••• The International Writers Magazine:Dreamscapes Life Moments
Bill and Sissy
There were of course things that Sissy had said and did in her short life that she regretted. In the end, didn’t it make her stronger, she often thought to herself.
She lived with damage (well, for that her parents were to blame). They decided that they didn’t love each other anymore. It burned right through her. Damage came with every transformation that her teenage life brought to her, but there was some happiness in her life and that happiness went by the name of Bill.
‘Have you listened to this song Bill?’ Bill shook his head. Sissy put the radio louder. Bill just went along with it as he did with most things that Sissy did and said.
‘I like this song. I like country. Country brings tears to my eyes and memories. The good memories of my childhood. Happier times. When my parents were in love. I’m speaking about the good times now. I’m a lot like my mother, you know. I like beautiful things. I like vintage clothes but I don’t think I have it in me to say, ‘I promise to obey you’, ‘in sickness and health’ or ‘till death do we part’. I’m old school and you?’
‘You know me, Sissy. I like anything. I like anything you like.’ Bill changed gears. The old truck gently rocked from side-to-side.
‘Is this truck going to get us to where we need to go tonight, Bill?’
‘I’ve helped my dad out before with the truck. Once we even got stuck on the highway. Had to change a flat wheel.’
‘I hope we don’t get stuck on the highway tonight then.’
‘You have to have an opinion, Bill. You have to stand up for what you believe otherwise you’ll just be a follower for the rest of your life. Do you really just want to play follow-the-leader for the rest of your life?’ Come to think of it the only place where Sissy was quiet was when she was in Bill’s arms.
‘There’s so much madness in my house,’ said Sissy, scratching for a cigarette in the cubbyhole.
‘You know I’ll always be there to listen to you. If you want to talk about anything, good or bad, Sissy, I’m always here. You can lean on me if you want to.’
‘I know that Bill. You’re the kindest person that I know in the world. Of course, I know that you’re more than a boyfriend to me, Bill. We’ve been friends for like forever. I don’t know who I hate more right now. My mother or my father. Tell me this Bill; will you always remember me? I mean, will you always remember me the way I am now. Straight-talking Sissy. Will you always love me, Bill?’
‘I’ll always love you, Sissy. You’re my first love.’ Bill glanced quickly over at Sissy to see her reaction to what he had just said but her thoughts were elsewhere. She was blowing the smoke from her cigarette out the car window.
‘You get this one life to do with as you please. Both good and evil,’ said Sissy lighting a cigarette. ‘And at the end of the day if you’re a good person, like you Bill, bad things are going to happen to you and if you’re a bad person it seems that only good things happen to you and the people that you love in your life, if you know what I mean.’
Bill put the radio on another station hoping to change Sissy’s mood, bopping his head along to the catchy song.
‘What if you don’t have the right parents? Is that what you’re trying to say?’ Billy asked.
‘What I mean to say is this. That it’s important. Having the right kind of parents in the world. That’s the best place to start. Then you’re done for. If you don’t grow up with the right kind of role models. The right kind of norms and values. If you don’t believe in God, then your belief system will be all wrong. It will affect everything in your life. Who you end up marrying, the kind of kids you will have, if you’re happy or sad, if you decide to belong to a church or if you decide not to belong to a church.’ It seemed to Bill that Sissy had a lot on her mind tonight.
‘May be that’s what happens to people who want to start wars and stuff in the world we live in today. People who sell arms. Those kinds of people were born into a certain set of circumstances.’ Bill tried to concentrate on the road in front of him. He began to tap-tap-tap his fingers on the steering wheel in front of him along to the song on the radio.
‘You know, Bill, my father doesn’t like you. He thinks you’re a bad influence on me,’ Sissy snorted.
For a long time, Bill and Sissy were quiet in the car. They were driving to the boardwalk. They were going to buy ice cream, that is if they could find a place open that late at night, and walk hand-in-hand on the moonlit pier in the cool autumn air, if it wasn’t too cold. Already, Sissy was wearing Bill’s jacket. Bill looked across at her again. Sissy took his breath away. She was a beautiful teenager who was going to grow into a beautiful woman.
‘I know you don’t smoke but do you want a drag of mine anyway?’ Billy took the cigarette that Sissy offered him and puffed once or twice on it. He coughed a little. Sissy smiled when he did that.
‘What are you looking at me for like that?’ Sissy asked him, without looking at him directly as Bill pulled into an open space.
‘Nothing. I just wanted to know if you’re warm enough. Do you want me to put the heater on?’
‘No, I’m fine Bill. I like the cold. Makes me think. Makes me forget. My father and my mother had another argument again tonight. Thanks for picking me up. I just needed to get out of the house. Did your dad not need you for anything?’
‘Don’t you want to get married? We could if we wanted to. You know that.’
‘Why would you want to marry me? Marriage means having a family. I mean, if you want to marry me, it goes without saying that you want to have kids too, isn’t it?’ Sissy said in a quiet voice.
‘Yes, and yes. I’d love to have kids one day. I love you. That’s why I want to marry you. Isn’t that a good enough reason?’
‘When I was little I thought, my parents loved each other, but even then, they fought. Not like they fight now. They scream at each other. I think they really hate each other. I don’t understand how my father says he loves me and my mother tells me that I am her best friend in the whole world and they fight like this. They just use me. Isn’t that just madness? To use someone that you love the most in the world as collateral. I don’t want to be like my mother. Come to think of it, I don’t want to be like either of my parents. If I don’t meet anyone at university I’m fine with that. If you’re supposed to be the last boy on earth that I’m supposed to be in love with, so be it.’
Sissy never listened to her father anymore. He usually spoke to her about boys these days and that having sex was the first and last thing on their mind. He tried to warn her about Bill. How he was up to no good, that his princess was no good for the likes of him, but Sissy ignored him. Sneaked out of the house. Stole his brandy and his cigarettes for her and Bill’s getaways. It was the river of sand that had attracted Sissy to Bill’s warm eyes. He was one of those quiet guys.
He was withdrawn but he was still popular. Seemed to attract both other young boys his age and girls. Billy was a listener. Sissy was an extrovert. Outgoing and bubbly. She had a vivacious personality. At night, even on weekdays now, Bill would pick Sissy up in his father’s truck and they would ride around the small town in which they lived until the early hours of the morning.
Sissy would sneak in and out of the house while her parents slept. Tonight though, it was different.
‘I don’t want this night to end.’ A tear fell on her arm. She didn’t want Billy to notice the mood she was in.
‘I’ll always remember this, Billy. Us riding around in your father’s truck until the early hours of the morning hits our brains.’
Billy smiled, thinking to himself. ‘I’ll always love you Sissy. How could I forget you? Especially that smile of yours.’
‘How come you don’t want to go to varsity? You’re so smart.’ Sissy had asked Bill one day as they had walked to class together after Bill had given her a promise ring. They had been going steady for a few months by then.
‘My mother needs me. She’s sick.’
‘Oh,’ said Sissy. ‘You never told me about that. You don’t have to talk about it, that is if you don’t want to.’
‘No, it’s fine Sissy. I know you won’t go around and talk about it to everyone. I have to stay here to support my dad. He has his own business. He builds kitchens. It won’t be easy on him if I leave. My mother, well, something is wrong with her heart.’
‘Oh,’ said Sissy. ‘I’m sorry to hear that.’
‘Well, nobody knows that. I’ve just told you.’
‘Thank you for trusting me enough to tell me, Bill.’ She kissed him then, a peck on the cheek, just before they entered the classroom.
‘You’re late. I was beginning to think that you weren’t coming for me anymore.’
‘Sorry. I had to make supper.
‘Billy, save me from this path I’m on. Destination anywhere. Save me from being the same me I was yesterday.’
‘You know that I would do anything for you, Sissy.’
‘You’re going to stay here in this town and I’ll be going away to university in Johannesburg. That makes me sad. I want you to come with. You can still come with me, if you want. We could get a flat off-campus.’
‘I couldn’t do that, Sissy. What about my mother? Who is going to look after her and now my dad also needs looking after.’
‘You’re the best person that I know, Billy. I don’t know what I’m going to do without you in Johannesburg of all places. Fact is and remains and all of that, we’re going to dream but we’re going to have different dreams at the end of the day.’
‘You don’t like to think of your past do you?’
‘I think my parents would be happier people if they got a divorce. I mean, I’m old enough to understand that they’re not in love anymore. I don’t know what they’re holding onto, Bill? Do you know? Maybe you can help me to understand what’s going on in my house.’ Sissy lit another cigarette. ‘I know you want to kiss me when you that look in your eye, Billy. You can kiss me if you want to.’
‘I can’t stay. You know that. My parents are driving me crazy. I know you want me to stay next year and if you had it your way, we’d be married or something like that but I don’t want to turn into my mother. I don’t want you to turn into my father and I don’t want us to turn into my parents.’
Bill said nothing to this just looked at the shadows in the dark, turning the truck into the parking lot at the boardwalk.
‘One day we’re going to walk away from each other and a day will come, five, ten or twenty years when we’ll bump into each other somewhere, at the post office or an aisle at the grocery store and we won’t recognise each other. You’ll be with your wife, Bill, your kids who have the same kind of build and eyes and mouth that you have. You’ll forget me, Bill. I promise you, you’ll forget all about me one day.’ Bill could hear in Sissy’s voice that she was on the point of tears by now. He looked over at her and took the hand that was closest to him in his.
‘Don’t say that, Sissy.’ By now, Bill could see that Sissy had been on edge the whole evening.
‘But it’s true, Bill. I’m only saying this for your own good. The sooner we realise this, the better for both of us. One of us, sooner or later, is going to give up on this relationship. Why do you want to live a lie, Bill? Why? Why does life have to hurt so much, Bill?’ and Sissy broke down then, crying. Bill just held her in his arms.
© Short fiction by Abigail George - July 2017
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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