UPDATE FROM STRATFORD (my school):
|ARC5-B||Writing Assignment||92 %|
(This is my 5th school assignment that I’m sending in for a grade. Then I’ll start my final module in school, and then I’ll finally graduate. Wish me luck!)
Mr. Robinson didn’t mind us being in his orchards. He caught us swimming in his pond and warned us not to break anything or ruin his trees. Carmen loved the orchard, the sweet smell of apples hanging from the trees and the warm summer breeze. Coming from a big city, she never realized how much she was missing out on. For me though, this was all I’d ever known, it’s what was flowing through my veins. I’ve lived here all my life and I’ve often thought that maybe I was the one missing out.
It’s almost like our own little country here, everyone knows everyone and if you’re a new comer then your likely to meet everyone at the local church or grocery store soon enough. That’s how it was when Carmen and her family moved to Odessa, a small little town in the upper north west of Texas.
The plantation house was for sale shortly after Mrs. Schuster passed away. Her family ravaged everything she left behind. She was a quiet and feeble old woman. Everyone in town looked after her as if she was their own grandmother by bringing her groceries, taking her to church or just stopping by to visit. I mowed her lawns just about twice a week. She rewarded my efforts with sweet tea and home-made biscuits. I never accepted a dime from her because those biscuits were as good as gold. After Mr. Schuster passed away, Mrs. Schuster started keeping to herself, more and more, and once she fell ill, we all knew the count down had started.
I remember my parents talking about how her family was feuding over the remaining property. The courts ruled that they had to sell the house and split the money between the three siblings. It wasn’t long after that, when Carmen’s moving van pulled into town and parked in the drive-way of Schuster’s house, (which is what everyone now call’s it). I was actually kind of bitter about it at first, not knowing if these people were “good people” or not. I questioned why city people would want to move out to Odessa, which then I just started speculating about their intentions. There wasn’t much on town gossip so the town didn’t know much about them either.
* * * *
“Mr. Carpenter! Please sit up. Maybe you should focus on school work rather then sleep.” Mrs. Allie scolded.
“Psst, Joel. Joel!” Daniel whispered as he kicked the bottom of my chair. I hated school. I’d rather be outside on my tractor kickin up some dust or out on my horse, Chaos, bringing the cattle home for my Pops. Sitting in class listening to the same mono tone ho hum of this is this and that is that, bored me right to sleep almost every day. I was only passing the class pretty much on homework alone.
That’s when she entered the room, just as I opened my eyes, the principal walked in with the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen trailing behind him. She stood level to Mr. Macalister’s chest. Her long golden mane hung down past her waist, she had profound sapphire eyes and flawless skin, like silk over glass. But it was her lips that I couldn’t stop staring at. They were a shiny rose color so I’m sure she had some kind of sweet smelling chapstick or lip gloss on them. She had perfect arches on the top and a full bottom lip. She held her books to her chest almost as a shield to guard off the offensive stares she was getting from the other girls in class.
Mrs. Allie introduced her, “Class, this is Carmen Spencer. She just moved from California. You can take a seat in front of Joel.” She turned to Lauren, “Will you help show Carmen around school?” she asked.
“Of course, Mrs. Allie.” Lauren responded enthusiastically.
Instantly I sat up, she headed straight towards my desk. I didn’t want her to catch me staring so I looked away. Lauren is so bubbly and cheery; it’s nauseating with her high pitch squeal of a voice.
She slid her books under her chair, glancing up at me as she slid behind the desk top. I felt my cheeks flush, so I looked away again. My heart was thrumming in my chest. She swung her hair over her shoulder and it glided across my desk. The wafting smell of peaches smacked me in the face. I inhaled deeply, savoring the scent and closed my eyes as it painted pictures in my mind.
I felt Daniel tapping my shoulder as Mrs. Allie continued on with her rambling about foreign policies and some political crap that was on the news last night.
Just then a piece of paper landed on my desk. I peeked over my shoulder at Daniel who was now all smiles and wiggling his eye brows at me; trying to encourage me to open the note.
“Joel you lucky dog. Did you see her legs? I’m gonna ask her out.” His note read.
I erased his chicken scratch and jotted down a quick response.
“Good Luck Danny.” I wrote tossing it back to him as I gathered up my stuff. Just then the bell rang; we scrambled out into the hall as Lauren led the way with Carmen in tow. The guys in class were drooling over the new arrival of fresh meat. Carmen was batting her eyelashes, looking around and sauntering down the long hallway, making her way to the cafeteria with Lauren doing most of the talking as she took to being the newly appointed tour guide.
I decided to ditch class and get started on my chores at home. I didn’t want to be caught up in all the chaos surrounding Carmen’s arrival. Besides I slacked off yesterday on chores and I was behind. If Danny hadn’t come over, they would’ve been finished already. He’s my best friend but he sure knows how to mess things up.
* * *
It was just about five when I headed over to the pond. I stripped down to my boxers. The late spring allowed the warm air to circulate through the trees and slightly warm the waters in the pond. I jumped in, feeling the shock of the cold water engulfing me as my body plunged into the dark water. Maybe the sun hadn’t quite warmed the water yet. I swam around for about ten minutes when I pulled myself up onto the exposed roots of a towering oak tree. The sun was just about setting which meant the lighting bugs would be out soon. Evenings were always better spent lingering in the water or enjoying the sites and sounds of my last remaining days of school.
Soon we would all be graduating and heading in our many directions. Writher it be college, a trade school of sorts, or even off to boot camp. As for me, I couldn’t possibly leave my Pops to run the ranch by himself. He was insisting on me going to college to “make something of myself” he’d said one night. I never wanted to let him down, but I was looking forward to never being inside a class room again. I didn’t have the heart to break the news to him, but I knew it was coming, eventually. Especially after the shit I got myself into last summer, nearly landed my butt in jail for fighting with Josh and his entourage.
Josh and I never got along, but when he started in on my Pops, I couldn’t take it anymore. We broke through Mr. Carter’s front window of his hardware store, knocking over a bunch of displays before the cops were called. I can still feel the bruise on my jaw when I think about it.
Abruptly scattering my thoughts, I heard the crunching sounds of someone walking by. I couldn’t see anyone as the ponds muddy grassy edge was above me and the tree covered the rest of me. Whoever it was came closer. I’d recognize those legs anywhere, it was Carmen. She was standing next to the oak tree staring out at the water. I didn’t want to startle her by speaking, but I also didn’t want her to notice me and all my glory. My boxers were most likely see through by now. I’d just have to sit here and wait until she leaves or risk the embarrassment of trying to explain what I was doing here in my boxers.
Just then she reached down, grasping a small rock in her and chucked it out into the water. Not bad for a girl. Then she tossed another rock and another. She was furiously pelting the water with an onslaught of rocks. SMACK! One bounced off the back of my head as I fell into the water face first. What the hell did she throw a boulder?
“Holy Crap! Are you ok? I’m so sorry.” She gushed as she stepped further to the edge of the embankment, as if she was going to try and help me up out of the water.
I stood up, waist high at this point. I could feel a bump forming on my head as I ran my hand through my hair. I knew I’d be safe here, but I’d have to come out of the water at some point, it was really starting to get cold and things were going to get awkward if I tried to come out of the water.
“Are you ok? Joel…right?” she asked hesitantly.
“Yeah, nothin on it.” I said rubbing my head.
“What are you doing out here? Isn’t the water cold?” I could see her eyes roaming over my body.
“Yeah, but its good.” I answered.
“Are you sure, cause your lips are a bit blue.” She eyed my skeptically. I hadn’t noticed, in fact it was cold now that she mentioned it. It was nearly dark and the only light was coming from the setting sun.
“The real question is, are you ok? You seemed to be working something out with those rocks.” I replied.
“Umm, about that…maybe you should come out of the water. Are you bleeding? Let me take a look.” She persisted.
“No, I’m fine. Really.” I insisted.
“I didn’t know anyone was out here. Ever since moving in last week, I’ve noticed this little water hole. It’s just far enough from my house that Mother can’t see me. Out of sight out of mind…ya know?” She said pushing a strand of hair behind her ear.
“Completely!” I ran my hands through my hair again nervously.
“Where is your towel?” she asked.
Her question startled me. “I don’t have one.” I said bashfully as my cheeks got hot. That’s when her face flushed. Even in the dim light I could see the rose color flash into her high cheek bones as her eyes dropped to the ground. Her lips slumped open when I bit the bullet and started climbing out of the waters edge. Once I was out, I rested my hands in front of me, hoping to cover everything.
She turned her back as I reached down and pulled my pants up and tugged my shirt back on. From this point of view I got a really good look at her back side. A perfect heart shaped into nice curves. Shaking the image out of my head before I got myself into more trouble and making this situation even more embarrassing.
Turning back around she asked, “Where do you live Joel?”
“The other side of the apple orchard, I usually come out here after chores, helps to keep my mom from griping about tracking in dirt from the fields. We own just about every head of cattle on this side.”
“What about you? What brings you out here to drown a pile of rocks?”
Smiling back at me, “My parents were fighting again. I knew moving here wasn’t right. Daddy never wanted to, but Mother insisted on bigger and better. So to make her happy Daddy bought the plantations house for her.”
“Well Odessa is a nice town. You might like it here.”
“It’s so small and everyone seems to be some sort of related family to each other or friends through generations. Not much room for newbie’s.” she said while kicking a stick out of the way.
“You miss your friends back home?” I said smacking a tree limb as we stood talking. Her voice is so sweet; I could listen to her talk all day long.
“Oh…I do. There’s nothing to do out here in the boonies.” She gestured with her hands.
“Maybe you should come over to my house, we got plenty do to.” I said maybe a little too eager.
“I’ve never been on a farm before.”
Laughing a bit harder then I should’ve, I regained myself and explained to Carmen the difference between a farm and a ranch.
“My momma would love to meet you. That is if you want to. I could take you out on my horse if you’d like.” I said while she stared at her feet.
“I don’t know anything about horses.” She said looking up at me. I got caught up in her eyes before I answered.
“Perfect. Why don’t you come over tomorrow morning…say about 8 or 9 or whatever time you’re up and ready. I’m up at a rooster’s crow.” I said laughing out loud.
“A rooster’s crow?” she said scrunching up her forehead.
“Another words, at day break. You city folks are funny.”
“Sounds great Joel…I better get back before Mother sends out the hounds.” She said with a cute smile that really showed off her perfectly straight teeth. Carmen headed towards her house but quickly turned around, “Hey Joel!” she shouted.
I stopped dead in my tracks at the sound of my name falling from her lips, “Yeah.”
“I’m really sorry about the rocks.”
“No worries Carmen.”
“See yeah tomorrow then.” She said as she disappeared into the trees but not out of my thoughts, teasing me on my way back home. Thank God for that pond.
* * *
Carmen and I were scheduled to meet again tonight at our spot by the oak. I ran without care, as fast as I could, over the tree stump and through the orchard, feeling the squashing of rotted apples under my feet, branches scrapping my face and leaves crunching as my chest beat like a humming birds wings. I’ve never been late meeting Carmen and if it wasn’t for Tiffany coming by, I wouldn’t be now. I didn’t understand the purpose for Tiffany’s visit. We use to play when we were younger but when we hit middle school she stopped coming by. Why did she try to kiss me?
“Carmen! Carmen!” I yelled into the darkness.
With no one responding I tried to run even faster. I was growing more and more worried, feeling uneasy. By the grace of God and the moon light, I was able to make it to the field just on the other side of the orchard. I was hoping to find Carmen waiting for me and not angry because I’m running late.
Far off in the distance, I could make out three dark figures running in the opposite direction of the tree that we always meet at. Headlights soon lit up the night sky and pierced through the tree branches as the screeching tires peeled out onto a dirt road. I could hear hoots and hollers as the truck sped off into the distance. Urgency raced through my veins, more than ever now and my feet became heavier, like running on a sandy beach. As I approached the oak tree all I could see was a silhouette and hands that were twisted and pointed at me.
Damned by the moonlight, I could see the blood dripping from the fingernails. As I got closer I could see dirt smeared all over her body. She stumbled into the light as Carmen collapsed into my arms. We both fell to the ground as she started to speak.
“Let…me…go. Stop!” she spoke with a voice, which caught in her throat as she pleaded with me.
I moved the hair away from lips as I held her, sitting on the ground. I looked around to see where the blood was coming from as I noticed her shirt was ripped open and her bra was missing. I didn’t want to look but she had a bite mark just above her left breast. I struggled to cover her up with the remaining pieces of her shirt when I noticed her skirt was also missing. She was nearly naked and I could see that blood was dripping down her inner thigh and a chunk of skin was missing from her outer thigh. Her eyes were swollen and black and her lip was busted. She had scrapes and bruises all over her body. Her long hair had dirt and leaves strewn throughout it. She was shivering as I held her and that’s when I noticed her hands were bound together with her missing bra.
“Who did this to you?” I asked
“Leave…me…I…I…just…want…to…die. Please, don’t…touch…” she pleaded as she went limp again.
I struggled to stand up with her in my arms. I needed to get her to hospital but as I stood she screamed out, “STOP!” and began fighting me.
“Carmen, it’s me…Joel. I’m taking you to the hospital.” I tried to calm her down. I stood up again trying to carry her without hurting her further but I had to hurry. The trip back to my truck didn’t take as long as I thought. I placed her in my truck as she slumped next to me. My heart was pounding in my chest. They’re going to ask questions at the hospital. Who was out there with her? I recognized those headlights. I thought to myself, but I couldn’t remember whose truck they were on. Was it even a truck? Oh my God! She’s throwing up. I pushed the gas pedal to the floor and ran every stop sign I come across.
I could see the hospital lights on the horizon; just as I got closer she started convulsing.