When Buddy left Andre’s trailer, he headed over to the only place he could find refuge- his aunt’s house. She lived six blocks away in a small, wood-framed cottage. His aunt, Mavis Jenkins, was the youngest of six sisters of his mother’s family. He also had three uncles, but he rarely saw any of them. Occasionally, they would stop by the trailer to get drunk with his mother. On those occasions, he would usually go to Andre’s or his aunt’s house.
Since it was late when he knocked on the door, she opened the blind slightly before opening the door. The meth heads had recently taken over the neighborhood, and she was constantly in fear of being robbed by some stranger. A few weeks earlier, she had called the police late at night when she heard someone in the backyard. They left by the time the police arrived.
“Hello, Dear,” she mumbled as she opened the door and let Buddy enter. She was dressed in an oversized pink nightgown. She had pinned the top, so her breasts wouldn’t show. Buddy looked down and laughed at the brown shaggy slippers she was wearing. He had bought them for her at a dollar store last Christmas with money he had saved by shoveling snow off sidewalks for elderly residents in the trailer park.
He kissed her cheek and said, “Hi, Mavis. Sorry for coming by so late.”
His aunt scanned the street before closing the door. She asked angrily, “She entertaining tonight?"
“What do you think,” replied Buddy as he toed off his shoes and dropped into a tattered recliner. He had spent numerous nights sleeping on it. “How’s the arthritis?”
“Me and old Arthur just don’t get along,” replied Mavis as she rubbed her shoulder. Even though she was in her early forties, working the graveyard shift in a plastics factory had taken its toll on her body. After two years of fighting with social security, she finally was able to convince them she was totally disabled and could no longer work. A meager check came at the first of the month, but she was usually broke by midmonth. Buddy helped her when he could, but it was difficult finding work when you’re sixteen years old.
He asked worriedly, “Did you take your medicine?” He knew that she often ran out, and it could be weeks before she could refill another prescription.
“I have half a bottle,” she replied. “I only take it when I can’t get around.” She rubbed her hips. “I think it’s getting close to that point.”
“I wish I could help you,” replied Buddy sadly.
She sat down on the sofa and placed a comforter over her legs. “Child,” she said, “You better help yourself first. With that no-good sister of mine, you’re going to need it.”
“True,” he replied as he looked over at the television screen. The evening news was showing scenes of a bloody massacre somewhere in the Middle East.
His aunt looked over worriedly and asked, “Has she hit you recently?”
“No,” he assured her. “She pretty much leaves me be. Now that I’m bigger, I think she’s afraid I’ll hit her back.”
“Smack the shit out of her,” laughed his aunt. “Hell, when you get done, I may do it myself.” She rubbed her hands together. “That is if old Arthur will allow me to.”
They quietly watched television for the next couple of hours. Around nine, Buddy fell asleep in the recliner. His aunt covered him with her comforter before she shuffled off to bed.
* * * * * *
Kyle was sitting in the cafeteria before classes started. He walked to school earlier than normal to avoid talking to his father. He was puzzled why his parents kept probing him about Jordan. He thought he and Jordan had been discreet about their relationship, but perhaps it was still obvious that they were more than friends. No one had ever mentioned it before, until now.
“They probably feel guilty,” he thought to himself as he drank his orange juice and nibbled on the stale doughnut. He was sitting with three other sophomores, but the rarely spoke, other than a nod of the head when they came to the table.
His parents knew that he objected to the move. They didn’t really have to, other than his parents wanted to ‘move up,’ as his father repeated often. He was happy in their old home. He had lived there since he was born; and he thought he would remain there until he went to college. However, two years ago his parents had paid off the mortgage, and they began to talk about finding a larger place.
During the spring, his family bought a home in a secluded, gated community. The five-bedroom home was situated on three acres atop a hill. It had a three-car garage and a heated swimming pool. After numerous improvements to the property, they finally moved in after the Fourth of July. It was his parents dream home. To him, it was like living in hell.
To him, living in a gated community was like living in a prison. After a week of sitting on the expansive porch waiting to see if anyone his age would ride by on a bike, he finally gave up and spent the rest of the summer in his room. His sister quickly made friends with a girl in the neighborhood who was a year older. She took her to the mall on the weekends and introduced her to many of her friends. She introduced her to Brad, who lived next door, and he soon became a frequent visitor to their home.
Suddenly, he heard a disturbance on the other side of the cafeteria. Several students shouted, “Fight!” Within seconds, students were standing in their chairs to get a better view of the altercation.
He then heard an unmistakable shout, “Fucking bitch!” He instantly recognized his sister’s voice, and he knew that she must be one of the students involved in the fight. For a brief second, he thought that he should attempt to make his way through the throng of students to help her. However, he didn’t care that she was involved. He knew that if he was drowning in the pool at home, she wouldn’t take the time to throw him a life preserver.
So, he picked up his book bag off the table and crept unnoticed out a side door.
* * * * * * *
Buddy was making his way out the exit to head home. School was becoming more a waste of time. He had been taught all his life that the way to success was a good education; however, he wondered just how much he was learning.
In all his classes, everyone was talking about the big fight between Melissa Caldwell and Joy Riddler. From the rumors he had heard, Melissa confronted Joy in the cafeteria before school began. She accused Joy of having sex with Brad. Shouting became shoving, and Melissa then slapped Joy. A fight ensued with both girls clawing at each other and pulling hair. Both girls managed to get in several punches before a school security officer, two teachers and an assistant principal were finally able to separate them.
He felt especially sorry for Kyle. In all three classes they shared, students continued to ask him if he knew about Brad’s affair with Joy. They questioned him when his sister found about it. Kyle insisted that he knew nothing, but it still didn’t stop the probing questions.
He had hoped that Kyle would sit beside him again in computer science, but he didn’t. He sat in his regular seat.
As he headed for the exit, he heard someone call out, “Hey, you! Wait a minute.” He turned to see Brad Chambers running toward him. When he got to him, he reached out and grabbed the front of his sweatshirt. Buddy shoved him away and took a step back.
Brad asked angrily, “Did you fucking tell anyone what you saw?”
Buddy insisted, “No, Man. That shit didn’t concern me. I don’t give a fuck who you’re screwing. Ain’t none of my business.”
Brad approached Buddy threateningly, but Buddy stepped back and raised his fists. Suddenly, a teacher down the hall stepped out of her room and shouted, “What’s going on out here?”
Brad turned and shouted, “Nothing, Mrs. Jamison. Ain’t nothing going on. We’re just talking, that’s all.” He then turned back to Buddy and threatened softly, “This ain’t over. We have some unfinished business. I know your ass is behind all this.” He looked down the hallway at the teacher, waved and stormed away. Buddy exhaled deeply before walking away.
Later that evening he was sitting in his room with Andre. He had been trying to catch up on homework, but Andre wanted to talk after Buddy told him about the fight and his encounter with Brad after school.
“He really wanted to kick your ass?”
“Yeah,” replied Buddy. “If that teacher hadn’t come out of her room, he would have.”
“So?” asked Andre. “What are you going to do?”
“Not much I can do,” he replied. “Maybe he’ll realize I didn’t start the rumor about him and Joy.”
Andre then asked, “Did Kyle say anything about it?”
“Yeah, sure,” Buddy replied sarcastically. “We’re best buds, remember? He talks to me about everything.”
“I thought he sits beside you in one of your classes?”
Buddy frowned, “He did one day, and he hardly said a word to me. He doesn’t even know I exist.” He turned his back from Andre and started to read a lit assignment. He was tired of talking about the fight and Kyle. He was hoping Andre would leave so he could be alone. However, Andre was the only friend he had, and he didn’t want to hurt his feelings.
Andre sat on the bed and sighed several times. Finally, he got off the bed, turned on the stereo and put a CD in it. He began to dance to Madonna’s Vogue. “Come on, Buddy.” He danced over, grabbed Buddy’s hand and attempted to pull him off the bed. “Let’s dance. It will make you feel better.” He stepped back and began dancing once again.
“Come on, vogue
Let your body move to the music
Hey, hey, hey
Come on, vogue
Let your body go with the flow, You know you can do it.”
Andre crossed his arms and then posed seductively. He laughed and said, “Come on, Buddy, dance with Madonna.”
Buddy jumped from the bed, turned off the stereo and removed the disc. Andre watched in disbelieve as Buddy broke the disc in two and tossed it across the room.
Buddy stood before him and shouted, “Don’t you get it, Andre?”
“Guys like us,” Buddy replied as tears welled up in his eyes, "we don’t belong. You can dance all you want to, but it won’t get you nowhere.” Tears started to flow down his cheeks.
“Don’t give up, Baby,” Andre said softly as he pulled Buddy into a hug. “Don’t give up hope. All we have left is dreams.”
Buddy pulled away and laughed. “Dreams? We don’t have dreams,” he replied sarcastically as he wiped away tears. “We have fucking nightmares. And hope? Hope is for people who have nothing.”
Andre started to cry as he grabbed his friend and hugged him. “Don’t do this, Buddy.”
Buddy pushed him away. “Do what, Andre?” Face reality?” He pointed around the room. “Look at us. Look at the hellhole we live in. It ain’t going to get any better no matter what we do. We’ve been dancing since we were ten, and nothing has changed. It’s time to grow up.”
“We can’t give up, Baby,” Andre whispered in his ear as he held tightly to him. “Dreams is all we have.” He pulled away and started singing,
"All you need is your own imagination
So use it that's what it's for.
Go inside, for your finest inspiration
Your dreams will open the door."
He grasped Buddy’s hand and attempted to get him to join him, but he refused. Buddy grabbed him and kissed him. “I love you, Andre,” he said tearfully. “You’re all I got. But I can’t dream no more.” He wiped away tears falling down his cheek, turned and hurried from the trailer.
He didn’t stop when he heard Andre cry out, “Buddy!”
* * * * * *
Kyle was in his bedroom playing a video game. He had his door open, and he could hear his parents hollering at his sister downstairs. They were upset that she had been suspended from school for ten days. Since she hit Joy first, then the school said she instigated the fight, and Joy was merely defending herself.
When he came home, his mother called him to the family room and asked him if he knew what was going on. “Were you aware that Brad was seeing another girl?” His mother had asked.
“No,” he insisted. “I don’t notice what’s going on.” His mother chastised him because she said he should have been looking out for his sister. He considered telling her what Melissa and Brad had been doing behind her back when she was away, but he kept quiet. Besides, he had never actually seen them engaged in sex. However, Brad’s constant erection when he was around Melissa was proof that they probably were.
He could hear his sister downstairs screaming that Joy was to blame for the fight. “She called me a bitch!”
He then heard his mother shout, “That didn’t give you any right to hit her.”
“But,” screamed Melissa, “She called me a bitch! I couldn’t just let her call me a bitch!”
His father yelled, “Sit down, Melissa!” Everything got quiet, and he went to the door to hear what was being said. All he heard was the hushed tones of his father’s voice.
Fifteen minutes later, he heard his sister storming up the stairs. She stopped by his room and peeked in. “You’re so screwed,” she warned.
Kyle jumped from his bed and shouted, “What did I do?”
Melissa sneered before slamming the door, “You’ll see.”
* * * * * *
“Hey!” smiled Aubrey as he opened the door to the trailer. “Where have you been hiding?”
“Just hanging out,” replied Buddy as he waited outside. “Mind if I come in?”
“You sure?” Buddy nodded his head and moved past the thin man. He walked over to a small kitchen table and sat down. Aubrey looked around outside before closing the door.
“Yeah,” responded Buddy. He knew Aubrey was cautious of who he let into the trailer. He’d been busted too many times to trust even his casual friends.
Aubrey Douglas was a man in his mid-twenties. He supplied most of the drugs to the residents in the mobile home park and nearby residences. If someone wanted something, weed, crack, meth or coke, Aubrey was the go-to guy. If he didn’t have it, then he knew where to get it. After being arrested several times and spending a couple of years behind bars, he only sold to people he knew. Strangers were usually asked to leave with a gun pointed at their head.
“How’s things?” Aubrey asked as he looked across the table. When Buddy was thirteen, he used to act as lookout for him late at night. If Buddy saw a cop in the area, he would run up to the door and knock twice before running away. He had saved him a couple of times from being busted.
“You know how it is,” Buddy replied as he leaned back in the chair. “Same old shit, different place.”
“Heard that,” agreed Aubrey as he lit up a joint and passed it to Buddy. “This is some good shit,” he remarked as he started coughing. “Some good shit.”
Buddy inspected it before he put it to his mouth. “This ain’t a juice joint is it?”
“Naw, Man,” Aubrey assured him. “I know you don’t do that shit.”
Buddy inhaled deeply and handed it back to Aubrey. “Can you hook me up?” he asked. “I need to get high tonight.”
“Damn,” replied Aubrey. “I thought you weren’t doing shit anymore.”
“Life, Man,” lamented Buddy. “I can’t deal with it anymore.”
“Heard that,” replied Aubrey as he rose and walked over to a kitchen cabinet. He took out a Mickey Mouse cookie jar, removed a plastic baggie and handed it to Buddy.
Buddy shook his head when Aubrey asked, “Got any cash?
“Naw, Man,” replied Buddy.
Aubrey stood, unzipped his pants and let them fall to the floor. He stroked his dick a few times until it began to harden. “You know what you gotta do then,” he said as he sat back down. Buddy dropped to the floor on his knees.
* * * * * * *
When Kyle arrived at school the next morning, several girls who knew he was Melissa’s brother approached the table to ask how she was. Since his parents had confiscated her phone, she had no way of contacting them.
“She’s okay, I guess,” he replied.
“You guess?” remarked one girl. “Don’t you know how she is?”
He took a bite of his apple and replied, “Not my time of the month to watch her.”
“Smart ass,” the girl mumbled as she grabbed another girl’s arm and pulled her away.
After third period, he saw Brad and Joy walking in the hallway. He had his arm around her waist, and she was giggling about something he’d whispered in her ear. Kyle noticed a couple of scratches on the side of her face that his sister must have put there during the fight. Brad glanced at him, but he said nothing.
When he entered his computer science class, another girl had taken his seat beside Joy. He went over to the table where he had sat beside the cute, brown-haired boy. Kyle waited for him to come to class, but he didn’t. He had to work alone.
Surprisingly, his mother was home after school. He was afraid it would be just him and his sister. After her warning the night before, he didn’t want to confront her again. He still hadn’t figure out what he had done. He just assumed that she was angry at everyone, and that included him.
“Hello, Dear,” his mother sang out when he entered the kitchen. “How was your day?”
“Good,” he replied as he sat down and took a sip of milk she had placed on the counter. He reached over for a couple of chocolate chip cookies. He always enjoyed coming home when his mother had taken a few days off from work.
“How are you?” He asked as he took a bite of his cookie. “How long are you going to be home this time?”
“You make me sound like your father,” she laughed. “I’m not that bad, am I?” She lightly hit him on the back of the head when he giggled and nodded his head.
Just then the doorbell rang. His mother asked, “Would you get that, Honey?” Kyle rose from his seat and headed for the front door.
Before he got there, Melissa came bounding down the stairs. “I got it, Twerp,” she spat as she opened the door. One of her friends was standing outside. “Got it?” she asked. The girl nodded and thrust a manila folder at her.
Melissa said, “Thanks,” and closed the door. She glanced over at Kyle and smirked before heading back to her room.