The morning came, and Jesse snuck out just before sunrise. I got dressed for school; and very delicately, I wrapped a green scarf around my sinewy throat. My mother called me downstairs.
When our eyes connected, I could see a burning question resting upon her lips. She immediately expected something. And like a hawk, she cued in on the scarf wrapped so meticulously about my neck.
“You know…” she said, putting an inquisitive finger to her bottom lip, “I haven’t seen that thing since I bought it for you two years ago.”
“Well… It’s cold out there, mom. I need something around my neck to keep me warm,” I tittered.
“That’s true, but… I usually have to beg you to wear one. And even then, you never do.”
“Well, what can I say? I guess I’m just taking your advice this time,” I said, smiling nervously.
“Alright, cut the act,” she said, folding her arms. “What did you do?”
“Do? I didn’t do anything.”
“Give me that scarf,” she demanded, holding out her hand.
“Mom, I don’t have time for this! I’m gonna be late for school,” I whined.
“Jennifer… give me the scarf.”
I looked up into her eyes; the big, brown orbs danced around angrily. I reluctantly untied the scarf and handed it to my mother. Then, I solemnly awaited her judgment.
My hair fell down over my shoulders, shielding my neck.
“Hm… I could’ve sworn…” she said, distantly inspecting the right side of my neck--the wrong side. “Go on out to the car…. You’re gonna be late for class.”
I quickly picked up my book bag and headed to the car. That was close… it was too close. I put my scarf back on and waited for my mother.
“Have fun at school,” she said, stopping in front of the building.
“I will,” I said, unbuckling my seatbelt.
“Wait a second,” she said, reaching her hands out towards me. “Your collar is uneven--”
“No, I can fix it!”
“Nonsense,” she said, quickly folding it down. And then, she gasped… I closed my eyes tightly and felt her fold down the scarf.
“Jenni… what in the--”
“Oh my god, Jennifer…!” she said in a quivering and disturbed voice. “A hickey…? You’re letting him give you hickeys?!”
“Jennifer!!” she screamed, pushing the scarf down further. “It’s purple! Why is it so purple?!”
“Because mom, I didn’t--”
She banged her hands on the dashboard and then rested her head upon the steering wheel.
“Mom… I didn’t mean for it to happen--”
“Are you having sex with this boy…?”`
“I said--" she hesitated. "Are you having sex… with this boy?”
I gritted my teeth… My mom wanted the truth, but that’s not what she needed… I could see that… I opened my mouth, and I lied.
“No…” I whispered.
She exhaled heavily and placed a hand to her worried brow. “So, you’re just experimenting with him a little… with kissing…?”
“Yes…” I said bashfully.
“Nothing more than that?”
I lied to my mother with a straight face, and it hurt to see her relieved expression. But, I couldn’t show any remorse or guilt, lest she realize that I had been untruthful.
“I’m sorry, mom…” I said, jaded eyes filling with mist.
“No, you shouldn’t be,” she said, covering my neck with the scarf again. “It’s my fault… We should talk more.”
I hung my head in shame and rubbed my arm feverishly. “I guess I’ll see you after school?” I said, refusing to make direct eye contact.
“We’ll continue this at home…”
I closed my eyes tightly and stepped out of the car. Something within me knew that this wouldn’t end well. My mother never acted so coolly, well, not unless she was really thinking hard about something. I refrained from looking behind me when walking into the building. And soon, I heard her pull off.