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Tuesday, 29 May 2012 01:36

Free Toy Inside

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“Let’s get you pregnant,” Dustin said as he led Sammy by her hand to behind the stadium. “Then they can’t keep us apart.”

“Our families hate each other, though,” she said, cheeks drawn and pale above the elastic fringe of her Junior Varsity cheerleader collar.

“If we have a baby, we’ll be our own family.” He set her on the exercise pads thrown out by the dumpster. Sharp smells of locker room garbage draped them like the shadow of the athletic building. Everything seemed damp, even in the midsummer dusk.

But Sammy drew Dustin so close she could only smell him. The streetlamps rimming the Parkway were a halo over the building. Each new part of one another discovered in their clawing appeared like a blessing.

“It’s something we’ll share,” Dustin breathed into her mouth as he opened the cotton under her skirt. “They can’t take it away.”

Sammy smiled against his tongue. They’d shared so much since they met.

Shared Happy Meal toys on their first outing, to the McDonalds where Sammy worked. He gave her Grimace in a car. She gave him Hamburglar.

Shared stolen moments in the roller rink bathroom. He gave her hickeys that got her grounded. She gave him her unlimited cell phone minutes to get them through the nights.

Shared Bible study and bad grades. Adrenaline giggles and window-prying techniques on the nights they snuck out together. Plastic jewelry and posted love songs on their Facebook Walls.

Sammy looked up at the stars over Dustin’s shoulder as it rose and fell and rose atop her. The stars punctured the ozone haze of Crossville’s sky. They knit just like she imagined the stones of her wedding ring would.

“I want to share everything with you,” Sammy said. She signed it with the impression of her teeth in his neck.

Dustin only answered with frantic grunting.

Three months in, Sammy got cell phone privileges back from Mama. She spent them calling Dustin after bedtime. The instant she heard his voice, all the tears that had fluttered through her heart in place of blood those last months began to dry.

“Told you she’d come around,” Dustin said. He sounded as sure and bright as the pin on his JV football jacket. Sammy smiled at the image in her mind alone.

“It’s true, she’s listening more,” Sammy said. “Still won’t consider letting me see you, though.”

“It’s inevitable now.”

“You think?”

“I know so,” Dustin laughed—his little cough of a laugh, the one that came out when his roughhousing friends would tackle him against the lockers. “She can’t stop you from having the baby.”

“She says I’m not ready.” Sammy frowned despite herself. She rolled the Grimace Car over the rising bump in her lean belly. “Makes me scared.”

“It’s not for her to say. Law’s on your side.”

“I know.”

“Our side.”

“I’m really starting to hurt, though.”

“That’s the way God intended it,” Dustin said. Sammy didn’t nod; not like she used to whenever he talked scripture to her. She’d never read the Bible, not cover-to-cover like Dustin said he had.

All the same, something in her argued with him this time. 

“I’m not eating well,” Sammy said, letting the toy car roll into her navel. “Or sleeping.”

“I’ve got to get some sleep too,” Dustin said. “Got the big game tomorrow. Will you be there?”

“I’m still not allowed.”

“Soon,” he said. “Soon.”

Sammy counted three searing twinges of pain in her stomach, ten broken breaths and one spreading cold space in her heart before Dustin said what she’d been waiting for.

“I love you,” he said.

Then Sammy could end the call, close her eyes and pretend to sleep through the sickness, the ache and the sound of Mama crying beyond the wall.

Six months in, Dustin saw Sammy calling in and almost hit Ignore. He cradled the cell and studied her onscreen picture—one from months back, Sammy beaming, skin color smooth as baby doll plastic, not mottled pink like when he saw her last week.

He let it ring to the last. Then answered. The bong he’d just loaded would keep.

“Hey there, babe,” Dustin said.

“Where were you today?”

“Out.” His anger blistered.

“Out doing what?”

“What are you, my mom now?” Already he could feel his scowl set like a scab.

“Your mom doesn’t care what you do.”

“She knows I’ll show her who’s in charge if she asks.” Dustin made fists. He dreamt of adding another hole to his bedroom wall. He breathed hard enough to slap her with it.

“You missed another of my doctor’s appointments,” Sammy said, voice climbing on cat claws.

“I don’t feel right at them.” Dustin ground his eyeteeth. “Your mom’s such a bitch.”

“Don’t feel right? You’re the father. Mama invited you. She’s given in, like you said. Like we wanted.”

“Look,” Dustin pinched the red stars from his eyes, nose bridge between his fingers. “When can you sleep over?”

“Are you kidding?”

“Will you or won’t you?”

“No,” Sammy wailed, and just like that, bawling came on like a summer storm. Moisture clotted her throat. Made her sound old to Dustin. “No, I won’t. I don’t want to see you again.”

“What?” Dustin’s feet stomped the floor, his fist beat the air, his lungs and heart kicked. Every part of him needed to punch. “We’re together forever.”

“No, you’ve left me. The talk at school’s probably true—you probably are getting on with Jessie.”

“Leave her out of it.” Dustin yelled. “You’re the one not around.”

“I ain’t going to be around either.” Sammy’s voice was dissolving into something poisonous. “Mama was right about you. You ain’t going to see me again.”

“The fuck I won’t, you fucking cunt.”

“You can’t talk to me like that!” Sammy shrieked.

“Wait and fucking see about that!” Dustin ended the call with the phone splintering on the wall. He turned on his room:

Flattened his alarm clock. Caved in the bathroom door. Broke all the cologne bottles his mother bought him.

If he still had that stupid Hamburglar toy, Dustin would have shattered it too.

Sammy had just balanced a shaky foot on the first step down from the library steps when Dustin stepped out from behind a pillar and kicked her in the stomach.

Mama nearly broke a finger trying to hold Sammy’s hand as Sammy pitched forward. Sammy’s kneecap cracked against the next concrete step down. 

The other six steps, she hit with her swollen belly.

The only sound when she sprawled was Mama screaming.

“Oh God, oh God, oh God.” Mama knelt by Sammy and slid hands over her as if she could wipe the bruises away like she would food stains.

Mama’s hands clapped to her mouth as she saw all the blood guttering out between Sammy’s legs. Her eyes met her fourteen-year-old daughter’s. The agony there became a shared thing.

Their screams and tears and shaking flooded like the red from Sammy.

Dustin marched by, shoulders back, as if to the sideline.

When Sammy’s Mama looked up, helpless with her hands fused with Sammy’s and seething hate, he grinned bitter.

“Told you I’d win,” he said.

Dustin took on speed as he walked. Soon their cries were as dumb to him as pieces of broken plastic.

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Last modified on Tuesday, 29 May 2012 01:44
Matthew C. Funk

Matthew C. Funk is a social media consultant, professional marketing copywriter and writing mentor. He is the editor of the Genre section of the critically acclaimed zine, FictionDaily, and a writer for FangirlTastic and Spinetingler Magazine. M. C. Funk's work features at numerous sites online and in print with Needle Magazine, Howl, 6S and Crimefactory. He is represented by Stacia J. N. Decker of the Donald Maass Literary Agency.

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