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The Truant Risk

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 1 (v.1) - THE FINAL STRAW

Submitted: March 13, 2019

Reads: 1465

Comments: 3

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Submitted: March 13, 2019

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Based on a true story.

This story is told through the eyes of a young 13-year-old runaway living on the city streets of Detroit in the late 1960’s in which she learns the hard way that every bad decision has a consequence, sometimes very dangerous ones.

 

Today was the day that thirteen-year-old KariAnn Randall’s world would unexpectedly crash down around her, dramatically changing the direction of her life’s path in one fell swoop.  It was a mid-April day in 1969 that had started out like any other day.  If only Mrs. Thompson hadn’t seen her skipping school with Dave at the mall, she wouldn’t be in this terrible mess now.

KariAnn wished she could go back in time and undo the bad decision she rashly made this morning when she spied Dave’s van in the parking lot of Baker Jr. High as she stepped off the school bus.  “Hey, KariAnn, over here.” Dave waved her over from the rolled down driver side window.  Dave was KariAnn’s first serious boyfriend, and her parents had good reasons for hating him.  He had three strikes against him in her parent’s eyes right from day one when she had first brought him home to meet them.  Those three things were his shoulder-length long hair, the fact he was sixteen making him three years her senior, and he drove a decked out Chevy van equipped with everything including a bed in back.  Their disapproval of him was really confirmed after doing a police background check and finding he had an arrest record for possession and selling of marijuana.

“Hi, Dave, what’s up?” KariAnn asked surprised to see him.  “You know the bell’s going to ring in five minutes, and your first period class started a half hour ago!”

“I know.  Walk around and hop in,” Dave said leaning over and opening the passenger door from the inside and waiting for her to climb in. “KariAnn, I’d like you to meet Brad and Mary.  Brad is my cousin, and his girlfriend, Mary, goes to the junior high in Clawson.”

Turning around in her seat, KariAnn acknowledged them by saying, “Hi, nice to meet you."  She was now starting to get intrigued.  "So, Dave, you still haven’t told me what’s up.”

“Well, we’ve decided to screw school today, and have a private party, just the four of us, and raise a little hell.  Come on,” Dave pleaded, “you wanna have some fun?  It’s easy to forge an excuse from your mother saying you were sick, and you’re not expected home till 3:30 this afternoon.  That’s seven and half hours we could be together, and then I could drop you off at the bus stop afterwards.  What do you say?”

“I say, let’s go!” KariAnn said with enthusiasm, knowing Dave was right that it would be easy to pull off, especially since she had a good attendance record and high grades.  It all sounded so exciting, and as long as she got home on time, no one would be the wiser.  Besides, Mary wasn’t afraid to take the risk, and she didn’t want to look like a square or a fraidy-cat.

“That’s the spirit!” Dave said showing he was pleased with a quick peck on the cheek.  “Didn’t I tell you guys she’d go?  That’s my old lady!”

“She sure is pretty!” Brad smiled, and then added after getting elbowed in the ribs by Mary, “Just as pretty as my old lady!”

“Say, Brad, why don’t we take the girls back to my place.” Dave suggested.  “It’s only a few blocks over; my parents are both working, and my kid sister's in school.  There’s always lots of booze in the house, and we could stay there for awhile, catch a buzz, and later go crusin’.”

After everyone agreed it sounded like a great idea, Dave exited the school parking lot, and a few minutes later they pulled into his driveway.  Little did anyone know that Lori, Dave’s bratty 10-year-old sister, was home playing hooky too.

“Lori!” Dave exclaimed almost shitting his pants.  “Why the hell aren’t you in school?” he demanded to know.

“I didn’t feel like going.” Lori answered flatly.

“Well, I’ve got news for you young lady.  You’re going to school if I have to drag you there myself, and escort you to your class!” Dave said meaning every word, and fearing she was going to mess up all his plans for the day.

“I’m not going, and you can’t make me.” Lori tested.

“Then your brother and I will tell your mom and dad when they get home.” Brad said backing up his cousin’s threat with one of his own.

“Oh, no you won’t,” Lori teased, “because then I’d tell on all of you.  You’re supposed to be in school too smarty pants, and if you don’t have to go then I’m not either!”  About a half hour later, they were dropping Lori off in front of the elementary school after convincing her that they were going to school too as it wasn’t worth risking all of them getting into trouble.  Thankfully, Lori, bought it, and Dave forged a note for her being late.  Once they were certain she was going to stay put, they headed back to the house to party now that they had the place all to themselves.

A short time later, they were all snug and cozy drinking screw drivers, and jamming down to Dave’s new Steppenwolf album up in the attic that Dave converted into what he called his ‘stone room’.  There were many posters tacked up on the walls and ceiling, and they glowed under the florescent black lights.  Strobe lights were hooked up to the stereo speakers, and flashed different colors to the beat of the acid rock playing.  This was KariAnn and Mary’s first time up there, because Dave’s parents wouldn’t permit the guys to take girls up to the attic where they couldn’t be chaperoned.

“Tell me, KariAnn, what do you think of my stone room?" Dave asked.  “I know you’ve been dying to see it for a long time now.”

“It’s the bomb, Dave!” she answered showing she was impressed.  “I see now why you love to spend so much time up here!”

“Dave, how about rolling us a joint out of our stash?” Brad asked, tossing him a baggie of pot and a pack of Zig Zags.

“Sure thing.” he said pulling out a paper and filling it with pot.

“Mary, didn’t Dave say you go to the junior high in Clawson?” KariAnn asked wanting to get to know her a little better, and make conversation.

“Yes, but next year I’ll be a freshman over at the new high school they just built.” said Mary.

“Me too, only I’ll be going in the ninth grade next fall at Troy High where Dave goes now.” KariAnn told her.  “Say, maybe you know my cousin.  She goes to your school.  Her name is Vickie Billips.”

Mary shook her head.  “Can’t say that I do.”

“I wish I could be so lucky.” KariAnn sighed.  “I think my cousin gets off on other people’s misery as she’s quick to get someone in trouble whenever she sees an opportunity to tell on someone.”

“Sounds just like my snotty little sister.” Dave said lighting up the joint, and then passing it to Brad who took a big hit on it before giving it to Mary. 

“Here, KariAnn.” Mary said holding the joint out to her after inhaling a drag.  Although KariAnn smoked cigarettes behind her parent’s back, she had never tried pot. Thinking quick on her feet, she made up an excuse that she got high enough just breathing the smoke in the air.  Mary shrugged it off, and handed the joint back to Dave.

“Is anyone ready for another drink?” Dave asked passing the joint to Brad, and noticing his glass was almost empty.

“Yeah, it looks like we’re all about ready for another one.” Brad observed looking around at everyone’s glass.  “Let’s refill after we finish this number we’re smoking.” he said taking another toke off the joint.  After polishing off another screwdriver, Brad and Mary disappeared downstairs, and Dave explained to KariAnn after they left that they were headed for his bedroom to get it on.

Pulling KariAnn close to him, Dave pushed her down on the mattress on the floor they’d been sitting on.  Unbuttoning her blouse and pulling up her dainty B-cup bra, he tenderly fondled her young naked breasts as he kissed her, making her nipples stand up hard and erect from the pleasure she was feeling.  “KariAnn, I want to ball you so bad I can hardly stand it anymore.” Dave moaned.

“Oh, Dave, I know and I’m sorry.” she apologized pulling her bra back down in place.  “You know I love you and would like to do it too, but we just can’t.  We’ve talked about it before.  You agreed remember?”

“Yeah, I remember, but Brad says Mary goes all the way with him!” he protested sarcastically.

“Well, good for Mary!  Let her be the one to worry about getting knocked up!” KariAnn retorted hotly at his cheap tactic.

“Hey, babe, you’re right and I’m sorry.  I know that wasn’t fair of me, but you turn me on something fierce.  I’m only human you know.” he said reaching out for her and planting a tender kiss on her lips.  Just then they heard Brad yell up from the bottom of the stairs, “Hope you guys are decent, because we’re coming up.”

It was almost lunchtime when they whipped the van into the parking lot of Mary’s school.  Mary and KariAnn each exchanged nervous looks, both waiting to see if the other would change her mind and back out while there was still time.  Soon the classrooms would empty out into the halls with students and teachers.

“Well, girls, this is it.  I still think you won’t go through with it.” Brad egged them on.

“Just put your money where your mouth is!  Right, KariAnn?” Mary said turning toward her.

“Right!” she answered as her adrenalin started pumping.  KariAnn had reluctantly agreed to do it after Mary accepted the guys’ dare.  This had to be nothing short of shear madness what they were about to do she thought.  Here they were at the school that Mary was skipping classes from, and also the very same one her tattletale cousin attended; and they were actually planning on pulling this thing off.  The bet was ten dollars each if they’d put on Halloween masks, and streak naked down the hall where the guys would be waiting for them ready to drive off in the van.

“I don’t know about you, but I’m ready.” Mary said positioning the Cinderella mask over her face.

“I’m not so sure I am, but let’s get this over with.” KariAnn said behind her Snow White disguise.  “You guys had better get this van over there fast, because it won’t take my legs long to carry me there!”

Brad jumped back to open the side door, and shouted, “Run!” as Cinderella and Snow White hoped out and ran bare-assed on a dead gallop to the door.

“Remember, go left.” Mary yelled reaching the door first.

“Gotcha!” KariAnn said at her heels.  They no sooner got inside when suddenly the bell rang, and the click of classroom doors opening immediately followed.  Students stepped out of their way, and cheered them on as they ran by which helped to boost their already flowing adrenalin.  The hall hadn’t seemed very long at the speed they were booking it, and upon exiting out the side hall doors of the school, they could see the van flying towards them with the side door still open.

“Did you see that, Dave?  They really did it!” Brad marveled as the girls jumped in, and they tore off in the van leaving a cloud of dust behind them.

“We sure did!” KariAnn said stepping back into her blouse and skirt.  “And I do believe you owe both of us ten big smack-a-roos!” she laughed holding her hand out.

“I’m starved!  Aren’t you, Brad?” Dave asked handing KariAnn his ten dollars, and Brad paying his ten to Mary.  “What do you say we ask the girls to buy us lunch at the Oakland Mall since they just cleaned us out?”

After they each put away a Slim Jim, fries and a Coke at the Big Boy Restaurant in the mall, and laughed over how funny the girls had looked, they decided to browse around awhile in the stores.  Mrs. Thompson had seemed to of appeared from out of nowhere.  Spying KariAnn, she walked over to her and her unsuspecting friends, and with a threatening menace in her voice said, “KariAnn Randall!  Just you wait until I get home and tell your mother what you’re up to!”  And with that, she stuck her self-righteous, pudgy nose in the air and walked away.

“Oh, shit! KariAnn said turning pale.

“Who the hell was that fat bitch?” Dave asked.

“Only Mrs. Thompson, my nosey next door neighbor and one of mom’s regular coffee clutches.” she said trying not to succumb to the surge of sudden panic that gripped hold of her.  “Fuck, Dave, I’m dead!  Just wait till my parents find out I’m still seeing you!  God, I am in so much trouble!” she shuddered.  “You better take me home now.”

 

She was thankful when her dad telephoned he wouldn’t be coming home till late, because then she could slip off to bed before her mother dropped the bomb on him about her skipping school and spending the whole time with Dave.  She knew she was in big trouble!  Playing hooky from school was bad enough, however, getting caught seeing Dave again behind their backs and against their expressed wishes would surely guarantee her the ultimate of drastic measures.

She had been asleep a couple hours when she was awakened by the sound of a loud thump, followed by breaking glass, as something knocked over and hit the floor.  Mom must have told him she thought as she sat up quietly in bed to see if she could hear what was being said.

“I won’t have it, Julie!” she heard her father saying.  “I just can’t see how sending KariAnn away is the answer.”  This was much worse than KariAnn had imagined would happen, and quietly she crept out of bed on tip toes to crack open the bedroom door to better hear how her fate was being decided.

“Keep your voice down or you’ll wake the kids up.”  Julie hushed him, and after a brief pause to be sure everyone was still sleeping, she continued in a slightly lower voice.  “Well, we have to do something, Bob.  We’ve already tried talking to her, grounding her, cutting off her allowance, and even beating her doesn’t work.  I was just starting to trust her again after her little stunt about a month ago and what happens?  I get stabbed in the heart again.  I’m telling you I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised right now if she were pregnant and taking drugs!” her mother accused angrily.  “Hell, we already know she smokes cigarettes and Dave takes drugs, and you did catch them sleeping together in back of his van that time she lied about staying with Sally and spent the whole night with him.  And now she’s skipping school to be with him.  What do you need, Bob, to convince you, a ton of bricks to fall on your head perhaps?”

“In case you forgot, both of them were fully dressed under that blanket when we found them, and I firmly believe that KariAnn is too smart to mess with drugs regardless of who else is doing them.” her father said coming to her rescue.  It always seemed that no matter what she did or how bad it was, she could always count on her father to go to bat for her in time of need.

“Okay, so they were dressed at the time you got there, but you and I both know you would have ripped that boy’s head off if that policeman hadn’t of gone with you.” her mother said scoring a point.

“So you suggest then we just lock her up and throw away the key at the first sign of real trouble?  Can’t you see, Julie, how that would only be copping out of our responsibility as parents?”

“For God’s sake, Bob!  We’re not locking her up nor copping out.  Vista Maria is a fine boarding school, not a jail with bars on the windows, and I think the nuns might be able to reach her where we’ve somehow failed.  Besides, I honestly feel the only way we’ll get her to take her mind off this Dave and thinking night and day about boys is to get her into a private all girls’ school.  I can’t go on worrying about her every time she leaves my sight.”

“Come on, honey, KariAnn is only thirteen and going through a lot of changes at her age.  I admit she’s disappointed me too from time to time, but wouldn’t you agree that she’s a long way from being a hard-core juvenile delinquent?  And she does help you out around the house when nobody else will, and never fails to bring home a report card full of A’s.  Don’t these things count for anything?” he asked her.

“There you go again, Bob, taking her side as you usually do.  Oh, sure she’s helpful, but don’t we pay her a substantial weekly allowance for it?  As for her being plenty smart, you’ll never hear an argument from me.  In fact, she’s so damn clever and smart, I don’t trust her any farther than I can pick her up and throw her.  I only wish other people could see through that little miss innocent act of hers.  I can see she has you buffaloed too.” she protested.

“All I know, Julie, is we can’t just give up being parents when the going gets rough.” Bob retorted.  “What will we do when the other girls hit their teens; send them off to an all-girl’s Catholic boarding school too?”

“Hell, I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but one thing’s for sure,” she warned, “if you keep sticking your damn loyal, trusting neck out for her, one of these days she’ll chop it off!  Just you mark my words!”

“Damn it, Julie!  I don’t know how much more I can take of being placed in the middle and forced to choose sides between the two of you.” he sighed in despair.

“That’s just peachy keen!  Well, let me tell you something, Bob, I can’t take any more of this either.  That’s why she either packs up for Vista Maria or I’m leaving!” Julie threatened, “See you in the morning.  I’m going to bed.”

With tears running down her face, KariAnn quickly closed the cracked open door, and hopped back into bed.  Oh my God, what had she done?  She knew this time she went too far, and had put her father in an impossible position to win.  After all, he had to think of what was best for the rest of the family too, and there was only one choice he could make now.

KariAnn remembered back the last time her mother had made good that same threat.  She grabbed the checkbook and the car, and took off for parts unknown for three seemingly endless days.  Her poor father simply fell apart, and seemed totally lost without her.  He would stay home from work moping around the house during the day while the kids were in school in hopes she would call.  Come evening he would turn off all the lights in the living room, put on a stack of mom’s favorite record albums on the stereo, drink one beer after another in the dark, and quietly cry himself to sleep in his chair.  It broke KariAnn’s heart to see how much her dad was hurting, especially since she felt it was likely her fault somehow that her mom left.  She had hated her mom for pulling such a cruel power play, but hoped she would return soon so the family could get back to a normal routine and break away from the chaos everyone was suddenly plunged into.  When her mom had finally walked in the door as if she had only stepped out to the store, the entire family was ready to promise her anything, and KariAnn knew it was Vista Maria here I come.

 

The raging war between KariAnn and her mother started festering almost nine months earlier when at her aunt’s house she regretfully showed her cousin, Vickie, a dirty drawing she did.  It was of two magpies, resembling the cartoon characters Heckle and Jeckle, exposing their naked anatomies, labeling one a teacher she hated and the other the junior high principal.  KariAnn had no idea that Vickie had back stabbed her by giving the drawing to her mother until after they reached home.

Her father hadn’t yet gotten home from work, and her three younger sisters ran straight from the car to the next-door neighbor’s yard to join their friends already playing outside.  They had no sooner got in the house, after putting her sleeping baby brother to bed, when her mother retrieved the drawing from her purse and presented it to KariAnn.

“I would like to know what the hell the meaning of this is!” she exclaimed as she dangled it in front of her.

“Nothing, mom, really.” she said getting worried.  “It was only supposed to be funny that’s all.”

“Well, let me show you just exactly how funny I think it is!” she yelled as she struck KariAnn alongside the head knocking her to the floor.

“I’m sorry, mom, honest I am!” KariAnn said as she looked up with tears in her eyes too frightened to move.

“I just bet you are!  Sorry you got caught is more like it.” she said cuffing her again.  “You, KariAnn, are just like your father,” she compared her, “and you ought to be locked up like he is.  You’re both sick and perverted!”

“Mom, I said I was sorry,” KariAnn managed to say between sobs, “but what are you talking about?  What’s wrong with being like dad?’

“Not a damn thing if we were talking about the same man, but I was referring to your real father, Sean McGuire.” disgust creeping into her voice at the mention of his name.

“My real father?” she said in total disbelief, “But dad has always been my dad.  I don’t understand.”

“Well, maybe it’s about time you do understand.  I met your father, Sean, at a bar when I was only nineteen, and he invited me to a party he said he was throwing back at his apartment.  Only there was no party, and I got raped!  When I discovered I was pregnant, I threatened to go to the authorities and have him deported back to Ireland if he didn’t marry me.”

“You mean you got pregnant with me when he raped you?” she asked in total shock, but already figuring out the anwser.

“Who else do you think?  Now shut up and let me finish.” KariAnn was not about to argue with her, and still sitting on the floor, she let her mother painfully continue.  “Anyway to make a long story short,” she went on, “the marriage was naturally a disaster.  If Sean wasn’t drinking himself into oblivion, he was bouncing me off the walls, or ordering me to get you to stop crying before he went in to shut you up himself.  Not too long after you were born, I divorced him when he was sent off to Jackson State Prison for kidnapping and raping three women and a sixteen-year-old girl.  I left Pontiac where we were living to escape the dirty looks and whispers, and got a job in Clawson working in a shoe store.  That’s where I met Bob, and we were married before you were quite two.  I always feared you might inherit his sickness, and now I can see I was right.”

“I promise, mom, I’ll never as long as I live become like him, and I didn’t mean to do anything wrong.” KariAnn told her sincerely.

“I plan to make sure of it, and by the time I’m through with you, you’ll never want to pick up a pencil to draw such filth again!”

“No, mom, please!” she begged as her mother lifted her up off the floor by her long dark brown hair.  “Please stop!  I won’t do it again!” KariAnn screamed as she crashed into the wall her mom threw her up against.  Her mom had lost all control, and was beating on her wildly with clenched fists when her father walked in and pulled her off still swinging away.

“Go out to the car, KariAnn, and wait for me.” he said firmly taking charge.

KariAnn was more than happy to oblige, and a couple minutes later he followed her to the car and they backed out of the driveway.  “Here,” he said reaching in his pocket and extending a cigarette to KariAnn who was still softly crying, “I know you smoke, and maybe it will help.”

Snot ran down from her nose, and she wiped it on her sleeve, before taking it.  KariAnn had never before openly smoked in front of her dad, but she lit the cigarette quite grateful he had offered it.  It had helped to calm her some, and she’d completely stopped crying now.  Her dad lit up a Winston too, and after a few puffs on it broke the silence.

“What do you say we grab us a coffee at the Clock Restaurant and talk?” he suggested.

“Okay” was all she could say, and she dragged again on the cigarette trembling between her shaky fingers.

They pulled into the parking lot of the Clock, and Mr. Randall parked their olive green Grand Prix.  Looking over at KariAnn, he fished for his handkerchief and handed it to her.  “You’d better take this and fix yourself up in the mirror before we go in.  Your running eyes and nose made quite a mess of your make-up, and could possibly frighten everyone in the place.” he smiled down at her and gently kissed her forehead.

“I see what you mean.” she smiled back after taking a quick assessment of herself in the rear view mirror.

Once inside, they could see the restaurant was starting to fill up as the dinner crowd rushed in.  The hostess walked over to greet them, and they followed her to a booth just cleared off by the busboy.

“Coffee?” she asked placing menus and water in front of them.

“Yes, if you would please.  Bring us two cups, one black for me, and she takes cream and sugar.” he replied, and then turned to KariAnn.  “Would you like anything to eat while we’re here?”

“No thanks, dad, coffee is fine.” she answered, and the girl picked the menus back up and walked away.  “but I would like another cigarette if that’s okay.”

He took out his pack and lighter, and placed them in front of her on the table.  “Help yourself, but after today it still stands what I said I would do if I were to catch you smoking red-handed.” he said with a half smile.

She tried to visualize herself eating a whole pack of cigarettes, and returning his smile said, “Gotcha!  I’ll do my damnedest not to let you catch me.”

The waitress came with their coffee, and then hurried off to give water and menus to some new people just seated in her section.  They were finally alone now, and they both knew it was time to put the small talk aside and get down to discussing what happened today.

“KariAnn, you’re going to have to talk to me.  Right now I’m your only ace in the hole, and I can’t help you if I don’t know what the problem is.” he said seriously.

“I drew a dirty cartoon picture and showed it to Vickie,” KariAnn began to explain, “and she gave it to mom behind my back.  It was supposed to be funny, but mom sure didn’t think so and now neither do I.”

“So that must be what she stuffed in my pocket before I left.” he said pulling it out and unfolding it for the first time to have a look.  KariAnn blushed as he looked up from the drawing and chuckled, “Well then you’re both wrong, because it is sort of funny.  You mean she beat the living hell out of you for this?”

“Yes, and she said I was sick and perverted just like my real father,” KariAnn told him softly staring down into her coffee, and then looking up said, “but I’m not like him!  How can I be like someone I don’t even know?  He sounds like such a horrible man, and I don’t want him to be my father!”

“I must say that was extremely cruel and unfair of your mother to say what she did, and blurt out about Sean in a moment of anger.  I’m truly sorry for that, and I know it had to deeply hurt you to hear about it that way.” he said as the moisture collected in his eyes.  “I always knew someday we’d have to tell you, but as time went on it grew harder and harder.  I want you, honey, to know I fell in love with you almost the same time I did with your mother, and I’ve always loved you, KariAnn, like you were my own.”  A tear slipped out of his wet eyes and he confessed, “Your mother had wanted to tell you sooner, but I said no.  I guess I was afraid you wouldn’t love me anymore, or the first time I’d try to reprimand you for something you’d turn on me and say you didn’t have to listen to me because I wasn’t your father.”

“Please don’t cry, dad.” she comforted, her eyes filling up again too.  “I’ll always love you.” she promised.  “I know it takes more to being a father than just planting the seed.  Anyone can get someone pregnant, but a father is someone like you.  You’re the only dad my heart has ever known, and if nothing else, I think I love you more now than ever.”

“I guess I should have had a little more faith in you.  You’re a lot more understanding and mature than I gave you credit.  It’s a damn shame Julie isn’t a little more like you.  Come on, let’s go home and try to patch things up with your mother.” he said throwing some small change on the table and picking up the check.  “Try not to judge her too harshly.  She has her share of problems too, and sex seems pretty high on the list.  I do know she loves you very much, and must be feeling pretty damn rotten about now.”

 

That had taken place back around the end of July in ’68 just a short week after KariAnn turned thirteen, and now nine months later it looked like her mother had finally won as she sat in her room staring at the small suitcase she’d packed for Vista Maria.


© Copyright 2019 Katie McDougal. All rights reserved.

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