24 November 2004

Story: Molly - Chapter 5

Molly - Chapter 5
by Breanna Carter

The weeks passed and I actually noticed a pattern in Molly’s behavior. A good pattern. She would come home in the afternoons and watch tv until I got home then start on her homework. At least that’s what it seemed to me. And I honestly knew that she was doing all of her homework. I could tell that she told me the truth. Sometimes she even asked me for help. At first she was hesitant, probably having the mindset that either I couldn’t do it or I’d criticize her for not being able to finish it herself. But all in all, she was getting happier and happier. A true happiness. I noticed that sometimes she still went to the batting cages, or went running around the neighborhood at random times during the evenings, but I didn’t question it. Each and every one of us has his own way to kill the pain, I learned that from a Shawn Mullins song. And that was Molly’s way to kill the pain. I was just glad that she wasn’t smoking or drinking anymore.

Anyway, things seemed to be going well. I didn’t get any notes or phone calls from teachers, didn’t smell any cigarettes or alcohol on my babygirl, and she seemed generally happy. So you can see why I would find it strange when I came home one afternoon to find Molly sitting on the couch with the smell of cigarette smoke apparent.

“Molly?” I questioned.

She looked up at me, her eyes a little glossy.

“Have you been smoking?” I asked. All I wanted was an honest answer, and I knew she could tell by the tone in my voice.

She nodded softly. “I only had one, though... and I’m sorry... I just..” She broke off.

“I understand, Mollycakes,” I said, gathering her into my arms. “Listen, kiddo... lay off the cigarettes, okay? They’re not going to help anything... especially your lungs. And you’d like to keep those, I know.”

She nodded. “I haven’t smoked since before that night at the skating rink... I didn’t want to disappoint you. But things hurt so much today...”

I hugged her tighter. “I know, baby. I know it hurts sometimes.” I kissed her head. “What happened?”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” she muttered, wetting my shirt with her tears. “I feel so terrible for smoking again... It’s been almost three weeks.” She looked up at me with the tears still in her eyes.

I wiped a tear away. “How about a run, Mollycakes? You want to go running?”

She nodded softly.

“Want me to join you?” I knew that sometimes she needed the alone time, and sometimes she wanted company. Whichever was fine with me.

“I’d rather go alone,” she said.

I smiled and kissed her forehead. I had no idea what it was that was bothering her so much and desperately wished she’d talk to me, so I could help her figure it out or something, but if she wasn’t comfortable with talking, it was fine with me.

I was a little worried after that. It was getting closer to the time where I was going to have to take legal action with Molly’s mother. Her mom hadn’t been home (as far as we knew), and if she had, hadn’t bothered to call or even move anything in the house. Each time we went to see if she’d come home, the house seemed more deserted. I knew things were starting to get suspicious with the school. I know that’s what was on my mind, but at the time, I had no idea if that’s what was bugging Molly or not.

A couple of days later she was talking on the phone with one of her friends from the skating rink, making plans for the weekend. You’d have thought by that time I’d have known all of Molly’s friends names, but there were so many...

“Yeah, I hope she isn’t there, too,” Molly was saying. “She’s so weird! I can’t believe she’s trying to hang out with us...”

That statement caught my attention. Molly had never been the type to talk badly about anyone. In fact, since we had known each other, the only people she ever talked badly about were her teachers, and that was because she didn’t like homework and tests.

“Yeah, I know what you mean... I can’t believe she tried to sit with us at lunch either.” And with that statement, Molly disappeared into her room.

I should have known then that something was wrong. But I didn’t. I just let it slide. Even when Molly came from her room minutes later with her workout clothes on, waving goodbye and announcing that she’d be back soon. And I knew that she only went running when something bothered her.

Nonetheless, I tried to talk to her anyway. “So school’s okay?” I asked, passing her the mashed potatoes. Yes, surprisingly enough, I actually cooked and we had dinner together.

She shrugged. “It’s school. And for you?”

I smiled, “same.” She didn’t make any effort to keep the conversation going, so I did. “Any new friends this week I should know about?” It was typical of Molly to tell me a new friend every week. One week at the table she’d be carrying on a conversation about some girl named Tanya, and the next week, it’d be Ramona. It was always a different person!

“Nah. We got this new girl, but she doesn’t really... like us,” she lied. I could tell she was lying. Molly can’t even remotely look you straight in the eyes when she’s lying.

“Ah,” I said, taking a bite of my dinner. “Well, you should at least try to talk to her. I mean, even if she’s snobby or something and doesn’t want you hanging out with her. Just at least tell her hi and be nice and stuff... be the bigger person.”

I could feel the discomfort in Molly as I said these words. “Yeah, the bigger person,” she muttered, then hurriedly finished her dinner and excused herself to take a shower.

I let the subject go from there, hoping that she’d get it and everything would be okay by the next week at school and I’d be hearing all about her new friend. Things don’t always go the way I plan, though.

The next night was Friday and Molly had made arrangements to stay the night with one of her friends to catch up on the girl talk. She seemed significantly better as she showered and dressed herself in baggy jeans, a tiny Flogging Molly T-shirt and green converse shoes, then painted her nails green. She had all sorts of glitter stuff that she put on, too. Geeze, twelve year olds and fashion... I don’t get it.

We left for the skating rink about five-fifty, seeing as it took us at least five minutes to agree on a cd and the volume in which it’d be played. Molly had the window down and stuck her head out of it like a dog, taking in the cool autumn air. She was smiling a genuine smile.

We walked in together and Molly instantly left my side, finding her circle of friends and hanging out with them. I, on the other hand, hopped over the counter and stood next to Brad for a little while, catching up on the evenings events. I learned that one of the middle school kids was planning on having a party that night, so she and a lot of her friends probably wouldn’t be present. That was a good sign for us, just not for money. Also, one of the other kids had gotten in a car accident so she wouldn’t be there either, nor would her twin sister. Don’t ask me how Brad knows these things. Sometimes I wonder if he himself is twelve years old.

Needless to say, it was a slow night. In fact, so slow, I realized that I knew everyone there. That is, until one girl came wandering through the entrance, paying her five dollar fee and then ambling towards the counter where I was to rent some skates.

“Hi,” I said, smiling. I always loved to see new faces in the skating rink.

But she wasn’t smiling. In fact, she seemed to be pretty unhappy. She was a cute girl, probably Molly’s age, like most of the kids at the skating rink. She was wearing adidas wind pants and a white T-shirt. Her brown hair was pulled into a pony tail and her dark brown eyes were filled with sadness. “Size five,” she told me, handing me two dollars so I’d shut up and give her the skates.

“You want roller blades or no?” I asked.

She nodded.

I turned around and found a pair of size fives and handed them to her. I felt like I was a clerk in a country store where everybody knew everybody and this was a new person. I wanted to introduce myself and tell her some of the social rules, like who hung out with who and where she’d probably fit in, but then I realized how stupid it sounded and just smiled and watched her walk away.

“That’s Alison,” Brad said from next to me, scaring me so badly I almost shrieked like a little kid.

I looked at him. “How do you know everything?”

“I have a sister,” he replied, then looked back out at the rink.

I stepped up towards the DJ booth and took a seat next to him. “So tell me the deal with Alison.”

“She just moved here from New Jersey and doesn’t really have any friends yet...” He broke off as if he wanted to say more. I kept waiting but he never continued.

“And...?”

He hesitated. “She’s been trying to fit in at school but Molly’s crowd won’t accept her, so a lot of the other kids won’t either. Her dad’s in the military and she moves around a lot. She seems sad all the time and there’s rumors going around that her mom left her when she was a baby because she didn’t want her. My sis said that she was likely to come to the rink tonight because she wasn’t invited to the party and heard from a lot of people that it was a great place to meet people.”

I listened as intently as an old woman in a Southern Baptist Church would when gossiping with another (no offense to old women that are Southern Baptist). I even felt like an old woman... or one of the twelve year olds. I could imagine them whispering about the new girl... the weird kid who tried as hard as she could to fit in, but it never happened. I didn’t understand how come she couldn’t fit in... but I guess when you’re twelve you don’t always give people a chance.

I watched Alison skate around the rink a few times, not really talking to anyone, just listening to the music. My heart went out to her... I knew what it was like not fitting in... as I’m sure Molly did. And that’s when everything clicked. Molly knew what it was like being left out, that’s why she always accepted everyone. Molly’s friends, however, weren’t exactly like her in that they didn’t always accept everyone... So maybe the reason Molly had been so sad lately is because she wanted to fit in. Her friends didn’t like the new girl, so she figured she shouldn’t like her either. But I wouldn’t believe myself in this conclusion. In fact, I knew that within a few minutes, Molly would talk to this girl and they would become friends, just like Molly was friends with everyone else.

It took longer than a few minutes, but Molly and her gang finally approached Alison. I felt myself smile. I knew it.

The difference, though, in the approach that I had imagined and the approach that was made... well, let’s say one was friendly and the other was not. I wondered if Molly could feel my eyes watching her as she and the three other girls with her began teasing Alison. It was mainly Molly... even if I didn’t want to admit it. Molly just spoke with a huge grin on her face, cocking some kind of attitude, then laughing with her friends. And then a friend would chime in and everyone would laugh, and then Molly started in again. I knew every few seconds Alison would tease back, or at least defend herself, but it wasn’t helping the situation at all. Finally, Molly said one final thing, everyone laughed except Alison, and she skated off as fast as she could, the tears streaming down her face.

I wanted to go down there and put an end to it right then. I wanted to remind Molly of what it was like to be the new person in a place... to be the one who doesn’t fit in. I wanted to make amends between the girls. But I didn’t really get the chance... I turned my head for a split second to ask Brad to put in Shawn Mullins, and I scanned the rink one final time to make sure everything else was under control just in time to see Alison stumble out of the bathroom and pass out cold.

As you can imagine, my initial reaction was panic. I hopped over the counter and rushed towards the girl, rolling her over to her back and tilting her head in hopes that she could breathe. I felt for a pulse and it was there. By this time a crowd was forming near myself and Alison. “Back up,” I ordered, probably a little firmer than it should have been. I caught a glimpse of Molly, saw the look of worry in her eyes, then she disappeared.

The kids backed up and Shannon came loping over. “What’s going on?” she asked, seeing the girl passed out on the ground.

“Get me some wet papertowels,” I said. “Alison? Alison, can you hear me?” I asked. Shannon handed me the papertowels and I pressed them against her neck and forehead, hoping to get some sort of response. “Call an ambulance!” I felt like I was in a movie... you know, like ER or something. The kids still wouldn’t back away, of course, I can’t say I blame them. Had something that interesting happened when I was a kid, I’d have wanted to see as well. All I could think, though, was why hadn’t it happened when I was a kid and not when I was the one in charge!

A firetruck came in record time, since the firestation was only a couple of blocks away. I took this time to investigate the scene while they did whatever they did. I’m no idiot... I knew that Molly and the girls hurt Alison enough to where she did something to herself. What it was, I did not know. That is, until I saw one of the toilets filled with vomit. My stomach gave a lurch and I groaned... this probably meant that Alison was bulimic.

After finding out everything was okay and the firemen were giving Alison something to eat and drink, I went in search of the guilty parties -- Molly and the girls I had seen with her. Molly was good at disappearing, but I knew the skating rink like the back of my hand. I knew all the good hiding places. They, apparently, did too. I found them huddled together under the bleachers giggling loudly.

“Out of there! All of you!” I bellowed, frightening all of them. They scurried out from under the bleachers and stood in a line facing me. “You KNOW that you aren’t supposed to be down there,” I scolded. They nodded frantically. I took a deep breath in. “What did you guys say to Alison?”

They all looked at each other, not saying a word.

“WHAT did you say to Alison? I am not asking you again!”

Finally one of the shyer ones spoke up. “Molly told her that she was fat and that’s why her mom left her!” she squeaked.

Wow... that hit a soft spot inside of me. That would be like telling Molly that her dad died because she didn’t drink enough alcohol, or smoke enough cigarettes... not to mention that it was totally not true. Alison wasn’t fat... maybe a little well developed for her age, but fat?

“Yeah!” another chimed in. “Molly said she was fat and that nobody liked her and she would never find any friends!”

“Stop putting all the blame on me!” Molly shrieked. “You guys were mean, too!”

“Yeah, but you were the meanest. She tried to kill herself because of what you said!”

“Hey! Stop the arguing,” I said. “She did not try to kill herself, let me get that straight right now. She simply passed out due to a vitamin deficiency. And I think Molly is right... she was not the only one saying mean things, because I saw you all talking to her.”

Molly stared at the floor. BabyMolly... why’d you have to go and do something so upsetting?

“I don’t want to see anything like this happen again,” I told them. “And if it does, the four of you will not be coming back to this skating rink, do you understand?”

They all muttered their responses and I ran my fingers through my hair.

“Is she... okay?” Molly asked.

“Yeah, she’ll be fine.”

“We’re sorry.”

I nodded. “I am, too. The poor girl was crying her eyes out because she wasn’t accepted by you guys... can’t you just be nice? Do you want her to go and kill herself?”

They shook their heads.

“Molly, I think you should stay home tonight...” I told her.

She stomped her foot. “Brian! That’s not fair!”

“It’s not fair what you did to Alison.”

She gave me a death glare then sighed exasperatedly, stomping off. I let it go for the time being. I needed to talk to Alison and make sure everything was okay.

I walked towards Alison and the fireman to find out that everything was fine, she was going to be okay, just to take it easy for a little while. I thanked him for his help and shook his hand, then he ruffled her hair and stalked off. The two of us watched the firemen leave, my arm gently around her shoulder. “Come on,” I said softly. “I want to talk to you for a moment.”

She nodded... it was a slow nod, almost like she was uncertain of whether or not she should go with me.

I opened the door to my office and waved her inside. “I’m Brian,” I introduced. “I guess I should have told you that sooner, but I didn’t think about it until now.”

She nodded again. “I know... Molly lives with you. And I’m Ali... please don’t call me Alison. It makes me feel like an old lady.”

I smiled. “Okay, Ali.” There was a moment of silence. “So..” I began, not sure how to say what I was thinking. “What happened?” It wasn’t the most original way to ask someone if they were throwing up all of their food, but I guess it worked...

“Uhm... nothing,” she murmured, looking away from me.

I leaned back in my chair. “Nothing?”

She shrugged.

“Come on, Ali. You can talk to me.”

She shrugged again.

I fiddled with one of the pencils on my desk. “Okay, well, I’ll just tell you what I saw then. I saw Molly and her friends teasing, I saw you pass out, and I saw a toilet full of vomit. I guess you can imagine what this leads me to think.”

She turned white as a ghost. “They weren’t teasing me... we were just talking,” she stammered.

“Then how come you were crying?”

“I wasn’t crying.”

I shook my head in disbelief. “Ali,” I began, sitting up in my chair, “you’re a beautiful young lady. You seem really nice and like a great person. I just want you to talk to me. What we say in this room stays in this room, okay?”

I saw a tear slip down her cheek. “I... I just...” she broke off. “I don’t know.”

“Ali baby, did you throw up your food on purpose?”

She hid her face from me and nodded.

I felt a knot forming in my throat. “Why?”

“Because-- I’m fat,” she whispered.

“Oh Ali.. you’re not fat.”

She nodded. “Yes, I am.”

“No... you’re far from it. You don’t need to throw up your food... it’s not healthy. If you did want to lose weight, there’s much better ways of doing it...”

“But this is the quickest.”

“And the most dangerous.” I walked towards her and squatted down to her level, turning her face to look into her eyes. “Ali, I know it’s hard moving to a new place and trying to find friends. But to find friends, you gotta be yourself. You can’t go trying to please everyone because there’s no way that you can please everyone. People have to like you for who you are, ya know?”

She shrugged.

“Please don’t do that to yourself, Ali. Please? Your family cares about you, and hell, I care about you. You’re so much stronger than that...”

“But... I don’t want to stop,” she admitted.

“Ali, I told you that our conversation stays in this room. But technically, I have to report something like this if I see it...”

Her eyes widened. “Pleaseeee, Brian! Don’t tell my father! I don’t want to go to the crazy house!”

“Take it easy, babe. I won’t tell him this time, okay? I’m not telling anyone. Only that you passed out from a vitamin deficiency, because I have to tell him that. But please, Ali... please stop doing this to yourself. I assure you that you’ll find some friends, just give it time, and be yourself, okay?”

She hesitated, but nodded. “You’re not going to make Molly be my friend, are you?”

“I can’t make anyone be your friend, Ali. But I’m sure that Molly’s going to want to be your friend after we talk..”

“I don’t want her to be mad at me for getting her in trouble.”

“You didn’t get her in trouble... See, Molly’s different... she’s always been different. Since I’ve known her, she’s accepted everyone, always been nice to everyone, all of that stuff. And at one point in time, she didn’t fit in, either. So she knows how you feel. I don’t exactly understand why she’s been like this lately, but I’m going to talk to her about it, and that’s it. I’m leaving the decision up to her.”

Ali nodded. “Molly started talking to me once. Introduced herself in math class. Told me the stuff I needed to know about the teacher and some of the people in there. And then that afternoon I tried to sit with her at lunch and one of the other girls said ‘Oh Molly, you’re not letting that loser sit with us, are you? Don’t you know her mom left her when she was a baby?’ And Molly just looked at me, and I could see her eyes tearing up, and I was expecting her to defend me, but all she said was, ‘Yeah, why are you trying to sit with us, Ali. We don’t want you over here!’ And then one of the other girls called me fat, and that’s when I ran off, throwing my tray in the sink, and spent the lunch period in the bathroom, throwing up.”

She was nearly to tears. I was nearly to tears! I got on my knees and hugged the weeping child, rubbing her back gently. “I’m sorry, baby. I’m so so sorry.” She nodded, crying for sure this time. “You’re not fat, Ali. You’re not even close. Those girls aren’t worth it. Nobody is worth hurting yourself over, okay?”

She nodded again.

We stayed like that until her tears subsided and she sniffled, pulling away. I couldn’t imagine Molly doing that -- it wasn’t the MollyCakes I knew.

“Thanks, Brian,” she said, sniffling and standing up.

I stood as well, giving her a final hug. “If you ever need me, I’m here, okay?”

She nodded. “Okay.”

I looked at my watch and determined that it was almost closing time, then escorted Ali out of my office and went outside to look for Molly. Like I said, I knew all of the hiding places in the skating rink, but she didn’t seem to be in any of them. Then I realized that I couldn’t find her group of friends. With that in mind, I walked to the DJ booth.

“Brad... have you seen Molly?”

“Oh, yeah, she left a few minutes ago... said she was spending the night with one of her friends and to tell you she’d call later.”

I could feel the anger rising inside of me. I’d specifically said “no” she couldn’t go to her friend’s house... not after what had happened at the skating rink. And she took it upon herself to go anyway, against my wishes? This didn’t settle well inside of me, and I stormed off to my office, hurriedly counting the money and locking it in the safe. No way Molly was going to get away with this stunt. If she figured she was in trouble for the way she treated Ali, it was nothing compared to the trouble she was in now!

I locked my office door and went to Brad. “You’ll be okay closing tonight by yourselves?”

He nodded. “Sure, we’ll be okay. Gotta go check on Molly?”

“I guess you could say that,” I muttered angrily and waved goodbye, walking out the door.

I grabbed the tiny scrap of paper that Molly had scribbled the address of her friend on. I guess Molly probably wasn’t expecting me to remember that I had the address. Either that or she wasn’t expecting me to take it as far as showing up at her friend’s house. Well, whichever way, I was going to find her and she’d not be a happy camper after we got home. Not even close to a happy camper.

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