Half Hearts

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
Life is good for a 60's teen in small-town USA....

Karen is eagerly awaiting her upcoming birthday...

Would she get the gift she wished for...???

Submitted: October 25, 2011

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Submitted: October 25, 2011

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Half Hearts

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A short story by

michelle haverkamp

The small, southern Illinois town of Brockton nestled right on the banks of the Ohio River was steeping in heat and humidity. As most of the residents were not really poor, they weren't really wealthy either. They were hard working blue-collar families and with the exception of a minute amount of rich folks, didn't have air conditioning.

As I lay in bed around dusk staring at the ceiling and daydreaming, the large window fan on the front porch could be heard vibrating throughout the house as a slightly cooler breeze found its way through the opened screened windows. Daddy had just gotten home from work so I knew that in a few minutes mama would be calling me for supper. The aroma coming from the kitchen had beans and cornbread written all over it. I knew that smell all too well for we had that cuisine on a regular basis.

Let me introduce myself. My name is Karen Peterson and I am so bored. What's a fifteen year old girl to do? Well, almost fifteen - actually fourteen but since my birthday is coming up in just a couple of days it was alright to say fifteen as far as I was concerned. I've been told all my young life that I appeared older than I really am. It must be my long, dark hair that expresses this appearance or it could be that everyone knows how we girls want to appear older than we actually are and tell us that to just make us feel better. Either way, I'm blessed. My complexion is smooth and blemish free. I hardly use any make up; maybe a little lipstick and eye shadow every now and then but that's it. Mama always checks me before leaving for school. I love my parents dearly and although we are indigent, they always provide the basic necessities and splurge for me whenever possible.

The school year always starts on the first Tuesday after Labor Day and I could hardly wait. I'm going to be a sophomore year this year and driver's education filled my mind; well almost. I must be truthful; most of my interest was focused on another subject: b-o-y-s - one in particular: Mickey Taylor.

We had registered back in August and I could hardly wait to get to my second period class. Mickey and I would be in the same biology class.

Wow, think about that! Biology together; I have heard horror stories though about how difficult it was to pass Mr. Halsten's class. We were also in fifth period class together; that was Miss Bearden's algebra class. Mickey and I were both honor roll students but making the grade seemed to be getting more difficult each year.

I have such a wonderful life and when boredom sets in, I simply start thinking about Mickey. Oh, the sound of his name drives me insane. He's on my mind both day and night. The thought of him leaves me stupid for words. He's so handsome - kind of a mix of Elvis and James Dean. Wow, I am so lucky. Mickey, Mickey, Mickey - how I loved that name; I write it everywhere; school books, notebook paper and even on the palms of my hand sometimes.

I think I'm in love but cautiously aware that many other girls would love to have him as their boyfriend. I believe that Mickey feels the same about me and everyone tells us that we make a great couple. A few of my friends warn me frequently about getting too close to Mickey. They tell me that he's known to be a heart breaker but I don't believe it. I'm aware of a couple of past break-ups but without being too judgemental, I knew of the girls' reputations also.

There was one slight problem however, with our relationship. I'm from the poorer side of town; you might say across the tracks located in old shanty town near the river. Mickey lives several blocks away northward past uptown in a much nicer part of town and only a couple blocks from our high school which makes his walk everyday really convenient. Sometimes his folks drive him to school in really bad weather but I have to walk regardless. Mama can't drive and even if she could, Daddy needs the car for work every day. It was an old beat up jalopy but it helps keep us clothed and fed. Daddy worked really hard at the local glove factory. I had a chance to visit him at work one day. His profession is a palm cutter - one of the best but most dangerous jobs. The huge overhead dyes come down with such force cutting each palm of the glove that hand and eye co-ordination are essentials for his safety. Daddy is so skilled and his seniority has allowed him to hold one of the better jobs in the plant. The plant is so oppressively hot. Huge fans mounted on each end side of the plant are used but the hot air seems to just swirl around stirring up lint from the leather. One really good thing about the plant was the wonderful aroma of leather.

Mama and daddy were also really concerned that Mickey would hurt me one day due to our differing family backgrounds but they didn't harp on me a lot about it. They know how I feel about him. Our parents have met at a couple of school functions and respect is mutual amongst them.

My excursion to school everyday was just that - an excursion! Since I lived in the town limits as far as geographic locations go, bus rides weren't offered; only those students classified as county residents could ride the bus.

Every day started real early for me so after my morning check and peck on the cheek from mama, I gathered my books and took off for school.

The daily stroll included a stop along the way at my best friend Becky Harper's house. We make the long trek together regardless of weather conditions.

Becky was a real sweet girl with the red hair and freckles combo. Our daily dialogue usually centered on Mickey and Becky's boyfriend, Richard. Becky keeps telling me about a suspected dark side that she believed Mickey had, but being young, somewhat foolish, happy and in love; if this character trait exists, I can't see it. I simply dismiss any negative remarks made by anyone about my Mickey.

Becky and I were in band together and she also sang in the choir but not me. I can't carry a tune in a bucket as they say. Band was so much fun. Becky plays clarinet and I'm in the percussion section. I play every percussion instrument with ease but preferr the snare drum. I earned second snare status last year. I also love marching in local parades, going to regional band contests and performing at all of the home football and basketball games.

Today Becky asked, "what'cha gettin' for your birthday Karen?" I hadn't even been kissed yet by Mickey or any other boy for that matter so, I replied, "oh, I don't know, but I know what I'd love to get." We both laughed as the long walk to school almost was nearing its end.

Friday's are every kids' favorite day, but was really special for Becky and me. Not only did Friday's start the weekend but it meant "dance day" during Physical Education class.

The boys and girls classes gather in the gym, the teachers roll out a juke box and the boys pick the girls three Friday's each month but similar to 'Sadie Hawkins Day', we girls get to pick our dance partners one Friday out of the month.

We sit on opposing sides of the gym and when one of the teachers blow a whistle, the boys or girls race to the other side to pick their partner for the day. Mickey always picked me and vice versa. I do fear other girls getting to him first thus losing my chance to gaze closely into his eyes and being held by his strong arms. He is such a good dancer. I really love the slow dance songs and Mickey prefers them too but he can twist and dance other fast songs with the best of them.

During dance class every student is closely monitored by teachers roaming the floor watching our every move. They make us keep an arms length distance from one another. It's like they have an automatic tape measure and if they see a couple dancing closer than what they perceive as not being arm's length, they blow the whistle again and point at that couple. We all know what that means.

Friday afternoons meant stopping by Becky's house on the way home to watch our favorite television show. My parents couldn't afford a television set but Becky's family had one so it was routine for Friday afternoon stopovers at her place. We were hooked on a local dance show presented live each Friday afternoon. The program was entitled 'Dancing Party' and was broadcast from a city about twelve miles away just across the old Ohio River bridge in Kentucky. Illinois high school students were invited on occasion to appear on the show. Brockton High School has even been featured on the channel 8 program several times.

Becky and I danced and sang to all of the songs. My favorite song was "Sea of Love" by Phil Phillips and The Twilights but "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me" by Mel Carter came in at an extremely close second. Everyone knows that my second love is music.

Since my birthday was just around the corner Mickey had already asked me what I'd like to have. I dropped the hint to him before school started.

Topping my list is a half-heart! Half-hearts are the craze. Although Beatles' wigs, Beatles' dolls, Barbies' and Kens' shared in popularity; it was the half-heart that's the have to have nowadays. Both halves fit together to make one complete heart. They are made of sterling silver and mounted on neck chains for each individual and the words - I Love You are engraved across both halves. Apart from one another the inscription doesn't make a lot of sense, but when placed beside one another the meaning becomes very clear. The whole heart is packaged in an elongated box wrapped around a small plastic neck to give the appearances of actual wear. Every jeweler in town has them displayed in their store windows.

I am so anxious to get half of Mickey's heart for my birthday or maybe that eagerly anticipated kiss on the cheek at the very least.

On weekends Mickey works for his uncle Eddie Parks running the projector at the Brockton Cinema right uptown on Fifth and Market streets plus he gets a good allowance each week. Purchasing the half-hearts jewelry wouldn't be a problem for him. I know that he wants to give me a gift or he wouldn't have asked me already.

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Happy, Happy Birthday Baby!

The day is finally here and I wasn't aware that my parents had invited Mickey and a few of my friends over for a birthday party. Supper had ended and mama told me to do my homework while she finished icing my birthday cake. While back in my room daddy was standing guard on the front porch letting my friends in quietly as mama hummed along in the kitchen. The cake smelled so good!

It was my favorite; a yellow cake with chocolate icing. Mama made the best cakes and homemade icing. She usually adds a few; colorful sprinkles to create a more festive look.

It wasn't long before mama summoned me to the dining room and as I approached, the singing of the familiar 'Happy Birthday' refrain filled the entire house. I was brought to tears of joy. I couldn't believe it....wow - what a surprise!

Daddy was seated at the head of the table. Becky and Richard sat on one side of the table and Mickey was seated on the other side beside an empty chair and mama sat at the other end of the table. Mama said, "come on honey, don't be bashful now.....take your seat." I courteously obliged.

After blowing out the candles on the beautifully decorated cake and making my silent wish, Daddy stood up and stated, "all right girls, go help mama with the punch and I'll slice the cake."

I was so eager to open my gifts; especially Mickey's. Daddy shouted, "Karen, honey, it's time to open your gifts."

So I started by opening the gifts from Becky and Richard first.

Becky gave me a cute, short gown and slippers set and Richard honored my day by giving me a 'Ringo' - Beatles doll. He knows how much I love playing drums and listening to the 'Beatles.'

Mama and daddy gave me a beautiful, pink, angora sweater and a cute teddy bear. I gave hugs to everyone and added kisses for mama and daddy.

I'm sure the eagerness to open Mickey's gift could be seen in my eyes as I reached to grasp it. Well, I must say; I was quite surprised after opening his gift.

Enclosed in a pretty birthday card was a photograph of Mickey and me taken at last year's homecoming dance. It was really very nice but just not what I had wished for. I hope the disappoinment doesn't show.

While enjoying refreshments, we played my favorite board game - 'Sorry' - for an hour or so and then Daddy took Becky and Richard home. Mama took care of cleaning things up in the kitchen while Mickey and I sat around talking and listening to my transistor radio. His parents were to pick him up a little later.

Since there was a some daylight left, I asked mama if Mickey and I could go for a walk around the block. Mama replied, "ok, but make sure you're back within thirty minutes!"

My aunt lived next door and was sitting on her front porch as we left the house. There's absolutely no privacy at all in a small town but right now; I'm not complaining.

We had just gotten to the swings located only a half-block away on an elementary schoolyard. Just as I was getting into one of the swings, Mickey started fumbling around in his jacket pocket.

He removed a daintily, gift-wrapped object from his pocket and handed it to me. He remarked excitedly, "go ahead; open it."

Mickey seemed as eager for me to open the gift as I was. The wrapping was so pretty.....'Happy Birthday' was written in small, pink lettering completely covering a white box. A pretty, pink, string-like bow was stuck on the top. I was so excited!

I felt my heart race as I fumbled around attempting to open the gift like a small child on Christmas morning. I was extremely careful trying not to tear the paper or bow because I wanted to add them to my hope chest. When I removed the top; cotton covered the contents.

I took the cotton off holding it on the bottom of the package,removed the object, held it up and dumbfounded, asked, "Mickey, what .... ?"

Before I could finish my question, he quickly but carefully grabbed the scalpel with his right hand, immediately covered my mouth with his left hand and placed the scalpel rigid against my chest.

I began trembling with fear and tensed up. I couldn't scream! I felt and heard my skin being cut as my life slowly began ebbing away.

The last thing I remember hearing was Mickey telling me with a demonic-like voice, "K a r e n... here's your half -heart!"

THE END


© Copyright 2017 LC Price. All rights reserved.

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