Mud and the Muck

I slammed my hands against the steering wheel as I sat under that red light in the dark. The green glow of the clock in my dash told me I was late. Too late.

The urge to slam my forehead to the steering wheel as well was strong. It was my own fault. Nobody but my own. I'd turned the alarm clock off, I'd rolled back over and accidentally gone back to sleep.

If it hadn't been for my dad checking on me this morning, I'd never have made it this close. But not close enough.

"Three strikes and you're out," she'd said. This was my third strike. "Don't even bother showing up late the third time," she'd warned the handful of us that were taking her zero block economics class at the ungodly hour of 6 in the morning.

It was still dark. And it was raining. Of course it was raining.

Was there a more fitting way to kiss my chance of a high school diploma good bye? It was my senior year with two months left until graduation. Not enough time to fix this.

When the red light turned green I could turn left and sit alone in the school parking lot for 2 hours until school started or I could go home and explain to dad how I was a massive failure. Or I could turn right and be in Alex's driveway in 90 seconds. He wouldn't be awake this early, but I turned right anyways.

I killed my headlights before I pulled in, parking close to the road at the end of his drive trying not to wake anyone. Two unanswered calls assured me he was still sleeping or had lost his phone, which happened with decent frequency with Alex.

After slipping across the muddy yard and finding the front and side doors both locked, I headed towards the back of the house, bypassing the sliding glass door that would wake the dead in China. My sweatshirt was getting heavier the longer I was standing in the rain and my shoes were a mess. Alex's house was all one level but his bedroom window was still way above my head. So I ran across the backyard for the garage and found an old metal chair that I dragged under his window.

Alex never locked his window, so it gave when I started pushing the pane sideways. I leaned my head in, and saw that his bedroom door was open. I'd have to be a ninja not to wake the entire house. I pushed into the window, my backside and legs still getting drenched. His bed was directly under the window.

"Alex," I whispered but as I watched he didn't stir. So I whispered a little louder, "Alex!"

That did it. He bolted upright and his eyes looked a little crazy as he registered someone hanging over his head. "Daddy!" He yelled. I'd never heard him sound so terrified.

I nearly choked laughing. "Shut up, Alex!" I hissed. "It's me!"

His eyes adjusted and he realized it was me. "What the-?"

The tension fell out of his shoulders and he collapsed back onto his bed. "Ay Dios..." After taking a few deep breaths, he looked up at me. "What're you doin? Get in here." He rolled over giving me room to get in.

Reaching back through the window, I slipped my shoes off before half climbing, half falling into his bed. After dropping my shoes to the floor, I walked over to his door and peeked into the dark hall to make sure his dad wouldn't be coming to shoot me with the shotgun, then closed the door and locked it.

My teeth were chattering when I turned back around. Alex held the covers up in invitation. I shook my head. "I'm soaked."

He gave me a sleepy grin. "Lose the clothes."

"Yeah and when your sisters break in, that'll be great."

"Well, just get over here."

Tossing my sweatshirt to the floor, I crawled into his arms wet, cold, and deflated.

"What were you doing screaming for your dad?" I laughed.

"What else was I s'pose to do? Yell 'mommy'?"

I shook my head and smiled as he hugged me closer.

"What're you doing here anyways?" He whispered into my hair.

"I was late. It was my 3rd strike."

"Did you even go to class?"

"So she could just throw me out? No."

"You don't know. Maybe she woulda let you in."

"No she wouldn't. She already kicked Gary out for being late the third time."

"You never know."

"She hates me."

Alex sighed.

"What am I going to do now?" I whined.

"We'll figure out something."

"What is there to figure out? I'm done. I'm not going to graduate on time. I can't do anymore time next year. I wasn't cut out for high school." I started crying.

"Shhh," Alex squeezed me.

"All this time I've wasted-"

Alex cut me off. "Hush, Mandie. Being so negative is bad for you. Just calm down." He kissed my forehead. "Go talk to your counselor this morning."

I mumbled an, "Okay."

But it wasn't okay. I was scared and it was all my fault. I'd done it to myself, solidifying the fact that I was incapable of getting it together. The chance I'd had to graduate on time by taking this extra class, online classes, and summer school had been a giant waste.

Alex fell back to sleep as I laid on his chest listening to the rain. As tired as I was, I couldn't relax enough to sleep. An hour or so later, alarm clocks starting going off down the hall and his parents and sisters started stirring.

Someone tried the knob and then there was a bang on Alex's door. "Get up, Alex!" His sister shouted as her footsteps pounded down the hall.

Giving me one last squeeze, he slipped out from under the covers, cussing and shivering in his briefs. He started pulling jeans and shirts out of his closet in a fury. Dressed, he headed for the door and paused with his hand on the knob. "You coming?"

"Maybe I should sneak back out the window."

"Unless you parked down the street, they've already seen your car."


Alex grinned. "Come on, I'll make you pancakes." He threw the door open and was gone.

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