Picking Up the Pieces: Part 1Picking Up the Pieces: Part 1

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I looked down and realized I had a text from Susan.Susan: Hey JennTen minutes>>>>Jenn, are you there?Eight minutes>>>>Please answer.Five minutes>>>>I really need someone to talk to. Can I come over?>>>>Right now?Four minutesJenn: Sorry >>>>Yeah, I’m just finishing some hw >>>>What’s going on? Are you okay? Two minutesSusan: I’ll let you know. Promise.>>>>Heading there now.One minuteAftermath:These texts from Susan had me freaked out. My goal for the day was to finish up some homework and mostly veg out. The first day of practice started the next day, and I wanted to take a chance to relax before my days got too crazy. But for now, all of that was on hold. Something was up. Despite Susan and I knowing each other since middle school, we really hadn’t gotten close until we started playing on the freshman soccer team together; but at this point she was probably my best friend. Together we grew from being physically awkward, nerdy, and shy freshman to fetching…nerdy, and…a little bit more confident seniors. It wasn’t hard to tell she needed something. I just hoped she was okay.Throwing on a t-shirt that wasn’t wrinkled, I went upstairs to wait for her. It was one of the advantages to being an only child. The basement was finished. I had made it mine. It was generally pretty cozy, and because I didn’t cause trouble my parents mostly left me to my own devices. It had two sections. One was the lounge room that had a big comfy couch, a computer desk, and an ‘entertainment center’. The other was my bedroom with its own full bathroom. There were some weekends where I didn’t even have to set foot upstairs. Before I had gotten the texts, I had been working on an essay.Going to the front door to wait for Susan, I passed by the living room. Inside my mom and dad sat on the couch watching a Bears game on tv. “Hey sweetie! Do you need some lunch? There’s some leftover pizza in the fridge if you’re hungry.””Thanks, mom!” I called out to her. “Susan’s stopping by for a bit. How’s the game going?””It’s not over yet, but it isn’t looking good so far,” my dad replied glumly.”You never know,” I said, not really focused on the game.I stood awkwardly in the kitchen waiting for Susan to arrive. In an effort to kill time, I grabbed a couple plates from the cupboard, setting them on the counter and then waited. She arrived as I was flipping idly through my phone. Susan pulled the minivan she drove into the driveway and got out. When she had first gotten it I had teased her a little about her mom-mobile, but it had come in handy when bringing a group of girls to team dinners and out to the movies.As Susan approached, I opened the door for her letting her in. Her long dark hair was down over her shoulders, about halfway down her back. Today she was wearing a dark wash pair of jeans and to my small pleasure, a cute striped sweater I had gotten her for her birthday a couple months back. I tried a neutral, “Hey there.”All I got was a muted, “Hey,” almanbahis in response.She followed me to the kitchen. “Do you want some lunch?” I asked, pointing to the two plates I had set on the counter. “I was going to reheat some pizza.””Sure. That…would be good,” she said listlessly. I busied myself with setting up the slices in the toaster oven.”Susan! How are you?” we heard my mom call from the other room.She leaned around the corner, into the living room. “I’m doing well,” she replied a little more brightly than before.”I bet you’re excited for the start of soccer season tomorrow,” my dad commented.She actually smiled at that. “I really am. Hopefully the season will be better than last year,” she said. Last year we had lost the final of sectionals, giving up a last-second goal. Susan and my parents continued back and forth for a few minutes until there was a ding from the kitchen.At that Susan returned to the kitchen as I was sliding the pizza onto the plates. “I hope you like meat lovers? Can you grab these while I grab some water?”She knew the drill, and started down toward the basement. Over the past couple years we had probably been down there hundreds of times for various sleepovers, study sessions, and after school hangouts. I followed behind carrying a couple glasses of water. We both sat down on the couch and started chomping away at the pizza. I was enjoying mine, but Susan was just nibbling on it. We both sat there quietly, Susan avoiding my attempts at eye contact.I offered a, “I was just working on my personal perspective essay for Miss Carragher’s class.” She visibly flinched at the name, and had stopped moving. For a long time, neither of us moved or said anything. I could feel the tension growing.She set her plate down onto the coffee table in front of us, and looked me in the eyes. Susan had gorgeous blue eyes, but today they were a little red…from crying earlier? “Jenn, can you…can you please close the upstairs door?”This was what she texted me about. Setting my plate down, I made my way up the stairs to close the door, giving us some privacy. What was this all about? What could have happened?I sat down next to her on the couch. “Susan, what’s on your mind?” I asked as gently as I could.She took a deep breath, and briefly looked into my eyes before looking back down between us. I could see tears already welling up. “Jenn. I did something. On Friday I got a notice to go to Mr. Eriksen’s office after school.”A vague sense of dread crept up on me, “Go on.”She continued, “It started out okay, but then he told me that Miss Carragher caught me cheating on last week’s essay.””Wait, what?” I was a little confused.”I’ve been so busy with everything at school and outside of it, that I took an old essay that Lisa’s sister had. Miss Carragher hasn’t even been at the school that long. How did she find out? It doesn’t matter. She did, and she let Mr Eriksen know,” Susan continued adding details to the almanbahis yeni giriş story. I let her talk.”He told me that I had a choice. According to the guidelines he would have to tell basically everyone that I cheated. Or I could elect to receive corporal punishment.””Corporal punishment?!” I interrupted.”What was I supposed to do? If he told everyone I would lose my scholarships…maybe even my acceptance would have been revoked. Anyway, I signed a copy of a form saying I would receive clemency if I undwent corporal punishment,” Susan started to hold herself.”Go on,” I encouraged her.”Jenn, he spanked me,” she started crying.”Oh, Susan. I’m really sorry,” I told her.”That wasn’t all,” she said. “I liked it. I…really liked it, and he found out,” she said, barely above a whisper. I looked at her a little horrified. “He kept touching me and I didn’t stop him. It felt good.” Susan let out a quiet sob,”Really good. Things escalated. We…ended up having sex and I didn’t stop him. I could have. I should have told him no. I could have walked away, but I didn’t.”I could see the anguish all over her face.”Oh my God. Susan…” was all I could manage.”I saw him today, at church. You know his family goes to the same church as mine? After the service he came over to talk with my family. Like it was nothing, like he wasn’t…inside of me two days ago,” at that she just curled up into a ball and started sobbing.”Susan, I am so sorry that happened to you,” I said as I put my arms around her. “You didn’t deserve that.” I sat there rocking my best friend in my arms. “It’s going to be okay Susan. It’s going to be okay. What…what are you going to do?”She whispered, “I didn’t know what to do. I can’t just keep avoiding him forever. I sort of blocked it out, almost like it was a dream until this morning when I saw him again. Then I freaked out. Amy’s family is out of town this weekend. So I tried to get a hold of you.” Amy had been Susan’s best friend for years. They had grown up together, and while at this point Amy went to another school, Amy was still Susan’s closest friend. “I don’t know if I can do anything. The corporal punishment is allowed…and I didn’t say no to the other part. I’m so ashamed. “”What do you need right now?” I asked her.”I don’t know. Just someone to be near. Someone that I can trust,” she said looking up at me.”Susan, I promise I won’t tell anyone you don’t want me to,” I gave her a small encouraging smile. Turning around, I took a blanket that was draped over the back of the couch. Unfolding it, I wrapped it around her. She said a small “Thanks,” as I held my arms tight around her. “If you need anything Susan, I’m here for you. Just let me know.””Thank you. You don’t know how much this means to me. Is it…is it okay if I just stay here for a while? I feel safe, here…” she asked.”Yeah, do whatever you need,” I told her.I got up to grab a box of tissues and handed her one. Bringing it up to her almanbahis giriş face she blew into it, giving out a resounding HONK. I couldn’t help but laugh. She looked up at me and gave me a genuine smile for the first time today. Walking over, I brought the trash bin over and set it on the ground in front of us on the couch.”Is it okay if I finish up my homework? I still have my essay to finish, then I was going to work on making some flashcards for chem. I’ll bring my laptop over so I’ll be right here if you need me,” I told her. I saw her go a little stiff at the memory of the work for Miss Carragher’s class.”Oh, yeah…thank you. I managed to get mine done, though it took most of yesterday,” Susan said. She grabbed one of the pillows on the couch and hugged it tightly to herself. Clearly it would take a while for her to come to grips with this. I vowed to do what I can for her.Getting up, I went over to my desk to grab my laptop and school bag. As I returned to the couch, I gave her shoulder a reassuring squeeze. At my touch she sighed, and clearly relaxed a little. I settled onto the couch with my laptop and continued working on my essay.”As such, Dante’s path through the circles of Hell would have been impossible if not for the help of Virgil. Similarly I feel that if not for my own mentor…” It wasn’t my best work, but it was good enough for the assignment. By the time I was done with the essay, Susan was napping, curled up against some pillows and the arm of the couch. She looked peaceful. Not wanting to wake her just yet, I set my laptop down in front of me and gathered the plates. Sneaking upstairs, I made sure to close the door quietly behind me.Rinsing off the dishes in the sink, I placed them in the dishwasher. Behind me my mom came into the kitchen and asked, “Hey, how are you two doing down there?””To be honest mom, Susan’s pretty stressed. She’s got a lot on her plate right now,” I managed to not exactly lie.With a half frown, she said, “Maybe she should take it easy. She doesn’t have to do so much all the time.””You and I both know you’re right mom. She just doesn’t listen. If you get dinner ready, can you get some plates for Susan and I put together? Just let me know when they are ready,” I said.”Of course sweetie,” she gave me a small hug.Susan was still asleep on the couch. She looked a little angelic, with her cheeks naturally a little rosy, and with her hair splayed across her back and shoulders. I tucked a loose corner of the blanket in closer around her. When I sat down, she stirred a little, but just snuggled a little closer to the pillow. In the meantime I worked my way through the flashcards for my chemistry midterm: enthalpy, entropy, exergonic, endergonic…Not long after finishing up my studies for chem, my mom texted me saying dinner was going to be ready soon. Turning to Susan, I gently shook her shoulder, “Wake up sleepyhead.” She blinked her eyes a bit before sitting up. I could see it on her face. At first Susan smiled at me, then it was like she suddenly remembered what had happened. A look of panic overtook her face. I reached out to put my arms around her, “Susan. It’s going to be alright. I’m right here.”

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