Read Three Sides of the Tracks Online

Authors: Mike Addington

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Crime, #Thriller & Suspense, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Thriller, #Teen & Young Adult

Three Sides of the Tracks (5 page)

Caroline hugged Danny tighter and nestled her chin over his shoulder. She
felt safe, and held him for a moment.

“Think about my daddy, Danny.”

She waited a few moments. “He remind you of anyone?”
Danny was pensive for a few moments. “I know you’re thinking about him and
Thurston, but I just don’t see the connection with you.”

“It’s not really me. But Daddy treats Momma just like Thurston treats me.
And I let him, or have let him. I won’t put up with it any longer. I can’t let
that happen. It happened too easily. I felt it happening, but I didn’t
know
it was happening until I woke up one day.”

“The funny thing is that I don’t even blame Thurston; I blame myself for
falling into his trap.”

Danny thought a moment. “I’m not so sure you’ve got all of this right,
Caroline. Part of it maybe. Of course, I’ve never seen the abuse, and I’ve
certainly never seen or felt you seem small.”

“I’ve never
felt
small, Danny. But I’ve been letting Thurston
treat me small. He intimidates me somehow, and I finally came up with enough
courage to break up with him. That’s what I was thinking about when you teased
me about my tongue.”

Caroline drew back her head and looked in Danny’s eyes. “I think he’s half
crazy. I don’t know what he might do.”

Danny squeezed her hand and grinned. “Hey, next time he bothers you, just
tell him you kicked him off the team.”

The dam broke, and Caroline laughed.

“He’ll run around pounding his chest for a few day, and, when people get
tired of his act and don’t pay attention to him anymore, he’ll move on to
something else. Heck, he might even try playing the victim himself, hoping to
make you feel guilty.”

“You really think so?”

“Sure. It’s all about control. That’s his power. Once he sees he can’t
buffalo you anymore, he’s lost his power, and he can’t stand that; he can’t
handle that. Just make sure you don’t give in to his tantrums ‘cause, like I
said, he’ll be pitching a few fits for a while ‘cause he can’t have his way. If
he bothers you or frightens you, come get me; I’ll deal with him.”

“Gosh, Danny, he’s a lot bigger than you are,” Caroline said, suddenly
afraid for Danny.

He just winked at her. “Let me worry ‘bout that.”
The talk with Danny helped, and Caroline went to the rest of her classes. She
even managed to answer, “Yes, we broke up,” without feeling shaky again when
several of her closer friends asked.

By the end of the day, she noticed students whispering to one another
whenever they saw her and knew that word had, indeed, spread fast. That brought
some of the agitation back, worried about another confrontation with Thurston,
but not as much as earlier in the day.

Caroline drove home, went straight to the swimming pool and began
swimming laps. The old pool—the size of those at most hotels—had been torn up
when Caroline joined the swimming team at ten years old. Jessie put in a
monster thirty yards wide and forty yards long just so Caroline could swim
laps.

And Caroline didn’t disappoint. She’d spent five years on the swimming
team, coming close to winning state titles in three of the fours years the
Benton team made it to the finals. She finished third in the 100-yard freestyle
and fifth in the 100-yard butterfly. As she grew older, she discovered a passion
for helping the younger kids, teaching them to swim properly, and helping them
gain confidence in the water. She stopped competing and now just worked with
the kids.

She’d grown quite fond of hearing “Miss Caroline” ringing in the air as,
one after one, the children called her to show off how well they could swim.

Swimming was kind to her feminine development too, sculpting her body in
all the right places and adding the glow of good health to her skin, which
darkened considerably during summer.  

Today, she swam several lengths of the pool freestyle with hard, strong
strokes then flipped on her back and swam several more. Her shoulders strained
against the water, releasing pent up anxiety with every stroke. The water was
usually her friend, but, today, it was her enemy, her Thurston. Her strokes
were not efficient but heavy, strained, as she cupped the water far longer than
normal.

A half-hour later, she slowed and glided through the water with graceful
breast and sidestrokes, relaxing now and letting the tension ease from her
muscles. She drifted through the pool then dipped and dove to the bottom and
swam back along its length, loving the freedom of being wrapped in a cocoon of
water.

Caroline kicked powerfully and glided to the surface alongside the apron.
She breathed normally after one or two deep breaths, still in good condition.

Her cheek rested on the apron, and her long legs floated behind her.
Exercising always improved her mood and gave her a sense of well-being. Her
conversation with Danny came to mind, and she remembered when she first became
concerned about her relationship with Thurston. Really concerned, not just
distressed.

An episode of
Oprah
caught her eye: battered women and why they
took the abuse rather than leaving their abusive husbands, or, if they did
leave, they inevitably entered into another relationship that morphed into
abuse.

No easy reason or identifiable pathology was identified or one definitive
conclusion reached, other than most of the women had poor self-esteem. But lots
of women, men too, had poor self-esteem but would never allow themselves to be
abused. The women just seemed to be in a pattern and, most of the time, had
been raised in a household in which their mother was abused. Caroline couldn’t
figure it out; it didn’t make sense. It seemed that, rationally, the opposite
would be true.

Caroline even suffered through several episodes of the sanctimonious Dr.
Phil, whom she loathed for his pompousness. She remembered an episode involving
a tiny woman, perhaps five feet three-inches tall weighing around a hundred
pounds. She’d told her story of fear and terror of her husband, Raymond, who
hit her when he was really enraged.

Dr. Phil talked to her and counseled her on what to do, then asked, “Okay,
Betty, now what will you say to Raymond the next time he talks to you that
way?”

The mite of a woman sat hunched in her chair wringing her hands and said,
“Raymond, you’d better not talk to me like that. You’re gonna hurt my
feelings.”

Dr. Phil exploded from his chair, all six and a half feet and three
hundred pounds towering over the woman. He literally picked her up by the
elbows, grabbed her shoulders and shook her.

“No, Betty, no. You tell him, if he talks to you like that again, you’re
going to leave. And you won’t be back. Isn’t that what I just told you to do a
few minutes ago?”

Betty stood quivering in front of the huge Dr. Phil and managed to nod.

“Okay, Betty, let’s try it again. What are you going to say to your
husband when he threatens you?”

Betty looked up at the towering figure and seemed to gain confidence.
“I’ll tell him, if he don’t quit acting up, I’ll go get Dr. Phil. He’s just as
mean as you are, and, when he jerked on me, he hurt me just as much as you.”

The audience erupted in laughter.

Dr. Phil shook his head in exasperation, never comprehending that the
crowd was laughing
at
him
and not the woman

Despite his nerve-grating personality, his advice to the women agreed
with Caroline’s thinking, which was to get out of the situation as quickly as
possible by using whatever means available short of violence, unless the women
feared for their lives, which some did.

That was the beginning of Caroline’s deep concern. She knew her mother
had been abused for years. They’d even talked about it. So Caroline decided to
try and understand her own situation.

 On all of her dates with Thurston after that, she paid attention to her
thoughts and actions and tried to figure out why Thurston was so demeaning,
bossing or making pronouncements instead of conversing. Was any of her behavior
giving him reason?

Maybe subconsciously Thurston thought that, when she asked him where he
wanted to eat dinner or what movie he wanted to see, she was being submissive
instead of merely polite. Perhaps he mistook her refusal to continue an
argument as weakness instead of just distaste for unnecessary turmoil. She
wasn’t excusing his behavior. Certainly, no one else spoke to her the way he
did.

She’d had four dates with Thurston after that and then confronted him
with his behavior, which he denied. “She was stupid. She was imagining things.
She had PMS.” It was always her.

This morning was it, and she ended their relationship.

Floating in the pool, she concluded that, altogether, the relationship
had been a good thing. She learned a great deal about herself. Early enough in
life to not make a bigger mistake later.

The phone rang, and, in a few moments, the housekeeper came out. “Miss
Caroline. A young man wants to speak with you. Richard Turner. You know Richard
Turner?”

Caroline was speechless for several seconds. “Tell him to call back in
thirty minutes, please, Harriett.” Richard’s kind eyes flashed through her
mind. “Or take a number,” she called out. “Either way is fine.”

“Okay, Miss Caroline, I’ll tell him. Sure is good to hear a polite voice
for a change. All that gruntin’ and bossin’ bout got on my last nerve. Hope
he
won’t be callin’ here no more. Sure do. Uh huh. Sure do.”
Caroline kicked and pulled herself out of the pool in one motion.

“Why didn’t I say ten minutes,” she scolded herself as she dried off.

Harriett pushed open the sliding glass doors and handed Caroline a piece
of paper with Richard’s number on it. “Sure hope he’s better lookin’ than that
gorilla what’s been comin’ round here,” she said and rolled her eyes.

Caroline grinned. “That gorilla won’t be coming around anymore, Harriett.
You can rest easy.”

“Whuuuu me; thank goodness. Best news I’ve heard in a long time. You
finally had yo’ ears cleaned out. Thank goodness.”

Caroline surprised herself by being both curious and excited at Richard’s
call. She waited another five minutes, which seemed to go by very slowly, and
dialed the number.

“Richard, this is Caroline,” she said recognizing his voice.

“Hi, Caroline. Thanks for returning my call. Um . . . Um, Caroline, I
realize we just met this morning, but I overheard some other students talking
about you and the tough guy breaking up, and, you know, it might be a little
early, but I’m hoping you might do me the honor of going to the dance with me
Friday night. Is it too soon after breaking up with your boyfriend, or are you
considering going back with him?”

Caroline hesitated. What would Thurston do when he saw her with someone
else?

“Well, I don’t know, Richard. I’m not sure how Thurston—‘the tough guy’ as
you call him—is going to behave. It might be better to wait a while until he
settles down some and accepts me breaking up with him. I don’t want to be the
cause of any trouble. He can be violent at times.”

“Is, umm, is that the only reason keeping you from saying yes?”

The hazel eyes flashed through her mind again. “Yes, that’s all. But we
could go somewhere less public or to Atlanta maybe.”

“That would be fine, but I don’t mind going to the dance, unless it would
make
you
too uncomfortable. I feel kinda, I suppose irritated to let
someone else determine what I do. Can’t live like that, Caroline.”

His words and frankness shocked her. She remembered the courage of the
tiny lady on Dr. Phil. “You know, that’s right, isn’t it? If you’re not afraid,
then, okay, the dance it is.”

“Good. I admire your courage. I love to dance and haven’t in a long
while. Long for me, anyway. Couple of months at least. I’ll call you, say,
Thursday night, and we can set the time. Okay with you?”

“Sure, Richard, that’s fine. I’ll see you at school tomorrow. Thank you
for calling.”

“Goodnight, Caroline.”

Her hand froze right before she turned off the phone. Had his voice
softened when he said her name? She heard a click as the connection broke.

Her stomach fluttered with excitement. It had been a while since she’d
felt that, and it felt good. Three faces flashed across her mind: Richard,
Thurston, and then Danny. The tingling felt so good she didn’t bother to worry
about the faces.

“A real night out,” she whispered to herself. “Should have ditched him a
long time ago.”

 

Richard picked her up at seven Friday night, and they went to Outback
Steak House for dinner.

He politely stood beside her as she slid into the booth then sat on the opposite
side, so they could face each other as they talked.

The restaurant filled up as other couples stopped in before the dance. Caroline
and Richard seemed to be the topic of conversation judging by the furtive
glances and whispers coming from the other couples.

Richard’s skin tingled when Caroline smiled: her rising cheeks became
fuller and green eyes sparkled with life. He hadn’t seen this smile before. He’d
originally thought Caroline attractive, but this Caroline sitting across from
him was exceptionally more than attractive—much, much more. And all without any
makeup, he observed.

They stopped noticing the glances or stares directed their way and were
surprised to find that the restaurant crowd had thinned when Caroline excused
herself to tidy up.

“Gosh, look at the time,” she said.

“Ten o’clock. Wow, that went by fast, huh?”

“I’m surprised the waiter let us sit here this long,” Caroline said.

Richard winked. “No man would ask such a beautiful woman to leave.”

Caroline hadn’t blushed so profusely in a long time. Her hands covered
her face. She knew she was supposed to say something but was at a loss.

 A few seconds passed before she regained her composure. “I don’t usually
lose my composure that easy,” she said to cover her embarrassment, unsure which
was worse, the blushing or the excuse.

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