2013 @copyright Victoria Adams 2013
Isn't it great to be in love? Julie stifled a giggle as she snuck a sideways peek at Robert. With his focus on the road, she could revel in the vision of his long lashes, framing dark coal coloured eyes. Eyes that seemed to peer right through to her heart. Her gaze traced the outline of his strong chin and mouth, which broke into an easy grin each time he saw her
It had been a crazy few weeks since he appeared in her biology class. The new kid in the school was from North Shore and to a Westlander, like herself, that wasn't good. But she'd looked past his heritage and found a compassionate and loving man hidden under the shell of a Shoresmen gang member. Somehow, they'd broken laws of chemistry and oil and water combined to make passionate love.
Robert glanced across the cab at Julie, gripped the steering wheel with his left hand and held out his right. She interlaced her fingers with his and smiled. He loved her. She loved him. They'd finish at Westland Prep in a few weeks and then go off to college together. She didn't have to pursue her dance career. It was just a childhood fantasy. Being a professional dance would make it tough to have a relationship when she would always be travelling to other parts of the country or the world. There had to be something at college she could major in. What did she like besides dancing? Julie yawned and stretched, pointing her toes. I do have a beautiful pointe. And dancers feet.
"Are we there, yet?" Ashley's voice cut through the silence in the minivan.
Julie turned to face her youngest sister. "Not much longer." Movement in the back row caught her attention. Annoying brother, Jason pushed equally exasperating sister, Sheila, who shoved him back.
"Get off my side." Sheila stuck her tongue out.
"I'm not on your side, I'm on my side." Jason scrunched his face and glared at his sister.
Julie rolled her eyes. "Cut it out, you two." Chuckling, she smiled at Robert. "The animals are getting restless."
He checked the rear-view mirror and shook his head.
"You ask him."
"No you, Sheila."
"You're the big brother, Jason, you ask him."
"Ask'im what?" Robert called from the driver's seat.
"Are you still going to live with us?" Sheila yelled back.
"Only for a little while longer. I gotta find an apartment. It's been great me stayin' with you'se guys, but its time I go live on my own again."
"Not necessarily." Julie lowered her voice.
"Yes babe, it's time I moved out."
"No, I mean you don't have to be on your own."
Robert's eyebrows rose as he blinked. "Ya mean move in with me?"
Having been caught off guard by Julie's suggestion, Robert pondered the possibility for the rest of the trip. He pulled next to the Murran Estate gates, slid his pass through the card reader and entered.
"You're going to work?" Julie frowned.
"If I'm gonna be paying rent soon, yea I gotta." He parked the van next to the stables then leaned over and kissed Julie.
"Oh, gross." Sheila put her hands around her throat and pretended to vomit.
Chuckling, Robert hopped out of the van, turned and shut the door. "See ya later. Hope your mom's ok. Drive careful. Bye guys."
Julie slid across the seat. She glanced at the rear view mirror and saw Robert watching her drive away. A cold shudder slithered through her.
What did she have to be worried about? Robert had told her he loved her and had made love to her. The weekend at her aunt's had been crazy, with her audition and her cousin's wedding. A pang of sadness rippled through her at the reminder of her failed attempt at her first professional dance audition. No, don't think about it. Wait until Robert gets home.
She tightened her hold on the steering wheel and forced her thoughts to switch to her cousin's wedding. Robert looked so handsome in his tuxedo. She was so proud of him. When they danced at the reception, she melted against his strong body and felt secure in the protection of his arms.
Making love had been wonderful. He was compassionate both towards her, but also her family. When her mother suddenly felt ill, he suggested her grandparents drive her mother and father home, and he offered to drive her and her siblings. He was going to make a good husband and a good father. Julie's felt her eyebrows raise. Marry Robert?
Before she had time to ponder the implication of that, she turned into the driveway. Her brother and sisters piled out of the car. She called them back and had them help unload. Loaded with luggage, everyone hurried into the house to find out how their mother was.
Julie's mother explained that because of her pregnancy and the stress of the trip, the doctor ordered her into bed for a rest. Julie's father called for pizza then suggested everyone unpack and take their laundry downstairs.
After supper, Julie picked up her mother's keys. "I'm going to get Robert. It's pouring rain out and he'll probably try to hitch hike back from the ranch rather than call for a ride." She zipped her raincoat and raced to the car.
Halfway between her house and the Estate she saw him, soaking wet standing on the side of the road, thumb up. She turned the car around and stopped. "Hi."
"Hi." He slammed the door.
"I thought you'd try and hitch a ride home instead of calling."
"How's your Mom?"
"Doctor ordered her into bed for a few days." She tapped her fingernail on the steering wheel. "When we get home and you dry off, can we talk?"
"Let it wait, please?"
"Did I do something wrong?" He wiped the water from his face.
Julie shook her head.
"You mad 'cause I didn't call for a ride? I figured everyone would be busy."
Julie kept her focus on the road. Robert chewed his thumbnail and watched the window wipers swish across the glass.
In the warmth and light of the kitchen, Julie removed her raincoat, hung it up and tossed the keys on the counter. "I unpacked your stuff from my suitcase. It's on your bed. There's some pizza in the fridge. Come to my room when you're ready." She turned and scooted upstairs.
Robert followed, passing her closed door and entering his room. Knocking the pile of clothes off the bed, he changed in to a dry sweatshirt and jeans and left everything else in a pile in the centre of the floor. Back in the kitchen, while the pizza heated, he scoured the fridge for a cold beer, but had to settle for a Coke. When he'd eaten, he sat staring at the table. He didn't want to go upstairs and confront Julie. He couldn't figure out what he could have possibly done wrong. He rubbed his face. Man up, dude, and get this over with. With a big sigh, he headed to Julie's room.
Julie sat on her window ledge watching the rain stream down the glass. "Come hold me, please."
Robert settled next to her, wrapped an arm around her shoulders and waited for the other shoe to drop. Silence filled the room. He bit back asking what the problem was. He'd let her explain it.
Her shoulders shook as she sniffed. With teary eyes, she glanced at him. "Why didn't they accept me at the dance audition? You said, the others said I was good. Well I'm not. I suck." She turned, threw her arm over his shoulder and buried her face in his chest.
Yes! It's not something I did. He squeezed her tighter. "I think ya dance great."
She knocked her forehead on his sweatshirt. "You don't know anything about dance. You made me do it. I hate you for it."
"It's all your fault."
"I'm sorry." What the hell else am I supposed to say?
Between sniffles, Julie said, "I feel so alive when I'm lost in my dancing. Why didn't they take me? You said they would." Her sobs quieted while Robert held her. Her breathing slowed. She'd fallen asleep in his arms.
Wiggling himself around, he scooped her into his arms, placed her on her bed then pulled a blanket over her and kissed her on the cheek. He retreated to his room. A large pile of clothes rested in the middle of the floor and another in a clump in the corner. Grabbing a huge armful, he plodded down to the laundry room. After loading the washer, he settled onto the family room couch and flipped the remote until he found a movie. By the time the battle for planet Earth was in full force, his eyes were getting heavy.
"What are you watching?"
He jumped and looked at Julie. "Just a movie."
"I'm sorry." She hit his foot. Robert sat up. "I'm sorry I took it out on you."
"Forget it." He shrugged. "I've got big shoulders. Ya can cry on them anytime."
Julie snuggled down on the couch next to him. "You're not mad?"
"Naw, I figured ya were just lettin' it out." He brushed a hand across her cheek. "Ya look tired, why don't ya go to bed?"
"What about you?"
"Doin' my laundry."
Robert stretched out and Julie lay on her side in front of him. He draped an arm over her waist. While he watched the movie, Julie slept. When the washing machine stopped, Robert climbed over her, switched the clothes to the dryer then climbed back onto the couch.
A sharp tap on his shoulder woke him. Blinking his eyes open, he focused on Julie's mother. "Go to bed. It would be more comfortable."
"I'm doin' my laundry."
"Clothes are folded and in your room. Take Julie up to bed and go get some sleep."
"You should be in bed."
"I came downstairs to get a drink. I heard the dryer buzz then I found you two here."
Robert lifted Julie from the couch and followed Mrs. Anderson upstairs. She pulled down the blankets on Julie's bed. Robert laid her down. "Good night," he whispered. Soon the house returned to silence as everyone slept.
Tuesday morning, Robert wandered the hallways of Westland Private Preparatory School and stood outside the senior girl's washroom waiting for Julie to exit. To his dislike, when she did, it was with her friend, his enemy, Francine. Heather and Jennifer followed closely behind. Francine stood in front of Robert, curled her lip and sneered. "What do you want?"
Ignoring her, Robert stepped closer to Julie. "What class is first period today? I'm so lost."
"Calculus." Julie smiled. "And good morning to you too."
Heather tapped him on the arm. "Are you back gracing our hallowed halls?"
"It's more like grossing out our hallowed halls." Francine crossed her arms and rolled her eyes.
"I see we still aren't on speakin' terms." He raised one eyebrow.
She didn't turn her head. "You called me a bitch."
"I only call 'em as I see 'em. See you in calc, babe." He walked towards his morning class.
Julie turned to her friend. "Francine, Robert is very much part of my life. You don't have to learn to like him, just be civil."
A scowl crossed Francine's face as she flicked her hair off her shoulder. "It's not possible to be civil with the uncivilized."
The bell cut off Julie's reply. She turned on her heel and headed for class.
"Good morning class." Mr. Ross, the calculus teacher, waited while they settled. "I have a special treat for you. A pop quiz." A chorus of protests arose from the room, which Mr. Ross ignored as he handed out the papers.
Robert read the first question then frowned. He'd done all the work Julie delivered will he was recuperating in the hospital, but none of this looked familiar. He scanned the question again then scratched his head.
Mr. Ross stood next to his desk. "Problem?"
"Should I know how to do this?" Robert tapped his pen on the paper.
"You? Yes, you should." The teacher continued along the aisle.
With his brow creased in confusion and thought, Robert settled down to work. He brainstormed how to solve the first problem and had just finished it as the bell rang. Walking to the teacher's desk with his paper in one hand, he tapped Julie's arm. "We got a free period next, right?"
"Sir, can I stay here and work? I only got the first one done." He waved his test.
Mr. Ross pointed to the back of the room. "Sure, pull a desk to the back and keep working."
Julie placed a hand on Robert's arm. "See you at lunch?"
Julie wandered over to the library and sat next to Trish. "What are you doing here? You don't have this free period."
"Skipping Spanish." Trish slipped her cellphone into her purse.
"Didn't do your homework?" She placed her books and purse on the table next to her chair.
Trish leaned closer. "Heather and I went shopping Saturday. Heather's dad is out of town again and her mom got drunk Friday night, so Heather asked her for her charge card. She bought three new outfits. You're so going to die when you see them. What about you? How was the wedding?"
"We had a very nice time."
"We? As in you and Robert? Details!" Trish waggled her eyebrows up and down.
Julie bit her bottom lip and felt the heat of the blush warm her cheeks.
"You aren't going to talk are you? Did you two...you know? Tell me you at least kissed him. His kisses are so hot."
"Don't want to talk about this here." Julie glanced around the library. "Idea. We haven't had a girl's night in a long time. Friday night. My place."
Trish pulled out her cellphone. "I am so on it! I'll text Jenn and Heather. You tell Francine, And what was up with her this morning? Being all pompous and queenly at Robert."
The librarian hissed as he walked past. "Patricia Ann! Cellphone."
Trish sighed and lowered the phone into her purse; until the librarian was out of view then she dashed off two texts while keeping an eye out for danger.
Throughout spare and lunch, Julie looked for Robert, but he didn't appear. She walked to English class alone.
Mrs. Wolmsley had finished taking the attendance when Robert entered and placed an admit slip on her desk. She proceeded with a class discussion of the novel they were studying. "Mr. Holiday." Her brow wrinkled. "Are you sleeping or paying attention?"
Robert didn't open his eyes. "Payin' attention, ma'am. Just tryin' to get rid of a headache."
"Do you find my class painful?"
"No, ma'am. The three-hour calculus quiz I just wrote was. None of it made any sense to me, but now I'm sittin' here listenin' to you and tryin' to make my headache go away."
"Did you read the book?"
Robert opened one eye and glanced at Julie.
"Oh yea. I remember. Gawd, it was borin'." Shit. Shouldn't have said that.
"You found Young Men/Lost Nights/No Dreams boring?"
"Yea. The guy don't know what he's talkin' 'bout. I'd love to live where he lives. Shore ain't half as nice."
"What's so tough about Shore?" A voice floated over from the other side of the room.
Robert forced his eyes open. The harsh glare from the lights irritated the throb in his head. "It's called basic survival. In the book, the school was a nice place to go. It had lockers. North Shore Secondary don't got any. Well it's got lockers, just none got any doors on 'em. The teachers ain't as good as here. Mrs. Wolmsley, you're too nice. You wouldn't survive a day."
"And why not? I've handled enough rowdy students in my day?" She stood a bit taller.
"Rowdy?" He snorted. "Try violent. Let me explain it this way, English was givin' bro a harsh go so I whipped my switch past his brains."
The teacher blinked.
Robert chuckled. "Translation, the English teacher was giving a Shoresmen a rough time, so I threw my knife past his head." A small grin crossed Robert's face. "He didn't bother my buddy no more. Ya see, I'm tryin' to be good while I'm here. I'm gettin' treated like shit but I'm tryin'."
"You don't seem to be getting the hint and leaving." Derek yelled across the room.
"Ya have no idea how much I'd like to, but I'm stuck here."
"How is your life different than ours?" Jaclyn tilted her head as she spoke.
Robert rubbed his face. He didn't want to become entangled in this conversation. "How many here know who their father is?"
Everyone raised their hand.
"I don't have a clue and I doubt my hooker mother knows either." He glanced around the room. "Anybody ever had to sleep on the streets 'cause you had no place to go? Anybody spend a cold Saturday night under a street light defending your right to exist?"
He paused, waiting for a comment, but the class remained silent. "I'm not proud of my life, but I am proud that I survived. I know you'se guys got problems, but none of your problems are based on survival."
"Trying to make us feel sorry for you?" Derek sneered at Robert.
"No, Jaclyn asked a question and I answered it."
Derek stood. His fists were clenched by his thighs. "You're not one of us. You're Shore."
"Flash the news bulletin."
"You invade our territory. You beat me up. You knocked out Chris and sent Stephan to the hospital." Derek flung out his arm and pointed at Julie. "You stole Chris's girl. Picked a fight in the library—"
"Chris's girl!" Julie's eyebrows rose. "I have a name. And he did not steal me from Chris."
Robert peered at his desk trying to stifle a smile.
"Chris got what he deserved." Julie slammed her palms on her desk.
"I was using Robert to make Stephan jealous." Trish's confession was low, but the class heard it.
The girl sitting across from Robert asked, "Is it true you killed someone?"
"What does it matter? I'm condemned just because I'm Shore."
"But some of them are trying to understand you." Julie released an exasperated sigh. "Sometimes your reluctance to talk annoys the heck out of me."
"You said you used to live on the streets?" The girl beside him asked.
He turned to face her. "Yea. So?"
"How? How did you survive? How did you eat? Sleep? What about school?"
"What's your name?"
She smiled. "Claire. Claire Caison."
"Hi, Claire. I did the same as everyone else. If I didn't have the money for what I needed I stole it. I slept wherever I could, in an alley or an abandoned building. I spent a lot of time bein' cold, tired and hungry."
Claire gasped and covered her mouth with her hand.
"Some street kids make it. Some don't. I'm gonna be one of the survivors." He glanced at the clock. Is this stupid class ever gonna end?
Mrs. Wolmsley cleared her throat. The students focused on her. "I propose a visit with the senior English class at North Shore. I'll have the papers ready by day after tomorrow."
"Stupid idea, ma'am." Robert shook his head. "These guys are gonna be like guppies to the sharks."
"It's one day under school supervision. What could possibly go wrong?"
The bell rang.
"Robert, may I see you before you go?"
The class filed out of the room. Julie waited in the hall. Robert stood by the teacher's desk. "I would like to compliment you on your behaviour today." She smiled. "You were in a tough position and you handled it well."
"Thanks, but I still think your idea's got problems."
"I have noted your concern, but I plan to carry out this idea." She folded her hands and rested them on top of her desk. Robert understood her dismissal.
A smile crossed his face as he grabbed Julie then snuck into a corner by the stairs and pulled her close. Scurrying past them, their biology teacher, Mr. Parks coughed and called back, "And I thought I was going to be late for class."
Julie blushed as she and Robert followed their teacher. He held the door open for them and entered. Robert crossed the room, tossed his books on his desk and sat.
"Please excuse the interruption," said the voice over the intercom. "But would Robert Holiday please report to Student Services."