Sunday, May 8, 2011

Journey - A Prologue


    The coming of spring reminded many of the beginning of new life. The grass emerged from the ground and trees began to leaf and unfurl. For some, spring brought new beginnings as they emerged from their houses into the warmer air. For Darcy James Rediker, it was the beginning of a new life in a new city. As if that weren’t enough change for anyone, this particular spring was also an apparent slice of hell.

    His parents had warned him that life might be difficult when they moved. The job was important to his father so he’d gamely bucked up to the challenge. After twelve years in one city and in one school system, the move alone had been nearly more than Darcy could take. That was before he walked in to his new school. No one at his old school made fun of his name because they all called him DJ and had since kindergarten. At his new school, each teacher had introduced him as “Darcy”. He’d only been attending since Wednesday and already he was in trouble. He hadn’t had a chance to make certain to request the teachers address him by his initials.

    The lunch room was full of snickers and giggles on Thursday. Friday found a few teachers more agreeable to calling him DJ. Friday was too little, too late. The damage had been done. After school, on his walk home, the bullies had come after him. He had run from the pack of them but not knowing the neighborhood very well, he’d ended up in an oddly shaped alley with no place to go and a pack of five of them closing ranks around him.

    The names they threw at him hadn’t mattered, they barely registered in his brain. He could have taken the name calling but when that hadn't worked to adequately hurt, the fists flew.

    He landed a few of his own before there were just too many to ward off. Like hyenas scenting blood, they swarmed. There were kicks to his back and legs. DJ wasn’t sure he was going to be able to explain this to his father. He was most likely going to need stitches. DJ wasn’t even sure he was sane if he was able to clearly think about it so abstractly. Even as a hammy fist landed in his side, he wondered what his mom might say about his torn shirt.

    He kicked out and connected a Ked-covered foot to knee. Laying as he was, he saw a new pair of sneakers run up the alley. With a quick flash of movement he saw a baseball bat swing up to land on the back of the knee of one of his attackers.
    A cry of pain sounded from the one who was hit by the bat. The boy staggered and landed across DJ. The surprise of the movement stopped the blows and DJ plunged his fist into the nose of the boy on top of him before the other could move away. Bleeding and crying the boy rolled off Darcy to wallow on the ground, hands pressed against his face.

    DJ rolled to his knees, shaking with an unfamiliar mix of pain, anger and fear. Now that the attention was off of him, the fear was quickly spiking down and the anger was spiking up. Whoever had come to his assistance, they swung a mean bat. The bat landed on the arm of someone else then moved on to make contact with the hand reaching to snag the bat away. Even with bells ringing in his ears, he heard the crunch of bones. Both times.

    Screaming, the bullies were reduced to calling the bat-wielder a “crazy bitch” and “psycho” as they ran away. DJ could only stagger and stare. She had hair that wasn’t quite brown and wasn’t quite red. The blonde highlights glinted in the sun where she stood with her feet apart and the bat in her hands, ready to swing if they came back.

    She was yelling right back at them, unconcerned that they thought she was crazy. “Let’s see you explain how you got beat up by a girl!”

    All DJ could do was stare. Until she turned to look at him. She dropped the tip of the bat to rest on her shoe. Her green eyes scraped over him as she assessed him. She was just slightly taller than DJ but that seemed about right for his luck. His father told him that he would keep growing.

    “You look like hell," she decided, using words she knew her mother wouldn’t appreciate.

    In that moment, DJ had a friend for life.

    His new friend shuffled her feet before she introduced herself. “You’re new, aren't you? My name’s Meg. I saw you at school today. I was out sick yesterday. ” She looked him over again, considering him with a tilt of her head. She swung the bat back onto her shoulder, “You’re all bones but I bet you could have taken them if there’d've only been one or two.”

    She bent down to pick up his backpack. Swinging it over her shoulder, Meg motioned with her head, "Come on. I live across the park. I was practicing my batting when I saw them chasing you.”

    Seeing no choice, she had commandeered his back pack, DJ followed her. His anger had gone in the moment of his shock, leaving him numb.

    Meg shortened her pace when she realized how slow DJ was walking, “Can you talk? Do I need to call an ambulance or anything?”

    DJ opened his mouth and closed it. His mouth appeared to work normally, he just couldn’t get the sound out. He tried again. “I think I got hit in the neck.”

    Turning to walk backward, Meg peered at him, “I’d guess that’d be something that you’d know and not have to think about. Still, you look like you've been using your face as a punching bag so maybe everything hurts.”

    She turned and walked forward again. DJ noticed the monkey bars and the batting fence. There were swings in the park.

    “Meg!” At the shout Meg looked across the park to see a man and a woman running toward them.

    “That’s my Uncle Mark and my mom.” Meg glanced at DJ, “Uncle Mark’s a cop. He’s my dad’s brother. He’s going to marry my mom one day. The chubby kid is Sam Paris. I guess he went to get help.”

    DJ was already staring at the badge and the holstered gun as the man ran, outdistancing Meg’s mom.

    They met at the merry-go-round. The park was oddly quiet for the time of day and Uncle Mark stooped slightly to look at DJ’s face, “What happened, son?”

    Overwhelmed with the appearance of the uniform, DJ took a moment to answer. When he opened his mouth, Meg answered for him, “Travis Winkler and his brother chased him into the alley and beat the crap out of him.”

    “Meg! You’re language!” Her mother admonished quietly. “Are you sure it was Travis?”

    “Yep.” Meg grinned slightly, “I’m pretty sure I broke his arm with my bat.”

    Both Uncle Mark and her mother stared at her for a moment before Uncle Mark laughed quietly. Turning back to DJ, he bent to look in the boy’s eyes and asked, “Well, son, is that what happened?”

    “Pretty much. I guess. I don’t know who they were. I’m new.”

    “He started school on Wednesday,” Meg offered. “His name’s Darcy.”

    “DJ,” he mumbled at her.

    “Oh.” Meg sniffed and amended, “His name’s DJ.”

    Uncle Mark turned DJ’s face side to side and considered, “I can give you a ride home if you want. Or we can call your mom to pick you up.”

    “If you take him home, can we run the sirens on the squad car?” Meg wanted to know.

    DJ looked from one face to the other.

    Uncle Mark grinned, “Just once for both of you.”

    “Can I come, too?” Sam Paris huffed and puffed. His freckles blended in with the bright red flush that showed his exertion.

    “Tell you what, Sam, why don’t you fetch Meg’s softball gear and I’ll give you some cookies for a snack,” Norma Addison offered with a smile.

    Sam wanted to ride in the police car but decided the cookies would make up for it. Somehow it was settled and DJ found himself in the front seat of Meg’s Uncle’s squad car. The radio crackled now and again but they didn’t understand what the words meant. They ran the siren once for both of them and DJ found himself grinning. He was elated to find out that he only lived a few streets away from his new friend.

    But when Officer Mark knocked on the door and his mother saw his face and started crying, DJ’s fun was forgotten.

    He found himself in the kitchen and watched as Meg sat on the barstool with a cookie in her hand, her legs swinging back and forth. He was forced to sit still so his mother could apply ointments to his cuts and ice to his face and ribs.

    Meg told his mother what happened and Charlotte Rediker stared at her, “There were five of them?”

    “Yeah. DJ’d have done really good on his own if it had just been Travis and Dale but...” she broke off with a shrug.

    “And you went after them with a bat?” The shock in Charlotte's voice was obvious.

    Swinging her legs, Meg shrugged again before biting into a cookie.

    Officer Mark chuckled and offered his phone number and information, “If you have any problems from other parents on this, you can contact me.” Turning to Meg, he waved a hand, “Come on, Slugger, let’s go home.”

    Meg hopped down and moved to stand in front of DJ, “You got a bike?”

    DJ nodded, mutely watching her.

    “‘kay. See you.”

    His bruises were all shades of purple and blue the next day. He watched cartoons and his mother let him eat on the coffee table. His father had inspected each bruise and told him that he was proud of him for trying to avoid a fight. His mother had cried again but DJ didn’t know why. He just knew that she cried.

    After lunch, DJ sat on the porch swing and enjoyed how it swung way out over the end of the swing. He saw the flash of red hair as it came down the street. Her purple bike had a metal basket, which DJ thought was odd for a girl. She rode right up into his yard and let her bike drop on the grass. He watched her from the swing.

    Meg grabbed up the brown paper bag that had tumbled from her basket and clambered up the stairs to the porch.


    “Hey.” DJ let the swing slow down on it’s own.

    “I brought you somethin’.”

    “Why?” DJ wanted to know.

    “It’s what friends do when a friend isn’t feeling good or needs cheering up.” When the swing was slow enough, Meg jumped on next to DJ, “At least that’s what my Uncle Mark and my mom did when one of Uncle Mark’s friends got shot.” She shrugged against his arm, "So I figured you might like somethin’ to cheer you up.”

    Suspiciously, DJ looked in the bag and found two bottles of soda and comic books. At the bottom were packets of M&M’s.

    “Uncle Mark gave me the money.” Meg confided giving the swing a push. “I’ve got two brothers and three uncles.”
    “I have a mom and a dad.” DJ said, handing her a bottle of soda and taking one for himself. "Where's  your dad?"

    “My dad was a cop. He got killed by a bad guy.”

    “What happened to him?”

    “My dad’s partner got the bad guy.” Meg studied the wicker furniture on the wide porch, “Where did you live before you moved here?”

    “Tulsa, Oklahoma.”

    “Cool.” Meg thought about it for a moment, “Do you know any indians?”

    DJ laughed, “Maybe. Tulsa’s a city, like this one. Just not as big.”

    Meg looked at him, unconvinced, “No way.”

    “Way.” DJ told her and then laughed.

    Charlotte watched the exchange from a safe distance on the other side of her screen door, a grin on her face. She wondered how soon they’d have met had her son’s adorable face not been the target of a bully’s fist.

    “Did you get in trouble for ... you know, getting blood on your shirt?”

    “Nah. I got to eat popsicles and ice cream.” DJ pushed the swing. “How about you? You probably got in trouble for breaking that kid’s arm.”

    “Uncle Mark took care of it.” Meg grinned, “He’s got a gun. I heard him tell Mr. and Mrs. Winkler that there was a witness to their sons’ beating of another kid in an alley. If they wanted to go ahead and press charges against me, they’d have to face those charges themselves.” Meg shrugged, “So I guess they dropped it.”

    “Thanks for helping me.” DJ finally told her.
    "Sure. That’s what friends are for.” She grinned at him, “Gonna eat those M&M’s?”

    The two of them became inseparable. It was mostly because of Meg that their classmates called him DJ and it was mostly because of DJ that Meg passed High School algebra. They learned how to drive at the same time, thanks to Meg’s Stepdad/Uncle Mark. They shared laughs and tears. They learned about the opposite sex simply by hanging out with each other. Very little was sacred between them.

    When DJ finally towered over Meg, topping out at six-foot-five to her five-foot-four, he was sixteen and she still carried her baseball bat, not intimidated at all by his height.

    She was a key player in her softball team and DJ bulked up for the football team. His father said it was good practice. DJ wasn’t so sure. He was on a team with Travis and Dale Winkler. The brothers hadn’t ever apologized to him but they played well together in football. After several seasons of Friday night aches and pains, they were friends.

    The first time DJ talked about going into the Army when he graduated from high school he'd been a freshman. Meg had bought him a jacket from the Army-Navy surplus store. When she was scouted by a college scout for softball, DJ stuck gum in Meg’s shoe. He told her it was for good luck.

    They’d weathered fights and hormones just to come very close to losing everything in their senior year. Jessica Albright set her sights on DJ who was, without question, the most eligible senior. With his dark brown curls and golden eyes, he was the most handsome. Being a star football player promised prom king status.

    Jessica was homecoming queen and wanted to look good for her prom pictures, having the Prom Queen crown would be an extra bonus. When Meg pointed it out to DJ he laughed it off and accused her of being jealous. Jessica got what she wanted and DJ took her to senior prom. Meg went with Sam Paris. Sam had slimmed down considerably over Highschool but still never managed to lose his round baby face. He still grew rosy red with exertion or embarrassment. His goal in life was to design video games. He explained to Meg during their prom all about how he was going to go to California and college and then intern at one of the video game companies.

    Barely listening to Sam, Meg ached that night and didn’t know why, exactly. The only thing she knew was that her best friend was on a path of certain doom and he couldn’t see it. Even as he slow danced with Jessica, sniffing her perfectly straight blonde hair, he didn’t see it.

    When DJ followed Jessica to college, instead of joining the Army, Meg had to grin and bear it. She wouldn’t be accused of being jealous again. She made the collegiate softball team and while they were on the same campus, she rarely saw DJ. Meg supported him when he went into the Army instead of taking his second year in college. Jessica had argued but then settled down. Telling him that he looked good in his uniform. Meg watched as they posed for pictures before DJ was sent overseas.

    Jessica’s engagement ring was hard to miss.

    Meg threw herself into softball and college. She wrote to DJ as often as she could and was occasionally rewarded with a letter in return.

    When Jessica and DJ married, the event took place on the very same weekend of Meg's graduation from college. There was no way Meg could attend their wedding. It was a ploy on Jessica’s part, Meg was certain of it but there was no reason to say anything to anyone. DJ’s mother called her the night before and commiserated with her. It did nothing to settle her heart but it helped Meg to know that she wasn’t crazy. She cried that night on her uncle’s shoulder, mourning the loss of a friend. 

    With DJ married and still in the Army, Meg followed the next phase in the imaginary plan for her life. The part she didn’t tell anyone. She joined the police academy. When she graduated with top honors, she received a card from DJ. She tucked it in a box to keep it safe.

    He couldn’t come home for her graduation. It didn’t surprise her that he couldn’t. She hadn’t expected it, anymore than she had expected Jessica to offer any good will. Which she didn’t. DJ’s parents were there, seated next to her mother and her Stepdad/Uncle Mark. It was a proud day to wear the uniform of her brothers, her uncle and her father. 

She wrote to DJ, “You do what you can to keep us safe from over there...I’ll do what I can on the home-front. Forever your friend, Meg.”

© 2011, Amelia Antwiler/Comfy Denim

See? I have been writing.
I'm sharing because I love you.
Sorry it's so long.

Second Part has been written.

1 comment:

Mother Mayhem said...

And we love you back! Thanks for sharing! :o)