“You promise not to be weird? We don’t have much money. And my dad is a slob. The house is almost always a mess and I can’t stand it! I just…I don’t want my house to affect your opinion of me. People tend to get weird when they find out I’m poor.”
Jonathan’s heart dropped. He remembered the quick judgement he made when he first saw her, and he felt terrible for what he had done. “I promise. You’ve already got me, Sky! I’m in your life now, and I’m not leaving. Well…unless you have anything else you’d like to share. You’re not an axe murderer or a criminal, are you?”
She laughed, and her load was lightened.
“Oh…you’re not an alien, right? Cuz that would be a total deal breaker for me,” he added.
“I’m not an alien!”
“Then we’re cool! And, you know…maybe one day you wouldn’t have to worry about any of this…”
She hoped what he said was true, not so she could escape her situation, but because being in his life permanently was something she really wanted to do. He took her by the hand, and they left the park. She tried not to act nervous as they walked up her street, but she couldn’t help it. They passed a few plain, small homes on barren lots. Jonathan had never been to that part of town before, but his best friend, Tony, also lived in a small home so it wasn’t like he had never been inside one. At last, they came to her lot. She lived in a small, narrow trailer with a tin roof. The yard was dry and desolate, and the only plants that existed were obviously planted. There was a rusty, beat-up truck park in the yard. It looked like it hadn’t moved in ages. The front lawn was littered with garden gnomes and flamingos. It was a bit tacky, no doubt, but it had a certain charm. It was as though someone understood their home wasn’t much to look at and tried to make it look as presentable as she could make it. Clearly, it wasn’t what Jonathan was used to, but he didn’t mind it one bit. As a matter of fact, he was excited to be there. After watching Skyla lament over this, he felt honored that she trusted him enough to be vulnerable.
Skyla stopped short of the porch steps as if she was giving him one last chance to escape. Or, maybe she was trying to save herself from the embarrassment.
He smiled, and that gave her the courage to continue on. She led him up the stairs and opened the door. He knew she would be watching him, so he tried not to look around too much. The decor on the inside was almost as tacky as the outside. They had a basic, red couch, a gothic style, red candle lamp, and heavy, green drapes on the window. There was a stack of books next to the television which sat on top of a plain coffee table. He saw a guitar in the corner of the room and a few piles of clothing on the floor as well as some sports equipment. Overall, the house wasn’t nearly as bad as Skyla made it out to be which was a relief to Jonathan if he was to be completely honest.
“So,” he began. “I’m here now, and I haven’t run off. Do you feel better?”
“Well, that’s something!”
Jonathan never claimed to know much about girls, but one thing he knew about Skyla was that he often had to change the subject to divert her attention from whatever was bothering her. “Do you play,” he asked, pointing his head toward the guitar in the corner.
She looked at it lovingly and said, “My mom did.”
“Oh. Ummm…is it ok for me to ask about her?”
She nodded. “She was sick…and ummm…yeah. She’s not with us anymore.”
“Oh, Sky. I’m so sorry!”
“Thank you. It’s ok though. I was young. My dad…he didn’t do very well though. He drank…a lot. He wasn’t dangerous or anything. He was just so depressed…he couldn’t do anything for me. I had some aunts and uncles from out of town who wanted me to come live with them for a while. I didn’t want to go, but my dad made me. So, I lived in Appaloosa Plains for a year. It was so hard being away from my dad and living with people I barely knew, but everything turned out fine. I learned a lot about farm living, and it was ok at the time, but I’d never want to do it again. When I finally went back home, I had a brand new dad, and we’ve been taking care of each other ever since!”
“Wow. You’ve gone through so much. I’m not sure I could be as strong as you. I’d probably be more like your dad, heh.”
“You’d be amazed at what you can handle when you’re in survival mode,” she said.
“Survival mode. I don’t even know what that is. I’ve never had to ‘survive’ before,” he said awkwardly. “I mean, I’ve never lost anyone…I have more money than I know what to do with. I have everything I could ever want. That’s just so foreign to me.”
“I understand. I think if it ever came down to it, you would survive just fine with the right attitude.”
“I’m glad you have faith in me. I hope you’ll be around to help me when it comes time to survive.”
“That can be arranged.”
Loud snoring erupted from the bedroom, and Jonathan’s head jerked around to see where the sound was coming from. “He’s had a long day, huh?”
“Nah. He just sleeps really hard.” She rolled her eyes. “I end up sleeping right here on this couch a lot to get away from the noise.”
He didn’t want to assume that there was only one bedroom, but he didn’t see where another one would fit. “You guys share a room?”
“Yeah,” she said feeling embarrassed all over again. Jonathan didn’t quite know where to take the conversation next, but Mr. Oliver’s snores reminded him that he should probably make his way home.
“I hope to see you in school tomorrow,” he said. “I should probably get out of here.”
“Can I walk you to the end of the street?” She winked.
They got up and went outside. He hugged her, said goodnight, and went on his merry way.
All the way home he thought about her and everything he heard and experienced. He wanted so much for her. He wanted her to not have to share a room with her father. He wanted her to live in a clean house. He wanted her to be proud of where she lived. He wanted her to be happy all the time. He wanted all of this for her not because she needed it and he could give it to her, but because she meant so much to him. He loved to see her smiling and being carefree. He knew she was the girl for him the first time he saw her, but now he had to marry her so he could spend the rest of his life making her happy.