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Chapter 5 - take it or leave it

Jun. 25th, 2006 07:25 pm Chapter 5

I arrived home about twenty minutes later and was met with disappointment by my father when I walked in the door alone.
“No Jeff?” my father asked.
“No, something came up,” I responded. “He had to drive a friend of his somewhere or something. I don’t know. I’ll see him Thursday.”
“Well… I guess we’ve got more than enough food now…” my father said.
“GOOD!” Ben chimed in from the living room. “Now I can fill myself up on some good food before I head back out to school,” he said excitedly. On the weekends that he came home, Ben tended to stay until after dinner on Sunday nights so that he could take advantage of our dad’s delicious, signature Sunday evening dinners. “Is it almost ready?” he asked eagerly.
“It’ll be a few more minutes before this corn is done,” my mom replied from the kitchen where she was checking on the six ears of corn on the cob that were boiling on the stove. “But you could come set the table,” she offered, playfully.
“Alright, alright,” Ben complained a little, making his way into the kitchen. I grabbed some silverware and helped my brother.
Our family enjoyed our dinner together and talked, as we always did, about everything that was going on in our lives. I had made it routine for me to give off the image that everything was fine regarding my relationship with Jeff, even if that meant that I had to lie a little bit. I knew that my brother was overly critical of my boyfriend, so I didn’t like to give him any more opportunity to say anything bad about Jeff.
Ben packed his clean laundry into his car and headed back to school soon after dinner. I helped my mother clear the table and clean up the kitchen after I said good bye to my brother.
“So, are you starting to get excited for your trip?” my mom asked as she placed the family’s dinner plates in the dishwasher.
“Yeah!” I exclaimed. “I can’t wait! Jeff and I are going to go out sometime next week and do a little shopping, I think. There are still a few things we need,” I explained.
“Do you think Jeff’s excited?” my mom asked.
“Why wouldn’t he be?” I questioned. “Of course he’s excited! It’s all he ever talks about anymore – I can’t get him to shut up about it!” I lied.
“Well, I hope you guys have a lot of fun,” my mother said. “And I hope spending that much time together won’t be hard on you.”
“Why would you say that?” I asked defensively. “Molly said the same thing the other day. What’s up with you guys?”
“Don’t worry about it, Anna,” my mom conceded. “I’m sure the two of you will have a good time.”
I finished cleaning the kitchen and then headed down to my bedroom to work on the homework I’d neglected all weekend. I decided to give Jeff a call before I got started on it all, but was met by his voicemail after a few rings. “Hey Jeff, its Anna,” I started, deciding to leave him a message. “I was just calling to see how you were. Dinner was sooooo good – too bad you had to miss it! I’m just gonna be sitting around here doing homework all night, so give me a call when you get back from Brandon’s if you want. I was wondering when you wanted to go out and do some shopping for our trip, and what kind of stuff you still need. Have a good night. I love you!”
I let out a sigh as I sat down at my desk and pulled my calculus book and my calculator out of my backpack. The rest of the night passed and I managed to finish all of my homework, but didn’t hear from Jeff at all. When I laid down to go to sleep that night, I decided to do something I hadn’t done in far too long – I said a prayer.
“Dear Lord, I just want to ask for Your help with Jeff. I know that things are starting to change between me and him, but I don’t know how or why. I know that whatever’s happening, it’s all part of Your plan and You’re going to make it turn out for the best… but right now it’s frustrating because I don’t understand it. I guess I’m just asking that You help me to understand what’s happening and to know how to deal with it in the way that You would want me to. I pray that whatever happens, both Jeff and I are able to enjoy our trip to Florida in a couple of weeks. I know that I should trust You with every part of my life… I am trying to put my relationship with Jeff in Your hands. Amen.”
I barely finished my prayer before I fell fast asleep. Before I had met Jeff, I had always had a very active spiritual life. I’d gone to church regularly and spent a lot of time around other supportive Christians. I had never had trouble praying or reading the Bible – in fact, they had been things that I enjoyed doing all my life… but when I started dating Jeff, who wasn’t a Christian, my spiritual life started to become less and less important to me. Unlike all of my other friends, Jeff wasn’t interested in my relationship with God. He didn’t urge me to read my Bible or to ask for God’s help in my life. Because I was spending so much time with Jeff and so little time with my Christian friends, my lifestyle had changed dramatically. I was still the same good, upstanding, moral girl I had always been, but my relationship with God was seriously lacking.
There had been a time, a little over a year into my relationship with Jeff, when I had realized how much of a drastic change dating him had caused in my spirituality. I tried for a while to go back to the way things used to be. I started going to church and to a couple of different Bible studies. I started talking to my friends about my spiritual life, and had even, at one point, thought about ending my relationship with Jeff because he was not a Christian. Instead, however, I tried to bring Jeff into my spiritual life. He began going to a Bible study with me and came to church with me on the few Sunday mornings when he didn’t have to work. Things were starting to look really bright for Jeff, and any thought of needing to end my relationship with him had totally left my mind.
As time went on, the Bible study that Jeff and I attended together started to fall apart. A few people graduated from high school and moved far away to go to college. Eventually, the pastor who led the study left. A couple of students tried to keep it up without him, but it just didn’t seem to work out, and we stopped meeting all together. I got a job, which made it hard for me to go to church because I often had to work on Sunday mornings. The importance I had once placed on my relationship with God was gone again, and all that mattered to me was having Jeff as my boyfriend.
Once Jeff turned 18 and was able to work more, all of the free time that he used to spend with me was spent at the grocery store instead. I had thrown myself full force into my relationship with Jeff, and because of that I had neglected a lot of her friendships. Now that I was spending less time with my boyfriend, I didn’t know what to do with myself. It was rare for me to spend an entire night with Molly and Christine like I had this weekend. They had gotten used to leaving me out of their plans because I usually turned them down anyway to spend time alone with Jeff, but now I was making a point to spend time with my friends.
I woke up on Monday morning and went through my day at school as normal. The next few days were nothing special. I had a few short phone conversations with Jeff, and went to the mall after school on Wednesday with Molly and Christine. When Thursday finally rolled around, I gave Jeff another call to see if we were still going to be able to spend some time together. To my surprise, he actually answered his phone.
“Hey,” Jeff said.
“Hey. Are you still free tonight?” I asked.
“Sort of…” Jeff replied, slowly.
“What do you mean, ‘sort of’”? I sounded a little worried.
“I have to work at 6:00… but you can come over until then if you want to,” he said.
“Jeff! Seriously! When are you going to stop doing this?” I exploded. “We haven’t spent more than a couple of hours together in the past month!”
“Anna…” Jeff tried to defend himself, “I just can’t say no to people at work. They need me… nobody else will take these shifts.”
“Well it seems like you’ve got no problem saying no to me, and I need you, too,” I said.
“Well, come over until 6:00 then,” Jeff offered. “A couple of hours together is better than nothing at all, isn’t it?” he asked.
“I guess so… I’m on my way out the door,” I replied.
“Okay, I’ll see you soon,” Jeff said before hanging up his phone.
I sat down in my car and looked at myself in the rearview mirror. My face was red with emotion… everything from anger to sadness to disappointment. I was barely able to control myself when I was on the phone with Jeff. I feared that if he bailed out on me one more time, I would completely lose my temper on him. For today, though, I decided just to make the best of what I had. I’d go over to Jeff’s until he had to leave for work, and I wouldn’t even bother to talk about being upset with him. Talking about emotional things with my boyfriend never did either of us any good – it was much easier, and, I thought, more effective, just to pretend that everything was okay, at least until another problem came up.
A while later I pulled into the Bradley’s driveway, hopped out of my car and walked right into the house. “Jeff’s in his room,” Mrs. Bradley informed me as she shut the front door.
“Alright, thanks!” I said, making my way down the hallway and into Jeff’s bedroom. I walked in to see Jeff lying in his bed, watching television, with Carmen in his lap. “Hey,” I said, walking over to the other side of Jeff’s queen sized bed to lie down next to him. “What are you watching?” I asked.
“Oprah,” Jeff responded, not even bothering to take his eyes off of the television. Jeff had a propensity for talk shows. Even so much so that he would record the Regis and Kelly show since it was on during the day while he was at school. I laughed and settled myself in on the bed, patting the empty space next to me to get Carmen’s attention. The dog stood up and walked over to my side of the bed, curling up in the space between me and Jeff.
“How was school?” I asked.
“Shh!” Jeff ordered, pointing at the television. Sometimes I wondered why Jeff even bothered with having friends or a girlfriend… it seemed like all he really needed in order to be happy was his TV.
A few minutes later the show went to a commercial break, and Jeff finally turned his head to look at me. “School was good, sorry,” he said, leaning over to give me a kiss on the cheek.
“What time do you need to leave?” I asked.
“5:30,” Jeff replied.
“Do you want to go get something to eat?” I asked.
“Sure. Taco Bell?” Jeff offered.
“Sounds good to me,” I responded.
“Okay… once Oprah’s over!” Jeff exclaimed, turning his attention back to the television.
Jeff and I laid together in his bed for about another half hour - Jeff focusing on his television show and me playing with Carmen, the sleepy chihuahua who was lying in between us. Finally, four o’clock rolled around and Oprah ended. I reached over for the remote, turned off the TV and hopped out of the bed. “Let’s go eat!” I exclaimed.
Jeff stood up slowly and began looking around his room for his work uniform. He pulled his khaki pants out from underneath his bed, but had no luck finding his blue polo shirt. After a few minutes of searching, Jeff was frustrated. “MOM!” he shouted down the hall. “WHERE’S MY WORK SHIRT?!”
“I washed it…” she called back, softly. “It’s in the dryer.”
Jeff sighed and stomped out of his bedroom, down the hall, through the kitchen and into the laundry room where he pulled his freshly washed shirt out of the dryer and put it on. “Okay, let’s go,” he called to me, as I was standing in the living room playing with Carmen and talking to Jeff’s mom.
“Why do you need to get dressed for work already?” I asked as Jeff walked into the living room.
“I dunno. I just felt like it,” Jeff responded.
“Where are you guys going?” Mrs. Bradley asked.
“Somewhere,” Jeff responded, shortly.
“I think we’re going to Taco Bell,” I offered. I never understood why Jeff was so rude to his mother. She was such a nice woman, albeit a little hard to tolerate at times. Mrs. Bradley had been in a bad car accident a few years after Jeff was born. She lost the use of her right arm and suffered from some mild brain damage due to the crash. Jeff seemed to have no patience for her, and I often found myself trying to make up for how poorly Jeff treated his mother.
Jeff and I walked out the front door and stood on the porch for a minute. “Let’s drive separately,” Jeff decided, looking around the front lawn.
“Why?” I asked.
“I think I want to go straight to work from Taco Bell,” he answered.
“But it’s the opposite direction,” I contested, “You’d have to come back by here to get to work anyway,” I pointed out.
“I know. But this is easier,” Jeff replied, walking towards his car. I walked past Jeff’s red Grand Prix and sat down in my own car. I closed the door and waited for Jeff to pull down the long driveway. I followed Jeff down his street and out onto the main road, all the way to Taco Bell.
When I pulled into the parking lot, I parked my Buick right next to Jeff’s car and stepped outside, enjoying the unusually warm weather. I walked over to where Jeff was standing, at the back of his car, and reached down to hold his hand. We walked together into the restaurant, but as soon as we were in the front door, Jeff quickly let go of my hand. I never understood why he had such an issue with being intimate around other people. It was rare that I could even get him to hold my hand like that out in public. I counted myself lucky that he gave in and walked through the parking lot with me like he had just done – that wasn’t an everyday occurrence for the two of us.
Jeff ended up paying for my meal along with his own. He quickly devoured four tacos, while I struggled to fight down just two of them. When we were finished eating, Jeff and I sat in our booth and talked for a while.
“Do you know your schedule for next week yet?” I asked.
“Yeah. I’ve got stuff going on every day,” Jeff responded. “I work Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Wednesday I have to go to Mandy’s softball game, and Saturday my dad and I are going fishing,” he explained.
“Oh…” I replied, dejectedly. “So I guess I won’t see you at all next week then.”
“Probably not,” said Jeff. “Actually, probably not until we leave for Florida. Things are just so busy right now, Anna. Sorry. But we’ll have an entire week together soon… so you really don’t need to get worked up about not seeing me now, do you?” he asked.
“I guess not. Florida will be fun,” I said with a small smile, “but are you sure we can’t see each other at all the next two weeks?”
“Not next week at least,” Jeff answered. “I’ll try the week after that, but I don’t know. I’m trying to work as much as I can so we can have some spending money while we’re in Florida.”
“Alright,” I said, sighing. “I guess just give me a call if you ever have a couple of free hours,” I offered.
“I will,” Jeff replied.
The two of us sat around in the restaurant, talking and joking about the same things we usually did, for about another twenty minutes. Finally, at about 5:20, Jeff looked at the clock that was hanging behind him on the wall. “I need to get going,” he said, standing up to throw away his garbage.
“Okay,” I said, also throwing away my trash. Jeff and I walked out the door and into the parking lot. Jeff walked me over to my car and held open the driver’s side door with his backside as he gave me a hug. “I love you,” I told him before kissing him on the lips.
“Love you, too” Jeff replied, giving me one last peck on the lips and a great big hug before letting go and walking towards his own car.
“Have fun at work,” I called out before he shut his door.
“I will!” Jeff called back, closing the door to his Grand Prix and starting the engine. I followed Jeff out of the parking lot, and we both turned separate ways – Jeff left, towards the grocery store and me right, towards my house.
When I got home about twenty minutes later, I walked in the door to see my parents both in the living room watching TV. “I thought you were going over to Jeff’s tonight,” my mom said.
“I just came from there,” I replied.
“Why are you home so early then?” asked my dad.
“Jeff had to work at six,” I explained, sitting down on the opposite end of the couch from my mother. “We just watched some TV and then went and got dinner and then he had to go.”
“Oh, alright,” I mom said, turning her attention back to whatever she had been watching on TV before I arrived. I stood up off of the couch and went downstairs to my bedroom. I sat down at her computer and signed on to the internet, hoping that somebody interesting would be available for me to chat with. I scanned my buddy list and noticed a few familiar screen names – Molly, Christine, Mike and Steve were all signed on, as usual, but I didn’t really feel like talking to any of them at the moment. I decided to check my email instead, but wasn’t met with anything exciting. Finally, after a few minutes of staring blankly at my computer screen, I got a message that somebody had signed on. It was a friend of mine I hadn’t talked to in a while, a guy named Adam.
I had a crush on Adam all through junior high, but he had never really paid much attention to me because he was a few years older. Finally, halfway through my freshman year, I got a hold of Adam’s screen name and had started talking to him on the internet. The two of us quickly developed a routine of chatting every day, and I really thought that I felt a connection between the two of us. We never actually met up face to face, though. Adam had moved away to go to college on the other side of the state, and Anna had never had the means or the courage to go visit him.
When I started dating Jeff, I stopped talking to Adam. The fact that I was as romantically interested in Adam as I was made talking to him feel like a guilty thing to do, but I didn’t completely erase him from my life. Every once in a while I would send him an e-mail to see how he was doing, and he would reply. I always noticed when he signed onto instant messenger, but never felt right about starting a conversation with him. Today, though, I was just bored enough to try it.

AnnaBanana05: Hey, stranger. How’ve you been?
AdamS1984: Woah! I thought you’d disappeared! Where’ve you been hiding?
AnnaBanana05: Oh, I’ve been around. I guess I’ve just been pretty busy.
AdamS1984: Yeah, I know what you mean. So… you still dating that Jeff kid?
AnnaBanana05: Yeah, I am. We’re going to Florida together in two weeks!
AdamS1984: Oh really? Cool. Sounds like fun.
AnnaBanana05: Yeah. So what have you been up to?
AdamS1984: Not a whole lot, really. Just school and stuff. I just broke up with Rachel.
AnnaBanana05: Aww. That’s too bad. She sounded like she was pretty cool.
AdamS1984: Nah, no big loss. She cheated on me. It was time I got rid of her.
AnnaBanana05: Haha. Oh well. That’s life.
AdamS1984: Yep, sure is. So everything’s going well with you and Jeff then, I take it?
AnnaBanana05: Ehhh… I don’t know. I hardly ever see him anymore…
AdamS1984: Really? You mean to say he’s got an amazing girl like you, and he doesn’t spend every spare second of his day with her? That man’s crazy!
AnnaBanana05: Yeah, I know. What’s he thinking, right? His sister tried to convince me that he was cheating on me like a year ago… but she’s so mean. I don’t really think she was telling the truth.
AdamS1984: Obviously, if you’re still with him. I mean, if you really thought he cheated on you, you’d break up with him wouldn’t you?
AnnaBanana05: I suppose so.
AdamS1984: I’m coming home for the summer in a few weeks. We should chill or something.
AnnaBanana05: Maybe. Jeff and I leave in two weeks for Florida. I don’t know what things will be like when we get back.
AdamS1984: Ohhh… so you’d actually be up to hanging out finally? I was kind of kidding… you always said no when I offered before…
AnnaBanana05: Yeah, but I’m getting braver! I don’t see why we couldn’t just hang out. I mean, Jeff hangs out with his friend Lucy all the time and I’m not allowed to get jealous of them… so I don’t see why I can’t hang out with you!
AdamS1984: You think you could handle it? Haha. I mean… you’d be able to withstand my overwhelming sex appeal? Haha. JUST KIDDING!
AnnaBanana05: Oh, I’m sure I’d make due…
AdamS1984: Hey, I gotta get going for now. I’m going out to dinner with some guys. But we should talk later! I’ve missed you!
AnnaBanana05: Definitely. I’ll send you a message next time I’m online. It’s been fun talking to you!
AdamS1984: See ya later, babe.
AnnaBanana05: See ya!

Talking to Adam started to bring back some of the old feelings that I had for him. I had forgotten how good he made me feel. Adam always complimented me and made me feel special – something Jeff had never been very good at. I was looking forward to getting my friendship with Adam back, but I knew that I had to be careful. I was older now than I was before. A few years ago, a relationship between Adam and me couldn’t have been anything more than a dream, but now that I was almost 18 and finishing high school, it wasn’t quite as laughable as it used to be. Regardless, I was devoted to Jeff. It was okay to talk to Adam and to let myself feel important and special once in a while, but I probably wouldn’t take it much further than that. I probably wouldn’t even actually meet up with him when he came home for the summer – I was hoping to spend the entire summer [minus the time when we were both working] with Jeff.

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