop and made a long black tire mark that snaked all the way up to the house. Even though I flipped the kickstand, the bike fell over, but that was the least of my problems. I knocked hard and waited.

  Rafa opened the door, which was a good thing because I wasn't in the mood to be polite. At first he grinned, but his eyes grew big as baseballs when I took a pitcher's stance and threw the ring at him.

  "Traitor!" I shouted. The ring missed his shoulder and landed somewhere in the house.

  "You're breaking up with me?"

  From deep in my gut came the words, "Like you don't know what you did."

  "What did I do?"

  I yanked the bike and pedaled home with adrenaline rushing through my veins. Finally, I'd taken control of my life and from now on, this was how it would be. Mom stood in the same spot when I got home, like she was still in mid-sentence. I looked her in the eye and said, "Let's go see that house."

  - 22 -

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