My cousin Brittney needed to make some changes in her life.
I struggle to reel in my line. I hoist the massive fish from the water and as I reach out to net this amazing catch—the phone rings. I open my eyes and roll toward this irritating racket. I see my caller ID informing me that someone is most definitely calling, and besides it the clock reads 3:24AM. I consider ignoring the call, but the number looks familiar. It’s a cell phone number from back east—who the hell? I do not have much to do with most of my family since the majority of them tried to convince me to put Billy up for adoption when his mother died… Insisting I didn’t have what it took to be a single father. If one of them is calling me at this time of night, it must be important. I retrieve the phone from its cradle and press it to my ear. “Yeah?”… Silence… a faint strained breathing… someone is trying not to cry… Finally the quivering voice musters up the courage to speak… “I need your help Mark; I don’t know what to do.”
Brittney is my eighteen year old cousin-one of the few family members I actually like. In fact, over the years, she has been more like a baby sister than a cousin. It has been about a year and a half since I moved away to escape our judgmental and under confident family—the move has been hard on all three of us. Since every time we speak her parents make her life miserable, we decided not to talk much until she graduates and moves out. It kills us both, and Billy too… Brittney is Billy’s favorite person in the whole world besides daddy. Brittney stands about 5’2” and weighs maybe 102lbs. soaking wet. She has a very slender build and beautiful facial features which are framed by her light brown wavy hair. She would make a real catch for any guy.
“I need your help Mark; I don’t know what to do.” I realize who is on the other end of this early morning call immediately. “What happened Brit? What’s going on?” “Brandon… It’s over… I don’t know, he must have bumped his phone or something… I just hung up a call, actually listening to him have sex with her…”—the crying began in full force again. Brandon and Brit have been off and on since she was fifteen. The primary reason? He is a year older and had lost his virginity a few months before they met. Once a teenage boy loses his virginity, he expects his sex life to remain at that new exciting level. Brit wants to wait until after graduation so she doesn’t risk ending up just another pregnant teenage girl. She loves him. He loves her. He loves sex more… The farthest Brit ever let things go is heavy petting fully clothed. She knew oral sex couldn’t get her pregnant, but she also knew as much as she loved him it was easier to stop it with their clothes on, and didn’t trust herself to go any further. I know this because their relationship has been a common topic of our correspondence. We both knew every time he left her, it was to go have sex without the guilt of cheating, but neither of us ever said it aloud. Tonight she got slapped in the face with that fact… She was willing to live in denial when there was a glimmer of hope she was wrong, but this changes things.
“I am so sorry honey, I know you love him and you don’t deserve this. Sometimes people make stupid mistakes because of sex; it’s not your fault Brit.” The crying has subdued enough for her to respond, “I should have just had sex with him. We both love each other, and this would have never hap”—-“Damn it Brittney! Don’t do that. You were right to wait, you still are. He had a choice between having love and waiting for sex, or having sex and throwing away love. He chose wrong. You just need to focus on your last couple of months of school, avoid him, and get out of the after graduation.” “I don’t want to avoid him. I want to go back and never hear that call Mark.” “Sweetie, you know I love you and I don’t want to see you hurt… But we both know you cannot just wish this away, or pretend it didn’t happen. What kind of a future could you have with him when every day those sounds will be playing in the back of your mind?” “I’ve had all my credits since the first semester of this year, maybe I should just drop out.” “Brit, you have a couple of months left… Go to school tomorrow and ask to change around the classes you have with him. I know you have your credits but you would regret not finishing your senior year, it wouldn’t be the same.” The crying has stopped now, she seems pretty calm considering, “I will try Mark, I promise. Can I call you if it starts getting bad again?” I reassure her, “you know my phone is on 24/7 for you sweetie, you can call any time you need to. We’ll get thru this, don’t worry. Now go get some sleep.” “I love you Mark, and thank you.” “No need Brit, just stay strong.” I return the phone to its cradle and lay awake the remainder of the night. Finally I hear Billy up and around—at last something to get my mind off this horrid event.
Three weeks have passed since the call. I haven’t heard anything from her and I’m really getting worried. I can’t call her given the immense tension between her parents and I. As I help Billy up and down the slide repeatedly, I assess my odds. George, her father, would most likely be at work. Her mother Cathy Could answer the phone—she hates me the most. Timmy and Tommy, her little twin brothers are still on the bus I think. I just don’t know how her sister Mary thinks about me after all this time; she listens too much to her mother. With those odds, I am not even going to think about calling. It would just make it worse for Brit if they knew she still calls me. “Come on Billy, time to walk home. We can come back to the park tomorrow.”
As he rounds the bend in our tree lined driveway, Billy takes off running. “Billy!” I run to catch him and figure out what got into him. I round the bend see her standing there with Billy wrapped in a big hug. I briskly walk over and scoop them both up in a huge hug. “Your parents let you come here?” Her smile fades as she begins biting her lip and avoiding eye contact. I put her down and take Billy, setting him down and instructing him to go play with his ball. “Briiiit?” “I had to get out of there Mark, just for a couple of days. Please let me stay.” As she begins to give me a somewhat pouty look, I can tell there is sincerely something going on. “What happened?” Her eyes get wide, “are you going to let me stay for the weekend?” I raise my eyebrow and purse my lips, “What happened little missy?” She explains that her family, her mother in particular, has been spreading rumors to ruin Brandon’s future. Even though he hurt her, she still wants him to go on with his life and be happy—because she truly loved him. Her father even went so far as to threaten Brandon with physical harm. “I just can’t take it anymore Mark. They took the hardest things I’ve ever gone through and managed to make it even worse every day. I just need a couple of days away.” I sigh, “alright, but how did you get here without them knowing?” She grinned a slightly mischievous grin, “I’ve been working, and saving up money for when I start college. I used that to pay for the ticket, and they think I am at Melody’s for the weekend.” Melody was a friend of Brit’s that moved a few hours away last year. “Alright, well let’s get your stuff inside. Come on Billy, time to go in buddy.”
By the time she gets her things settled in the guest bedroom and we all visit a bit, it is 8:00PM Friday night. We determine it’s time to order a pizza and have a lazy night in. Billy wanted Brit to be the one to lay him down after dinner, so I cleaned up and put away the leftovers. Brit got a quick shower and got dressed for bed and rejoined me in the living room where she spent a couple of hours filling me in on all the highlights of the last three weeks. By the time she got done her welled eyes were very tired and I sent her to bed with a hug and a kiss on the forehead.
Billy and I were finger painting in the kitchen when Brit came down at nearly noon. She apologized for sleeping so late. I stopped her, “you came here to rest and recover.” “I know Mark. This is the first whole night I have actually been able to really rest, thank you.” I just smiled and reached up and touched a purple streak down the bridge of her nose. “Watch Billy for a few minutes so I can grab a shower, we have a big day.” After I got dressed, I sent Brit to do the same while I got Billy’s bag packed. Then we all spent an hour in the car with Brit being more impatient than Billy—she couldn’t stand the idea of having to wait for a surprise at her age, it just wasn’t fair. Finally we arrive at the zoo. After a picnic lunch out front, we go in and spend the remainder of the day enjoying the animals. When the voice on the PA informed us our time was up, we piled into the car and headed for the park near the house. We played, talked, and enjoyed each other’s company for a while as Billy tired himself out. Finally the time came to take him home for dinner, bath, and bedtime.
Brit and I ended up on the couch watching a movie tonight. It was obvious she was tired of talking about Brandon, and tired of even thinking about her family. As the lengthy film dragged on, the fatigue set in on Brit. I found myself pulling the throw off the back of the couch and covering her, wrapping my arm around her as she nestled herself against me. This girl has been cuddling against me all her life, but something about this time felt different, I’m not sure why. I sat like this dozing in and out for some time after the movie ended. I woke up a while later hearing two things—an infomercial, and Brit whispering my name.
We adjusted ourselves on the couch to make eye contact. “What’s the matter Brit?” She squeezed tighter around me and a desperate look washed across her face, “I don’t want to go back tomorrow Mark. I cannot take the stress back there. Part of me still loves him, and they wouldn’t let me change my classes. I see him every day in almost every class. My dad wants to kill him and my mom is spread rumors about him to ruin his name. All of them are making me feel stupid for loving him after how he hurt me. Don’t make me go back please.” A single tear trailed the bridge of her nose before she buried her face against my arm. “You know I would do anything for you, but if you’re asking to stay here, you need to understand your parents may not speak to you anymore. They hate me for walking away from the family, and it will only make it worse that you ran away, and of all places—to my house.” She kept her face buried and I heard a barely audible whisper say, “I know Mark. You’re the only one who has ever been there for me and always told me the truth, and tried to do what was best for me even when it got me mad at you. They all just want revenge. I am eighteen now. I want this.” She raised her face and her glistening eyes met mine as she squeezed her arms tighter. “I don’t want to quit school; it wouldn’t be the same not to finish, even with a diploma. Let me stay here and transfer… please.” I couldn’t stand to see her in pain. Trying to hold back tears of my own, I wrapped my arm tightly around her so she felt secure. “If you’re sure that’s what you want, of course you are welcome to live here.” She lifted up and pressed her teary lips to my cheek. “Thank you Mark.” Then laid her head back down, nestled in close and drifted back to sleep.