Chapter 23

Another text from Charity, the twelfth one in the last hour. After reading the first apology-riddled message I couldn’t subject myself to any more.

“…you listening?”

I tuned Miles Schwartz back in, the five-foot seven portly lawyer my father has retained since before adopting me. We met during the initial process back in the Missouri child services office, felt indifferent about him. Then again, all adults except my soon-to-be mom and dad rubbed me a certain way that caused my little body to recoil.

I nodded, having no idea what I could be agreeing to. Mr. Schwartz placed a hand in his pocket. “So you’re okay with missing class for a couple weeks while your father and I do damage control?”
“What? Hell no.”
“This is no time to be brave, young man.”
“And this is no time to be screwing with my future.”
“If this gets out of hand you won’t have a future. Ivy league colleges don’t take kindly to its student body enthralled in scandal.”

I looked at my father and then back at the lawyer. “Who said I wanted to go to an ivy league school?”
“I thought you had decided on Stanford?” Dad said.
“When did I say that? I haven’t had time to think about college; been trying to wrap my head around becoming a teen parent.”
“All that aside,” Mr. Schwartz began, “we’re going to have to take necessary precautions, tread lightly, so that you can still have an education somewhere.”

“Dad, the playoffs are right around the corner. There’s no way I can just skip school. A lot of people are counting on me.”
“I understand that, Chase. But given what’s going-”

My cell phone began ringing. Removing it from my pocket I checked the caller ID, silenced it with a grunt, put it back in the pocket.

“That’s the, what, third time she’s called?” Dad asked. His eyes welled with concern.
Not looking at him I said, “fourth.”
“No offense kid, but you picked a real gem of a girl.”
“She is, actually. But like every other woman she gossiped to her friend about her boyfriend. I’m sure your wife airs your dirty laundry over cocktail hour.”
“And that’s why we’re divorced.”

I turned back to my father after glancing at Mr. Schwartz’s wedding ring on his finger. “I’m not missing class or practice. I’m in high school; kids are gonna talk either way. Let them. I’ve survived worse.”

At the last statement my father took my hand in his, clutched it. Nodding while looking me in the eye he said “is there anything we can do to avoid Chase missing any school?”
“I’m open to suggestions.” Mr. Schwartz said extending his hands.

After a moment of silence I said, “Let’s get out in front. Give some kind of press release where I tell my side of the story. I would have to talk about my past, but, I’d rather be responsible for that over the rumors news outlets will surely use.”

My father and Mr. Schwartz exchanged glances. “How would you want to go about that?” The lawyer finally said.
“Social media. I could upload a video to YouTube, share it on Facebook. No doubt my classmates will share it with whomever they’re friends with, along with it being aired on the local stations. Why give the press the story so they can twist it when we can control it.”
“What about your foster brother- let’s say he comes forward with information.”
“He won’t. He has more to lose than I do. We’ll omit him. Should he choose  to surface- which, dad, I see as an impossibility- what he has to say will work for me, not against.”

Mr. Schwartz contemplated this, finally taking a seat in his faux leather reclining desk chair. Stroking his chin he said, “given the knowledge I have on your background, you’re right about this. Alright. Let’s do it your way.”

By the end of the work day a video had been recorded, edited, and uploaded to YouTube garnering hits ranging in the ten thousands within the first two hours. Before heading to bed I returned Charity’s call.

“Do you hate me?”
“No.”
“Liar. How could you not? I betrayed your trust.”
“I don’t hate you. Dunno if I ever could. I guess I’m more disappointed. Thought I could count on you.”
“You can, bubbie.”
“A recent action proved otherwise.”
“But that’s just one.”
“Sometimes that’s all it takes.”
She took a breath. “So you do hate me.”
“Will it make you feel better if I said yes?”
“It might.”
“Then fine, I do hate you. I’m absolutely livid with you. I understand that girls like to tell their friends about their boyfriends but what I told you was for you. Now the world knows which is what my father and I didn’t want. You knew the possible ramifications if this ever came to light but you told an outsider anyway. You broke the trust we built and I don’t know how or when, if ever, it will be repaired.” It was the first time Charity had never given me a reason to raise my voice at her.

Through sniffles she said, “all I can say is I’m sorry. Are we over?”
“You’re carrying my child.”
“That doesn’t answer the question.”
“Sure it does.”
“Chase, I don’t want you staying with me because of the baby. That never works, and I wouldn’t want that for the baby.”
Through gritted teeth I said “We’re not broken up, but we are on a break. I only want to hear from you unless it has to do with the baby’s health, or if you have something to relay to me from your father. How long this will last, I don’t know. You put us in this position so don’t try to force yourself out of it.”
“I understand.”

Ending the call, I tossed the phone on the bed. As I was exiting my room the phone rang, the caller ID indicated it was a restricted number.

I answered it. “Calling me blocked isn’t going to help you.”
“Chase, it’s me.”

My eyes bulged.

“I saw the video, just called to say thanks for not mentioning me. I would help you in any way, but…well, you know. Good luck to you.”
“You too,” was all I could manage before my former foster brother hung up the phone.

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