Love Lies White

 

I.

 

Dead center of the coarse sheets, a woman with straight, silver hair is tucked tight. “Each time I close my eyes, we’re back…” Her small voice takes on the exuberance of a child, “Come on Bobby! Let’s swim…” But the frail woman on the bed merely begins to squirm.

A man stands next to the railed bed examining the age spots on the olive hand he holds in his long fingers. He looks up at her face.

Taut skin spread like lotion over the bones beneath her pale pink cheeks, all the while, web-like creases show her history of laughter and tears. Thick black lashes flutter open; beneath lay green, glazed orbs.

“It’s Jacob. It’s time to take your nap now.” He taps the top of her hand three times, and she seems to snap back from her reverie at the sound of the gentle voice.

“Yes…yes.  A nap. I am quite…tired.” Two bulky caregivers turn her on her side. After a long exhale, she closes her eyes and begins to drift back to his face, as they had been while still filled with childhood innocence.

 

 

Gentle streams of light glow warm through the vertical blinds. I rub my eyes while my pupils adjust to the light. Registering the warm air, I bolt upright. With a wand wave, I open the blinds, and a flood of sunlight instantly sends the tingle of realization that Bobby is coming over to spend the day. A satisfied smile crosses my lips.

I think giggling, “I know that one day I’ll marry Bobby and make him happy forever,” and lie back on the bed. The phone rings.

“I got it!” I scream. “Hello?”

“Hey, Karah.” His voice is unwittingly seducing.

“Hey, Bobby. Are you still coming over today?” I cover my head with my comforter in anticipation.

“My mom said after summer school she’ll take me over.”

“Ok, I’ll see ya then.” I realize I just hung up the phone on him in my anxiousness, and I blow a rush of air at my long bangs. I knew when I watched him laugh for the first time that I was in trouble. He’s just too perfect! I kick off my covers and commence a sixth grade interpretation of a partnerless waltz into the bathroom.

Exhausted from cleaning the kitchen and watching the clock, I plop onto the couch, just when the doorbell rings. I practically leap to the door only to stand ridged against the wall. Warmth brushes my face with the swish of the door.

“Hi, Teresa. Hi, Bobby.” My mother greets.

“Hi Cindy. Beautiful day for a swim, isn’t it, Karah?”

“Yeah,” I squeak with a shy glance up.

“Karah, tell Mrs. Wright thank you for bringing Bobby over.”

“Thank you Mrs. Wright!” This, of course, comes out with much more enthusiasm than I had originally intended.

“You’re very welcome Karah.” Teresa Wright smirks with knowing. My red cheeks give me away, but I meet her eyes and smile.

“Meet me out back, Karah. I’ll get my suit on in the clubhouse.” Bobby disappears from his mother’s side.

“Bobby, I’ll be back at five!” She yells at the air, for Bobby had run around the side of the house. “I guess that’s my cue to go,” Bobby’s mom chuckles.

“See ya, Mrs. Wright,” and I scamper through the house, weaving around my baby brother’s toy, clothes, and furniture. Then, I sprint out the back door and along the cement path that surrounds the in-ground pool. Skipping steps like a cat, I place the doorknob in my grasp. When I open the door, a triangle of light leads my eyes directly to an unclothed Bobby.

We stand still as pictures, staring with silent, open mouths. Then, my eyes drop to the diamond pattern of the carpet.

 

 

Jacob hears Karah Poe gasp, so he glides back into her warm, windowless room.

“Come out when you’re ready,” she whispers. Smiling, dimples deep.

“Hello, how are you feeling?” Jacob stands with some apprehension, hands in his jacket pockets. He thinks to himself, She seems to be losing reality to her dream more each day.

“Oh, my!” Her breathing becomes labored and her hands jerk as they climb to claw at her face. “Where am I? Bobby? Bobby? Where am I?” Jacob had become accustomed to calming her down.

“It’s ok Ms. Poe. You’re at home in your bed.”

“No, no! What are you talking about? This isn’t home.” Karah tosses her head and shoulders toward the side of the bed as if oblivious to her physical limitations. The wheelchair she had used for the last twenty-some years gathers dust in the corner of the room. Almost shrinking into the bed, Karah sputters shakily, “I want to go home…”

“Relax,” Jacob pauses and takes her hand. He states with assurance, “I will take care of you. Just close your eyes.” As he says this, he cleans an area of her arm, injecting her in an instant, “Just relax…”

Karah’s eyes lose focus with a glimpse of her past self.

 

 

“Bobby asked me out!”  I scream into the telephone.

“Oh, my, gosh!  You are so lucky.  He’s the hottest boy in school!”  Kim cries with just as much excitement as I had.  “So how’d he do it?”

“We were playing Wheel of Fortune in Mr. Zimmerman’s class before the bell rang,” I begin.

“I love that game!” Kim exclaims.

“Anyway, Mr. Zimmerman picked Tiffany to be Vanna White. I was like so wanting to do it, but Tiffany strutted up to the board like she was all that. Anyway, Bobby passed me a note saying I was so much cuter than Vanna White and will I go out with him.”

“NO WAY!” She had screamed so loud I had to pull the phone from my ear.

“Way! And after I said yes, he exclaimed, “Wow!”  And then he whispers, “I never thought you’d say yes.  You just broke up with Mark, and he always bragged about how much you were in love.”

“What did you say?” Kim chimes in.

I replied in the sultriest voice my young vocal cords could manage, “You’re the one I always wanted to be with.  Couldn’t you tell the way I beat you up on the basketball court?”  At this, Kim and I began laughing in sixth grade hysterics.

 

 

At the sound of a loud yell, Jacob jumps out of his bed. Slamming his big toe into his night stand, his alarm clock falls to the floor.

“Son of a…” He hobbles over to the dresser and puts his head on his hand. After a trio of breaths, he composes himself and, afraid she is in pain, grabs a syringe from the top drawer.

“Oh…huh,” he mumbles as he walks into Karah Poe’s room. What could she be laughing so hard at? At least one of us is getting some pleasure these days. I need some help…”

Jacob knows she is not going to fully come to, so he climbs back in bed.

 

 

Bobby would be calling to tell me where and when to meet him, so I rush upstairs to, as best I can, find my adolescent beauty. I then race back to the phone, of which we had just gotten off not ten minutes before.

“Hello,” I exhale into the receiver at the first ding of a ring.

“Meet me at Andover Park. Is thirty minutes enough time?”

“Make it an hour so that I can bypass the Kreaty house,” I say with a shiver.

“Don’t let those silly ghost stories scare you. One night when we’re in high school, we’ll go over there. If I can’t show you there’s no ghosts, then I’ll at least protect you from them.” We both chuckle at this thought of the future; but deep in my belly I feel a slight tingle.

“Ok, I’ll see you there, bye.” And we hang up the phone. I lived miles from civilization, but I had Blue Lightning, my faithful bike, to get me everywhere I wanted to go.

The wind breathing in my face as I ride is as intoxicating as the butterfly dance bumping in my stomach.  I stop to pick up Kim.  She comes outside and hurriedly mounts her bike.  While we are ridding, the truth of my transformation into a woman comes out.

“We’re supposed to really kiss today,” I say with anxious giddiness.

“French kiss?”

“Yeah.”

“Are you excited?”  She asks with such a big smile that I thought for sure her teeth would soon have a big splattering mess of bug guts she’d have no choice but to eat.

“More nervous than anything else, but, well,” I stated, “Sacred secret, Kim—I practiced on the wall of my bathtub last night.” We laugh in long, loud bursts of silly energy.

“I think I’m ready.” I state with confidence as we begin to concentrate on riding as fast as we can.

As we petal past the cornfields and sparse houses, I can’t help but think: Kim and Mark are now officially a couple, which is great since he and Bobby are best friends. I think we need all the support we can get for this.  The fact that we’re gonna have witnesses to our first official kiss adds a bit more pressure though. And especially since Mark and I never went that far. But whatever, I have felt Bobby’s lips in innocent kisses so many times this last year that I should feel sufficiently prepared. It’s not like a tongue is that gross. 

We see the boys leaning against the picnic tables. Kim and I stand on our pedals and glide on inertia.

“Hellooo, girls!”

“Hey, Bobby. Hey, Mark.” Kim dismounts and drops her bike to the ground, and I follow suit.

Bobby takes my hand.  We all walk towards the swings, which sway in the warm breeze.  The summer sun envelopes our bodies in a heated cushion, and I don’t know if it’s the breeze or my blood that pushes up the goose bumps on my arms.

We sit down on the swings.  Kim and Bobby walk to the marry-go-round to give us time to fulfill our romantic summer quest.  My eyes focus on kids playing like he and I were merely a year ago.  It’s Bobby, and it’s time to grow up!  Look at his beautiful face.  Courage woman!  I try to calm myself.

            Just then Bobby turns his swing to face my profile, “So are you ready?  I mean…I’ve been wanting to kiss you, I mean really kiss you for a long time, I ummm…”

“I have too, Bobby, but I don’t want those two examining us while we do it.”

“Why don’t we go to the spaceship,” he states with powerful assurance like he had already planned the scene out in his head.

We scoot off of the swings, and again he takes my hand.  As we begin our trek to the spaceship, it is as if we are slowly being drawn in by a magnetic beam. A metal circular standing space stands atop two angled ladders.  We climb up the steps, one on each side, and lean in to the covered section.  My eyes focus on his gentle smile.

Suddenly, I lose feeling in my feet, then my knees buckle, and my back straightens.  I stare across at his mouth. I glance at Kim and Mark who were standing together, staring at me.  Finally, I again face Bobby.

“I can’t do this.”  And I jump to the ground and race to my bike as if my life were dependant upon my escaping my humiliation.

 

 

After the midnight incident, Jacob couldn’t sleep. His fear that her days are numbered has increased daily.  Jacob watches tears roll down the ashen cheeks of Karah Poe.

I desperately want to talk to her, just one more time…But, how?  I know I shouldn’t have false hope, believe me I know, but I can’t imagine her dying thinking I am…Shaking his head, he walks out of her room and into his office. He picks up the phone and dials.

“Yes, um, I think Cleveland, Ohio. Yes, I need the number for a Robert Wright. That many, huh. Well, can I have them all. No, no addresses. Thanks.”

 

 

My little brother and his kid sister bolt away from the dinner table, one after the other. The adults seem oblivious, so I look at Bobby. He winks, and I blush as I scoot out my chair and disappear behind the dining room door. My long, muscular legs jump the steps three at a time to arrive at my room in seconds.

I get out my algebra book so that I have a surefire excuse. By the time I look up, his gait brings him by my side. He sits down on my bed. I rise to shut in my furtive motive and close the door.

“I was surprised when my mom said we were gonna have dinner over here,” he states with a crooked smirk as I walk back to my bed. “I thought you were too busy with your cheering buddies and upperclassmen to hang with a lowly freshman like me.”

“I miss you.”

“I guess you should have thought about that before you broke up with me for Billy Burrell.” His cocky chuckle brought fire to my cheeks.

“You didn’t seem to mind too much since you started going out with Jess Dower. or Miss Do Her if you want to get technical, not even a month after we broke up…” I spit out with disdain for the entire subject of our breakup.

“No,” Bobby interrupts, “You broke up with me, if you want to get technical.” He turns his face from mine.

“I made the dumbest mistake I could have! I thought I wanted something else…” I look down at the floor feeling small and stupid. “I thought we were too close, like brother and sister, but I was young. I know what I want now,” I say this and take his hand. Bobby looks at me, staring deep.

“Will you kiss me?” I whisper. He put his pointer and thumb under my chin.

“You know I have a girlfriend.”

“Will you kiss me?” Bobby drops his hand but keeps his gaze locked.

“Why don’t you kiss me?” I lean over to him and our lips meet with moans of relief escaping me. He lowers me down with care then smiles as he turns on his side to face me. He finger brushes a chunk of my long, dark hair behind my ear. I scoot my body as close to his as possible.

“Hold me close and don’t let go,” I whisper onto his cheek, “We don’t have much time.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll always be here for you.” Our tongues wrap in passion. His hand moves from neck to my chest like a snake exploring the desert surface.

Following a hushed giggle, the door is thrown open by two ten year olds.

“Mom! Karah and Bobby are taking a nap together!” We both stand up and race to opposite sides of the room while booming footfalls climb the walls.

“What’s going on?”

“Nothing mom, honestly! Billy came in, and we were laying down doing Algebra,” I say and rove the floor for my book. Tereasa Wright then appears in the doorway.

“I think it’s time we go now Bobby,” she says after a quick scan of our surrounding situation.

“See ya, Bobby. Thanks for the help,” I say with a smile and wave. “I’ll see you in class tomorrow.”

The room begins to empty, but my mom states in a firm tone grabbing me by my hair, “You better spend the rest of the night in here finishing that Algebra, embarrassing me like that! God help me, I should…” She shoves me onto my bed and slams the door.

I close my eyes and relive my latest escapade. Nothing will stop me this year. I smirk and hug my teddy bear.

 

 

Jacob is walking, eyes on the ground, out of the hospital when his pager screams 911. He whips out his cell phone and hits one on his speed dial.

“This is Dr. Poe,” he listens to the reply. “I’m already here, so I’ll meet the ambulance. Thanks for the heads-up, Leslie. I guess I’m glad to have her tests ordered, but I wish I would have brought her over before the trauma.” He nods and sighs, “I know…” Jacob hangs up the phone and looks up at a patch of night sky. After inhaling enough to raise his chest, he blows a cold cloud up at the latent, quiescent stars. With a scoff he turns and walks back into the hospital.

In the ambulance, Karah tries to open heavy, hazy eyelids again only to deafening pain.

 

 

I sit cross-legged on the clubhouse couch, twirling a can of Old Style on my feet while listening to Pink Floyd The Wall.

“I bet he doesn’t show,” I spit out. “Watch him stomp on me like every other guy. He’s just waiting for the right time to get back at me for breaking up with him,” I twirl the can between my hands, “but it’s not like he doesn’t always have some pretty little princess attached to him…whatever!”

I take another gulp, “Who the hell am I? What would a guy like Bobby ever want with a whack job like me anyway? Will I ever stop dreaming?” I drain the rest of the beer and hurl the tin at the wall.
“What the hell’s goin’ on in here?” Bobby leans down to walk through our childhood door jam. “Shit, Karah, it’s been a while since I’ve been in here. Those were the days though.” He laughs at the memories that flash in his mind.

“I don’t remember the last time I laughed, I mean really laughed.” My sardonic retort makes Bobby look at me sternly. I avoid his eyes.

“What’s going on Karah?” He sits down next to me on the couch. I curl up my legs and wrap my arms around them.

“I’m beginning to crumble…I don’t even know why I do things anymore.” I begin sobbing, “Do you know what I was doing on homecoming night while your little senior girlfriend was being crowned? I was having sex with Peter Wolfe. I don’t even know why I did it.” Bobby takes me into his arms.

“I wish it had been you…can you ever even think anything but that I’m a slut?” He strokes my hair.

“I will always love you, no matter what you do. We may not be around each other anymore, well, except when you’re cheering for one of my games, but don’t ever think that means I don’t care. You’ve known me too long for that shit, Karah!” I turn my tear stained face up to his.

“I’m so tired, Bobby.” I expel a soft sigh. “Will you lay with me?” I put my head upon his heart. He kisses my forehead. “My head is telling me funny things. It kinda scares me sometimes.”

“I guess I can stick around a bit, but this couch still sucks,” and we both chuckle, breaking the tension.

I walk to the back corner of the little house and throw two pillows and a big blanket on the floor at Bobby’s feet.

We snuggle up to each other. Exhaling, I breath, “Now I feel safe.”

“Can I help you get a little closer?” He bolts upright and pulls his Salem High School sweat shirt off. I smile and look up at him.

“Yesss, yesss. Much better,” I say playfully, all the while his nearness burgeoning heat at my core.

“Well, it seems that you’ve missed me a little as well, huh?”

“You really have no idea…” He kisses me as we allow ourselves to explore with whispers and tickles, caresses and presses.

“I love you.”

“I know. You better know you’ll always be my girl.”

“Bobby,” I falter for a few breaths and spit out, “I’m moving. My mom is afraid I’m a nut case she can’t handle, so she’s shipping me off to live with my dad. I will never trust another counselor again, that’s for sure.”

“When are you going?”

“Two weeks.”

“Couldn’t you have waited to tell me this until the mind blowing buzz had worn off? You’re killing me here, Karah!”

“You are such an asshole! I’ll give you a buzzzzzz…”

 

 

Karah Poe’s eyelids begin blinking as she registers the metallic beeping of the hospital room. She cannot move her arms or legs; however, she struggles to turn her head and succeeds in a brief moment of clarity as Jacob comes into view. Then, the pain begins to pulsate before a thought can be formed. She screams.

“She’s gonna seize again…”