The spring in my step of being single was only intensified by being asked to homecoming. ME! I was a new person, I wasn’t forcing a smile on my face and looking at my feet when I walked. I had no one’s hand bruising my arm and pulling me where I needed to go, and somehow I still made it to class.
I kept talking to people and making friends. It was wonderful. It was the high school that I had envisioned. I wasn’t invited to parties or going out with friends at night, but I was talking to people and I did have friends. It took awhile for me to make friends to eat lunch with, but I found them. No one was telling me to be quiet or squeezing my arm when I spoke, and sometimes people even laughed at my jokes. I was rapidly gaining a confidence in myself that I had never had before.
Homecoming was two weeks away and the girls where swirling around talking about their dresses and where their dates were taking them to dinner. It didn’t bother me that I wasn’t going because I WAS ASKED. Even though I wasn’t shopping for dresses and didn’t have plans for the night, I felt included in the excitement.
Home life was the same as before. My mom was there when she wanted to be and out when she wanted to be. She was consistently oversharing about my dad’s affair. She took what he did and pushed it to the extremes. I never wanted to see my dad. I would watch my mom cry into her bottles of wine while she told me that “sex was how you kept you man, every guy will cheat on you with a fat girl because they give better blow jobs.” I tried to tone out the negativity, but I was surrounded by it all the time.
My mom didn’t care that Jed and I had broken up. She had no reaction to the news, it was as if I tole her the sky was blue. When Ben asked me to homecoming, she said that it made no sense that he would ask me when he couldn’t go, so it didn’t matter. I didn’t talk to her about my life much anyway, so her barely a reaction wasn’t hard for me to handle. I was there for her to talk at.
She assumed that my brother and I were in as much pain as she was over the divorce. When she was home and before she opened a bottle of wine, she tried to do “fun” things and keep us laughing. One of her favorite activities was to have us eat spaghetti without our hands or utensils. HOW FUN. I hated this. I hated spaghetti and I hated just shoving my face into a plate of food, but my mom thought it was a great way to keep up laughing and happy. My mom’s least favorite activity – cleaning. After we were covered in spaghetti, my mom would pile the dishes in the sink and not touch them. Once we were out of plates or pots, I would do the dishes.
It was a spaghetti night at our house when Ben was texting me. He started telling me how much he liked me and how he had liked me for a long time. It didn’t matter that my face was covered in spaghetti sauce and I was dealing with my least favorite meal, I was happy.
Ben was kind and nice and he liked me.
We would text all night and he would meet me at my locker in the morning. I loved it, but part of me was telling me to run. He was always there. Suddenly. I felt like I was smothered again. He would be at my locker between classes and walked with me everywhere I went.
I was conflicted between the girl with spaghetti all over her face, happy, and enjoying talking to Ben, and the girl that was enjoying living her own life.
Instead of an angel and devil on my shoulders, it was a happy Tori and a Tori that didn’t want to be controlled again.
It was the week of homecoming and Ben had been walking me to all my classes and texting me all the time. It was wonderful, but at the same time the Tori that didn’t want to be controlled was strong and she took over.
Ben was walking me to the gym for softball practice, we were laughing and making small talk. He was in the middle of asking me if we could go on a date the week after homecoming when I interrupted him, abruptly, and rudely.
“WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS FOLLOWING ALONG SIDE ME?!” I nearly screamed at him.
His face went from smiling and kind to confused in no time at all.
“I just, I like talking to you, and I wanted to walk with you,” he said, obviously not understanding my sudden panic.
“I don’t want to be followed. I don’t need to be with you all the time. It’s too much. It’s way too much,” I said as I let go of his hand and moved back from him.
“That’s fine, we don’t have too…”
“No, you don’t get it. I can’t do this.”
I backed up further. “It’s too much. We should just be friends. You need too much.”
“Fine,” he said with a puzzled look on his face.
“Ok, bye.” I said as I turned on my heel and walked into the gym.
I left him on the path to the gym, stunned, I had just gone from talking to him all the time and enjoying his company to practically yelling at him to leave me alone. His jaw was open, leaving his mouth slightly open as he turned to walk away.
I felt free again but sad that I had just ruined my relationship with Ben. Why did I have to panic? Why couldn’t I have explained that I just needed him to give me a little space? Why did it have to be all or nothing?
I tried to put him and the situation out of my mind as I walked into the locker room.
My phone didn’t buzz that night, and I desperately wished it would have, but I knew that he wouldn’t reach out, I gave him no reason to. So, instead I put my phone away and sat down at our table for another “fun” spaghetti with no hands or utensils dinner.