With my older sisters out of the house (Mina and Sam both married and moved out), I decided I should try to get along with my younger sister. I decided to teach her to play chess. Unfortunately, she was an indifferent opponent. I think she would have rather been off playing with the sprinkler.
“Do I have to move the knight like that? Can’t I move it straight forward?” Melinda asked.
“That’s the way the knight moves. It can’t move any other way.”
“But why? Real knights can do whatever they want.” I rolled my eyes. She just didn’t get that the pieces were only representations.
I really did try to teach her, but I quickly gave it up. I just didn’t have the patience to explain all the reasons behind the rules. If Mom or Sydney wanted to deal with it, that was fine. It was just no use. Melinda was just like everyone else in my family. She’d rather be outside doing things like tag or fishing. Just like Ronald, Melinda enjoyed going out and spending countless hours with dad just throwing a line into the water and pulling back slimy fish. Yuck.
I wasn’t adverse to being outside. I liked it just fine, but I’d rather be in the park where I could sit on a bench, play chess with someone, or hang out on a swing. But lately everywhere I went, I’d run into Caleb. The day he was waiting for me when I came out of the bathroom was the day I started avoiding the park. I also talked to Ronald about him.
“Look, Ron,” I said while we were riding the bus to school the morning after the bathroom incident, “you have to tell your friend Caleb to stop following me to the bathroom and stuff.”
Ron looked at me like I was crazy. “What?”
“He’s always following me!” I explained. “He calls me and talks to me in class and tries to make small talk at work. It’s getting to be a real problem.”
Ronald had the temerity to laugh at me. “He just likes you Kindra!”
“That’s ridiculous,” I scoffed. “He’s always disliked me. Even as kids he’d run away from me. He only started bugging me to get me to help him with his homework.”
“You’re ridiculous, Kin. Caleb’s had a crush on you since we were kids. He just didn’t know how to show it. You’re a year ahead of him in school. He wants you to notice him. Lord knows why,” Ron rolled his eyes in distaste.
“What do you know, Ron?! I’ve never given any indication that I find him anything more than annoying. He can’t like me like me.”
“Shows what you know, Miss Genius.”
So I started to pay attention to Caleb. I watched him out of the corner of my eye in class and at work. I paid attention to him when he talked to me to see if I could detect what Ronald had said. And I began to see that he was right. Caleb did like me! I had no idea what to do about it. Before, when I thought he was just trying to bug me, I knew exactly how to act, but knowing that he really liked me, I was unsure. I didn’t like it.
I did what I could to drive Caleb away. I invited him out to play chess in the park and I held nothing back. I had heard that guys didn’t like to appear stupid in front of girls. I knew I could easily beat him, which I did in only like 5 moves. Instead of being upset by it, though, he applauded my skill and admired me for my game. He even asked to play again…and lost again. But while we played we started to talk. I found myself enjoying his company and offering him tips on how to play better.
Another time, when we both had a day off from the bookstore, I convinced Ronald to invite Caleb over after school. Though he was there to hang out with Ronald, we spent most of the time talking. Ronald eventually went out on the porch to practice his guitar. Caleb, who also was a musician, didn’t join him. Instead he stayed with me and we sat on the couch (somewhat awkwardly) and continued to talk. I have never wished for a TV more than in that moment. We could have spent time watching a movie or a show and not been so uncomfortable.
Eventually we ran out of things to say and Caleb sort of looked at me. He cleared his throat and fidgeted with his coat.
“Do you have to go home?” I asked just to fill the silence. “My mom will invite you for dinner, but I’d understand if you don’t want to stay and eat vegetarian meatballs or whatever else she might make.”
“Um…no…um…I don’t have to go,” he responded and then was silently fidgeting again.
“Oh,” I said, at a loss. I hate not knowing what to do. Then he looked at me and said quickly, “WouldyouliketogototheBistrowithme?”
“Um…would you like to go out with me?”
I think I blinked a few times before I answered. Did I want to go out with him? I did. But I didn’t. Instead of answering right away, I just nodded. Then I managed a sort of squeaky, “Sure.”
And so I had my first date. Caleb and I ate at the Bistro and I actually got to order my favorite food, Sushi. No one in my family would have ever eaten it, but I loved it. Caleb didn’t make a single comment about eating raw fish. I liked him a lot for that. Actually, we had a really good time. I had to stop fooling myself and admit that I liked him. At the end of the date, he gave me a hug goodbye. I was surprised that he hadn’t tried to kiss me.
My sister became a freshmen my last year of high school. It was even more annoying having her at high school with me than I thought it would be. She was so sweet and nice that everyone liked her. She was also cute like Mina had been. At a school where I was known only for being smart, Melinda was known just for being herself. She also had a lot of boys interested in her. I couldn’t help but be irritated that she found talking to boys so easy to do. I had had trouble just realizing a boy liked me. She had them buzzing around like flies.
Another thing I found extremely irritating was how well Melinda got along with Dad. Dad always offered to help her with homework (something he’d never done for me…not that I had needed his help). They talked about everything and were good friends.
In contrast, Dad and I were always fighting. Ever since I’d gotten my job, Dad had been at my throat about it.
“Teenagers should not work,” he said. “You won’t be able to keep up your grades.”
“Dad!” I yelled, “School is easy for me. It won’t be any problem for me to keep up my grades. And the extra income will be nice.”
“No! You may not get a job. You’ll have time enough for work when you graduate.”
I stomped my foot and glared at him defiantly. “It’s too late Dad. I’ve already got a job. I’ll work if I want to.”
“You’re grounded, young lady,” she shouted at me as I stomped up the stairs to my room. I ignored him.
Of course it was my mom who convinced my dad to back down. I heard them talking about it. She reminded him that she had grown up having a part time job. She also reminded him that I would want to move out after graduation and would need my own money to do it. Dad protested at that, but then Mom said, “Les, Kindra isn’t going to be happy getting married or working the land. She has to go out on her own.”
“I don’t want her to get married or even to farm. I just don’t want her to work yet,” Dad said.
“But there is no reason not to let her, Les,” Mom argued. “She is perfectly capable of working and excelling at school. She’s going to be valedictorian, you know.”
“I know,” Dad said. “She works too hard.” He sighed. “I worry that she’s going to work herself to death. She’s so focused on working and earning money that she will miss what goes on around her.”
“She’s a lot like you, Les.”
“No Dilly,” Dad said in an intimate tone of voice. “I have you to keep me from immersing myself in work. I have you and the kids.”
I was too embarrassed to keep listening. I understood why my Dad might think I was too focused on work, but there would be time to have a family and a husband. It didn’t have to be now or even soon. When the time was right, I’d be ready for those things. But first, I wanted to achieve my goals.
While all of this was going on between me and my parents, my sister Sydney had found out that she was pregnant. I was happy for her, but worried that there would be no room for the baby. I really hoped that she would not have a girl so that I wouldn’t have to share a room with an infant yet again. If it was a boy, the child could share a room with Ronald. It wasn’t fair that Ron hadn’t ever had to share with anyone.
But it was just my luck that she had a girl. She and Calvin named their daughter Sylvia. I had to resign myself to nights with very little sleep. My only consolation was that I would be graduating soon and then I could move out.
Moving out couldn’t come soon enough for me either. Despite the fact that Dad had given up forcing me to quit working after school, our relationship had really gone from bad to worse. We fought all the time. Everything set us off. I tried to avoid him, but it’s hard in a full house like ours. In our last fight, I finally had enough.
“I don’t care what you say, Dad. I can’t wait until I move out. You can take this farm and shove it! I’m going to have a better life.” I started out shouting, but by the time I got to the last part, I was oddly sad. The look in my Dad’s eyes was both angry and hurt. I felt like the look in my own was probably very similar. I turned my back on my Dad and went up to my room. After that we hardly ever spoke.
I enjoyed the occasion. I basked in the glow of everyone else’s excitement over my birthday. I just couldn’t wait until I could get a job at the Corporate Towers. I wanted to show my dad that I could be more than just a farmer’s daughter. I was going to move on and put all of my past behind me. I had big plans for myself.
“She’s going to forget all about me,” Caleb said to Ronald Fields, his best friend and fellow band member.
“No, Dude,” his friend tried to cheer him up.
“Yeah. She already has.”
“Well I told you she wasn’t worth it but…”
“I didn’t listen.”
“You never do.”
“Maybe she’ll still want to go out with me after I graduate,” Caleb tried to be optimistic.
“Get over her,” Alana Ball said, coming up behind Ronald. She was the third member of their band and the lead singer. Caleb knew that she and Ron had something going on…at least some heavy flirting. He hoped that it wouldn’t interfere with the band.
“Hey Alana. Enjoying the party?”
“More than you, lover boy. You need to get her out of your head. The girl’s a serious B. She can’t see anything past herself.”
“Lay off. She’s my sister, ‘Lana.”
“Can’t account for family, Ronald.” Alana had never made any effort to hide her dislike of Kindra, the only girl that Caleb had ever liked. “Channel all that thwarted romance into your music, Caleb. Write us a hit song so we can get out of this swamp and make a name for ourselves.”
Caleb realized that he’d probably do just that. Music was his life. Kindra would forget all about him, but he didn’t have to make it easy. He’d write his feelings into songs that she would hear and realize that he loved her.