Sunday, June 6, 2010

Bendingmirrors Week 5 Entry: Steps

Bendingmirrors' Choice: Pic 2



First beach was apparently the place I took my first steps. Well, if you listened to Dad tell the story that's what happened, but if you were paying attention when the story was told, there was always a slight wince my mom gave when he got to the point in the story where he'd say it was like I just knew what I doing, pulling myself to my feet and leaving the safety of my mom's arms to set off in pursuit of the can of beer dangling from my father's hand.

No, it had nothing to do with my toddling over to try to grab the can that held so much fascination for my father. Mom's wince was all about the white lie she had told that day. Apparently my real first steps were in my mother's wake as she tried to vacuum the rug in our living area two days before. The incredibly long hours my father was working in order to be able to afford to feed his new family were why he hadn't been there to see those steps, so Mom had said nothing about them, instead choosing to allow my second steps be recorded as my first. Steps that my father could crow to all of his friends about being present for, giving him the joy of witnessing such a milestone in his firstborn's life.

The beach was such a large figure in our lives growing up. Seth following along in my wake, always trying to keep up and be involved in whatever schemes I had going on. The nosy little brat was forever inadvertently spilling the beans on whatever I was in the middle of cooking up. The year that we all took up cliff jumping ended with me being grounded for a couple of weeks, after Seth and his failure to pay attention resulted in a trip to the emergency room and a cast. How on earth my parents managed to blame me for the numbskull tripping over a rock and landing wrist first in a rock pool is beyond my comprehension. It's not like he died or anything, just a stupid broken wrist with a cast that garnered him sympathy from everything in a skirt for a month.

It wasn't a huge shock when he was the blabbermouth who got me grounded again a few short summers later. I have to guess that he was looking for me, because that's the only way he would have found Sam and I making out in our quiet spot along the beach. We had moved out of the line of sight so we wouldn't be easily found, but Seth always was persistent. He never did like to feel like he was missing out on anything, and I guess he thought that maybe Sam and I were planning our next big adventure. He just got more than he bargained for. I certainly never bargained for my little brother finding me with my top off, and only one of my hands visible.

Mom and Dad took that infraction a little more seriously than they had my inability to keep Seth standing. I was grounded for a month this time, and forced to invite Sam to dinner.

"Lee-lee, we were going to have to do this some point weren't we? Why stress about it, it'll just happen now. So what if they know I'm your boyfriend?" Sam tried to reassure me after I'd blurted it all out to him.

"So what? So what? Sam you have no idea how messy this dinner could be. Between Seth and Dad..." I trailed off, not knowing how to put into words the worries I had about how they would pester him with unnecessary questions. I figured that this would spell the end of our fledgling 'relationship'. This was the first time he'd used the word 'boyfriend', we hadn't tried to define anything before we got busted, and we were just having some fun. Now I had to bring him home to my parents, and worse, watch Seth pester him, until he decided that I just wasn't worth the effort, and that would be the end of that.

In the end, I'd been worried for nothing. Seth's particular brand of hero-worship now extended to Sam. If Sam said jump, Seth would be in the air before he thought to ask 'How high?' Even my parents managed to not say anything embarrassing; instead we all enjoyed a regular meal. Dad talking to Sam about the latest baseball results, and Seth was watching them both with wide-eyed fascination. Mom and I spent most of the meal rolling our eyes at the ease with which men bonded.

We cleared the table and allowed the men to head off into the living room to watch sports and scratch their balls. Mom and I set about cleaning the kitchen, and from the look in her eyes I knew I was about to get one of 'those' talks. The quiet repetition of grabbing a dish and cleaning it before handing it on to me to be dried, a motion from my earliest memories of time shared with mom.

"Leah, sweetie, I know you're getting older, and this was inevitable. But please, don't do anything stupid honey? I don't want you to ruin your life, you're young, bright, and you have so much potential. Please, just think before you and that boy take the next step." She paused; taking stock of what I assume was a rebellious expression beginning to dawn on my face. I could see the effort she put into controlling her own emotions, and heard the deep intake of breath before she began again.

"Now, I'm not saying he's not a good boy, and I'm not saying he's not good for you. All I'm saying is that if you two end up in trouble at this point in your lives it could ruin you both. There are so many things you could do, and I think if you wound up stuck here because of a baby that you'd end up resenting the hell out of everyone. You are my little free spirit Leah. You need to spread your wings outside of La Push and maybe even further afield than Washington. I want that for you. But mostly, I want you to be happy baby. I'm just saying be careful."

"I promise I'll keep all of that in mind, Mom." I nodded carefully, to show her that I had heard what she'd said, but I wasn't quite sure how to respond, so I hoped that that was adequate.

I kept the memory of that night with me for a long time after. Well into my freshman year, that advice remained close to my heart. When Sam and I finally went all the way we were as careful as two people could possibly be, so much so that Sam laughed at me. He was convinced that we really didn't need a rubber when I had been on the pill for months. I was equally convinced that I was not letting him anywhere near me bareback. I won, as I'd always known I would. Sam never could out-stubborn me, and he knew that the only way I would ever surrender would be under my conditions.

When Emily came to visit I had been so excited to show off my boyfriend. So excited to share two of the most important people in my life with each other. What I wasn't expecting was for the whole thing to blow up in my face. Sam had been a little off for a couple of days before Em arrived, and I put their first meeting jitters down to his illness. When he went missing I thought my whole world had fallen apart. I spent hours and hours combing the beach, the woods and everywhere I could think of for a clue to where he was. Scared stupid that something unspeakable had happened to him.

I wasn't prepared for the stranger who returned in his stead. The man who burned, but whose look was like ice. He looked at me as though he couldn't remember all the things that we were to each other. All the plans that we had made for our future together. Stumbling on him wrapped around Em down on the beach was the final straw. I took off, running along the beach in no particular direction, knowing only that I had to put as much distance between them and me as I could. I have no idea what words I sprayed them with when I discovered them, I can only imagine they were bad, words I would never before have unleashed in front of either of them, let alone the little brother who was out helping me hunt Em down in time for dinner.

The hand that grabbed my arm as I ran was familiar, it wasn't the hand that I would have gladly ripped off. I allowed the pull to slow my momentum, and came to a stop, conceding defeat to the emotions fighting to pull me apart. Seth's familiar arms embraced me, his scent comforting as I wailed aloud the pain. Only for this space of time would I ever surrender to these weakening emotions. I felt Seth patting my back as he tried to calm me, his strong and sure heartbeat sounding in my head as I tried to burrow into his chest. For a few minutes I would allow myself to seek comfort from my baby brother, he would know better than to ever bring this up again, but he would also know that he was the only person in the world with whom I could ever really be free, open and honest. He would never betray me, despite our differences over the years, he would always have my back, and I would make damn sure that I always have his.