It’s Sunday morning and story time. This one is a long one, so sit down with a cup of coffee (or tea) and a cinnamon bun, then enjoy. Feel free to make comments. Constructive feedback is the lifeblood of a striving author.
In the Name of Love
2012 copyright Barbara Celeste McCloskey
After a long day at school, Debbie picked up an armful of text books and trudged up the back steps into her home. Her mother stood at the kitchen stove preparing dinner. “Oh hi, Hon, how was your day?”
Debbie answered in a flat voice, “Fine.”
Her mother said, “There’s something for you on the dining room table.”
Debbie dumped her books on the kitchen table and went into the dining room. She couldn’t imagine who would be sending her anything. She picked up a small box wrapped in thick brown paper. The label on the box was typewritten and there was no return address. As she held the small box, a feeling of dread overcame her. She tore off the paper, opened the box, and gasped. “Oh my God.” She dropped into a chair like someone had sucked the oxygen out of her lungs. In her hand was a little red diary with a small metal key taped to its top.
Her mother dropped her spatula and raced toward daughter. “What is it?”
Debbie looked up at her mother with tearful eyes and showed her mother the diary. “Oh, Mom. It’s Beth’s.”
Her mother asked, “Are you sure?”
“Yes.” Debbie’s face was somber. “I need to be alone for a while.” Debbie dragged herself up to her room, flopped on her bed, and fingered the gold gilding on the diary. She took the small key and turned the lock on the little book. When she opened it a small piece of folded pink stationery fell to the floor. She leaned over and picked it up. The note read: “Debbie – I’m mailing this on Saturday night because my diary needs to be in your friendly hands. You’re the best friend I ever had, and I want you to know I’ll always love and trust you.” Debbie refolded the personal note and began to read.
Saturday, June 10, 1968
Why did MY Dad have to have a heart attack? It’s not fair to any of us. Why did God punish us this way? We go to church every Sunday. We all obey the rules. My Dad’s a good man. I’m a good daughter. What did we do that was so horrible to curse him with such a terrible illness?
Daddy never smiles. Mom is sad and angry. I think they’re both scared of what will happen next. Mom is not used to working away from home and her office job seems hard for her. She’s always tired and complains we don’t have enough money. I don’t ask for anything. If I want something for myself, I make the money by babysitting . . . at 50 cents an hour; it takes a while to even buy fabric for a new dress or pair of shorts. Then I have to sew it. My friends say I’m a good seamstress, but I don’t think my clothes are as nice as the ones in the store.
I’m caught in 17 year old hell. This summer has been such a drag. It’s been SO hot and now that I’m home all day, the housework, baking and babysitting little Chrissie, falls on me. When my friends go to the beach, I’m stuck “hanging ten” at the ironing board. I keep telling myself this household experience will come in handy someday. Yeah, right.
Only if I want to be a slave.
Sunday, July 2, 1968
Sorry I haven’t written in a couple of weeks, but my life is so dull I figured it wasn’t worth the ink.
But maybe things are going to change. Last night I met a new guy at the ball diamond! He’s movie-star good looking with butter blonde hair and eyes as blue as Paul Newman. He’s not real tall, maybe about 5’ 10” but he’s got muscles on top of his muscles. I nearly died when he came over to me and said, “Hi, I’m Jeff.”
It was his warm smile that did it for me. And when he asked if he could sit by me, I could barely get out “Yes.” We talked about the game and before the night was over, he asked whether he could call me.
Call me? I thought I was dreaming! Of course, I said “yes.” How could I say no to a perfect boyfriend? Oh Diary, he’s not only great looking, but he’s also polite and funny. He’s easy to talk to and very smart. I haven’t had so much fun all summer!
I’m saying good night, praying that he wasn’t kidding when he said he’d call me for a date. Do you think God hears prayers like that? Oh, by-the-way, Jeff is even Catholic, so maybe God will hear me after all.
Monday, July 3, 1968
Guess what? Jeff called! Oh, my god, I thought I died and went to heaven when I heard his voice. He asked me to go celebrate the 4th of July with him, and my parents said Okay . . . only a day to wait. Oh, thank you, God.
Tuesday, July 4, 1968
Jeff picked me up this afternoon in his uncle’s beautiful blue Pontiac Bonneville convertible. Jeff told his uncle he was taking out the prettiest brunette in the world and he wanted to impress her. What a crock, huh? I do love it, though, that he thinks I’m pretty.
His friend Bob came with him and Debbie came with me. So, the four of us tooled around in that beautiful convertible like we owned the town. I felt so proud sitting next to Jeff as we drove along the lake, scoping out the perfect spot on the beach to watch the fireworks.
Deb and I brought a picnic lunch, we swam in the icy water of Lake Michigan and then the four of us got comfortable on an old scratchy army blanket as we waited for the fireworks. When it grew dark, Jeff put his arm around me as the night air set in. I felt warm and safe next to him, and as the fireworks finale boomed out a splattering of every color, he kissed me gently on the lips. I loved the taste of his soft lips and wished he would have kissed me again. But being a gentleman, he only took this one shy kiss. Oh, Diary, isn’t summer wonderful?
Wednesday, July 5, 1968
It’s back to housework and babysitting. But today, I don’t care. Deb came over and we relived every minute of yesterday. She’s nuts about Bob and wants to see him as much as I want to see Jeff. We’re already making plans for next weekend. Jeff works construction for his uncle, so going out during the week is impossible; on top of that, the boys live 40 miles away. We thought a picnic at Petrifying Springs Park on Sunday.
Sunday, July 8, 1968
Jeff and Bob picked us up at noon; this time our transportation wasn’t quite so fancy. Jeff drove his own car this time – a 1958 Chevy he called “The Beast.” The navy blue car has seen better days, and it had a stick shift on the steering column. Our car is an “automatic,” so I was curious as Jeff went through the gears. At one point, Jeff dared me to drop the car into third gear – but oops, I slipped it into first and the beast roared! Grinding and chugging sounds came from under the hood, and Jeff quickly fixed my mistake and said, “I guess I’d better do the shifting.” Then he teased me about being a woman driver.
Our picnic was fun. Deb and I showed the boys our favorite park in the world, and we teased them about a witches’ castle being in the woods. I made up a story about how the witches captured children who got too close to their castle and were never seen again. Jeff got a real kick out of it when he saw the witches’ castle was nothing more than an old pump house.
When the sun set, we drove home slowly, wishing the day didn’t have to end. Jeff walked me to the door and we kissed. His lips are so tender, I missed him as soon as he drove away.
Monday, July 9, 1968
It’s back to the same old grind. Changing diapers, making peanut butter sandwiches, vacuuming, washing dishes, and so on and so on. I kept reliving yesterday. Even housework can’t spoil my memories. Best of all, I get to share them with Debbie. She keeps me company everyday, and. I think I’d kill myself if she didn’t. Hell (oops), Heck, I feel like I’m 30 already. I watch kids, clean and cook all week. I feel like Cinderella without a fairy godmother.
Sunday, July 15, 1968
The boys made their weekly Sunday trip to see us. Deb and I planned to go to the downtown zoo, which is free and right on the lake, so the cool breeze felt wonderful after a whole week of record heat. Jeff wore a “muscle t-shirt” and a pair of tight jeans that emphasized his great body. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. I swear if he went to Hollywood, he’d be discovered by some director and be a movie star as famous as Robert Redford. All I can say is, I’m star-struck. When we’re together, everything is perfect.
Monday, July 16, 1968
My mother said that she and Daddy don’t really want me to go out with Jeff any more. She said he’s not right for me. I couldn’t believe my ears! She said, “What about Tommy?” You remember Tommy, Diary. He’s nice, but when we broke up after school let out, and I haven’t missed him. Besides, I like Jeff. What’s wrong with him?
My mother reminded me that under no circumstances, can I go steady with Jeff or anyone else. Diary, do you think she knows something that I don’t?
Jeff is so sweet to me; he brought me flowers today. I was so surprised to see him! My Dad let us go out for a Coke at the little diner a couple of blocks away. When we’re out, he treats me like a queen. He opens doors and always walks on the outside of the sidewalk. He’s almost old fashioned. Best of all, we have fun together. He’s easy to talk to and I can tell him anything. On top of that, he’s gorgeous, and Catholic. Being with a Catholic boy is SO important to my parents. I don’t know what their problem is. Maybe my parents are worried because he’s two years older than I am. But, Tommy was two years older than me, too. You’d think they would be happy that such a nice guy is interested in me.
Saturday, July 21, 1968
I always know when my Dad doesn’t feel good because he gets real quiet. Tonight was one of those nights. So when Jeff picked me up for our date, there was no small talk. Instead, my mother yelled at me from the front window, “Behave yourself and don’t get home late!” I was so embarrassed, but I waved goodbye and smiled at Jeff.
“I’m so glad you’re rescuing me to night. “Jeff slipped his arm around my waist and steered me toward the car. He gave me a little peck on the cheek, opened the car door and said, “Hard day?” I nodded. He said, “Maybe the movie will cheer you up.”
I said, “Just being with you cheers me up.” He smiled and we drove to the theater.
We munched on popcorn, and laughed for a couple of hours as we watched The Love Bug. After the movie we went for pizza. Jeff swore DeRango’s pizza was the best in the world. Then we drove down to the lakefront and parked at Wind Point. Jeff drew me close and held me tight. We kissed gently while he held me. I felt like I’ve know him forever, even though it’s only been a few weeks since we met.
As Jeff kissed me again and again, his kisses grew longer and more passionate. He touched my face, and I felt the rough calluses on his finger tips from the hard work he did all week. He stroked my long hair and his breathing got deeper. I felt the strong pulse of his heart as I pressed against him. I loved the smell of his English Leather cologne. He kissed my neck and I wanted to crawl inside of him.
And then he said it. “I love you. I’ve never felt like this before.” I said, “You’ve been so special to me since we first met.” Jeff looked into my eyes and said, “Be my girl?” I searched his face to see if he was serious.
I said, “You want to go steady? With me?” When he said, yes, I couldn’t believe I could be so lucky. That moment my mother’s face appeared and I heard her words. “Under no circumstances are you allowed to go steady.” What was I going to do? What could I say? I wanted to be his girl more than anything in the world! I whispered, “I can’t.” And then I started to cry.
“Why?” he asked as he brushed away my tears.
“Because of my parents, I can’t go steady with anybody.”
He looked at me with sad, puppy-dog eyes, “Can’t you break the rules for me?”
I didn’t say anything for several minutes. I wanted to be his girl, and then I whispered, “Yes.”
He smiled, slipped his heavy class ring off of his finger, and placed it on the third finger of my right hand. At that moment, I was so happy I could have burst. At that moment, I just wanted to be happy being Jeff’s girl. I smiled and he held me again. I’d worry about the fallout tomorrow.
He whispered, “I adore, you baby. I’m so happy you said yes.” We kissed again and again, until I felt the strong pressure of his tongue trying to pry open my mouth. I kept my teeth clenched. He pulled back and whispered, “What’s wrong?”
I couldn’t tell him I had no idea what he was tying to do, and I certainly didn’t want him to think I was some stupid kid. I whispered, “I’ve never kissed like this before.” He relaxed back into the seat, took a deep breath and asked, “You love me, don’t you?”
I whispered, “Yes.”
Then he asked, “Then trust me.”
I admitted, “It scares me.”
He whispered, “I will never hurt you, Beth. If you’re not ready, I’ll wait.”
The next time he kissed me it was softer, and I opened my mouth and let his tongue in. As our tongues danced, my entire body ignited. It was exhilarating, but at the same time my feelings frightened me. He stirred something in my I don’t really understand. I wish I could explain it. I liked it, but I still pulled away. What’s wrong with me? I said, “I love you so much, Jeff. But I can’t. . .”
Then he said, “Can’t what? We’ve necked lots of times. When I’m with you, you drive me crazy!” He looked out the window.
I was torn in half. I wanted him so much, Diary. But I guess deep down I wasn’t ready, and his reaction broke my heart.
He opened the car door and got out. He walked around for awhile and kicked the tires on the car. When he got back into the car, I told him I was sorry. He said he was the one who needed to be sorry. He got carried away and then added, “Let’s just forget this happened, okay?”
How could I forget? For the first time in my life, I truly loved someone, but was too afraid to let him see how I really felt. We drove home in silence. He kept both hands on the wheel all the way home. I was so glad my parents weren’t up when Jeff walked me to the front porch. “Do you want your ring back?”
He smiled and said, “No. I want you to be my girl. Listen Beth, I’m so sorry about tonight. I didn’t mean to push you or hurt you.” He kissed me gently. “I’ll call you in a couple of days. I promise.” Then he kissed me again.
I flashed his class ring that was still on my finger. “I’m yours forever, Jeff. I do love you so.” I stood on my tiptoes and kissed him. Then I went into the house and watched him from the front window. I was so proud he was my guy. He was so self-confident and strong—I adored that about him. I took it from my finger and held it to my heart. How I want to wear it around my neck on a gold chain, and show everybody we’re together. But I know that’s impossible. I have to hide my feelings as well as the ring.
Diary, I only wish my parents could be happy for me.
Sunday, July 22, 1968
I dressed early and went to church after a sleepless night. I thought maybe God might have some answers for me, but if He did, I never heard them. As I sat in the quiet sanctuary, my mind wandered to last night. Should I confess my deception in the name of love? I love Jeff. I know I do. I’ve never felt this way about anyone, not even Tommy. I never kissed him like I’ve kissed Jeff. Why is a French kiss wrong? It’s OK to have tingling feelings when you love someone, right? If I do tell the priest, he’d probably say I’m a sinner, and I should say ten “Hail Mary’s” as a penance. What good would that do?
When I got home from church, my mother cornered me. She commanded me to sit down like a dog, and then told me that she had a big problem with my relationship with Jeff. She said she felt I was getting much too serious about him for a “girl of my age.” She said I was getting in “over my head.” Then she went on about our dates. She said Jeff should be taking me to nice places instead of having picnics and going to places that didn’t cost anything. I explained that he was saving for college. She said I needed to open my eyes and see Jeff for what he was—a guy who was “on the make.” He wanted one thing. She said his body language, gestures, tone of voice and especially the way he looks at me says he won’t be satisfied until he “spoils me.” Finally, she said she watched us necking in the car in front of the house and called me a cheap tramp.
As she went on, every word struck like she was physically hitting me and all I could do was sit there and take it. Even though it hurt, I refused to cry. When she saw her brow beating was bouncing off of me, she took a deep breath and her tone got gentler. “I used to date somebody like Jeff, and one night, he tried to rape her.
Finally, I couldn’t take it any more and I shouted, “Jeff would never do anything like that! You haven’t even given him a chance. Because he’s older than me, you think the worst of him and of me. Don’t you trust me?”
She said that she didn’t trust him. I shouted at her, “Why do you hate me? I work all week like a slave, and when I find a little happiness, you want to take it away from me!”
Her retort was to slap me. Hard. I saw the room spin. Then she yelled at me to go to my room like I was some little kid.
I ran down the hall, flopped on my bed and cried until I used up all of my tears. Why does she have to make everything so hard for me? Why can’t she listen? Why doesn’t she care about how I feel? Why doesn’t she see how things really are instead of the way they might look? Now I know I can never tell her the truth about going steady with Jeff. My body ached, and the only way I could recover from my tears was to picture myself in Jeff’s arms. Oh, Diary, what am I going to do?
Monday, July 23, 1968
I was so glad when my mother left for work and my father went off to the gym for his “heart class.” I don’t want any more confrontation. I’m worn out. God I’ve missed Deb. She’s been on vacation for the last week with her family,but today she was supposed to be home. When she’s not around, I feel like I’ve lost the other half of my soul. I called this morning, and she was at the orthodontist, so I buried myself in scrubbing the kitchen floor. When Dad came home around 2 p.m. he said I could go out until supper time. I think he feels sorry for me. I thanked him with a hug and ran all the way to Deb’s house.
Deb said she spent the week reading Love Story because their family vacation was geared to her younger cousins, and she was bored silly. When I pulled Jeff’s ring from my pocket, she stared in disbelief. “Really?” She hugged me and swore to keep my secret. Then I told her about the fight with Mom. I told her that my mother hated him and thought all he wanted was sex. I told Deb I loved Jeff and she said, “No Kidding! Anybody can see that.”
Sunday, August 21, 1968
Bob, Deb, Jeff and I went to the County Fair today. The only reason my parents let me go was because Bob and Deb were going, too. I guess they figured that we wouldn’t “make out” in front of our friends. My parents have kept us apart for almost a month, so as you might imagine, Jeff and I were elated to be together. Bob drove, so we had the back seat to ourselves. Jeff held me all the way to the fair, and we talked softly. Our conversation was about how much we missed each other and how happy we were to be together again.
The four of us had a blast going on the carnival rides. I just loved it when we stopped at the top of the double Ferris wheel and could look out over the whole fair! Jeff held on for dear life and confessed that he hated heights. When I told he should have said something, he confessed he didn’t want me to think he was a wimp. We had a hot dog and soda for lunch on an old wooden picnic table. Poor Bob got a sliver in his leg and had to go to the nurse’s station to get it removed. The crowning event of the day was when Jeff won a stuffed bear for me by knocking down some bowling pins with a softball. The gray koala bear is so cute. I love to squeeze his fat, soft tummy. The only problem with winning the bear was lugging it around for the rest of the day!
We learned Minnie Pearl was headlining a free grandstand show at 7 p.m. We all agreed to stay, even though it would make us late getting home. I knew I’d probably be grounded for at least a week—but what would really change? I was already imprisoned with housework and babysitting. For me, the decision was easy. After all, when would I ever get to see such a famous comedian again?
It was ten o’clock when we left the fair. Jeff and I kissed cuddled all the way. We’d been apart for so long that we couldn’t get enough of each other. When he tried to French kiss me again, I just enjoyed it. I knew I was a sinner for enjoying his kiss so much, but I couldn’t help myself. His hands rubbed my back as his tongue pushed deeper. He drove me crazy and my back arched. What I felt for him frightened me because I knew I could so easily lose myself in him. I pulled away. But this time, he didn’t get angry. He just smiled and held me close as we rode home.
When we arrived home at 11 p.m., my parents were livid. My Dad said he considered calling the Sheriff Department to track us down. When we tried to explain, my mother told me to “Shut up.” My father put all the blame on Jeff because he was the oldest and responsible for me. Jeff tried to say he was sorry for making a bad decision, but my father wouldn’t let him. He said he didn’t want to hear his lames excuses. Worst of all, Daddy said that he was disappointed in me.
So, now I’m on lock down for two weeks. At least I have the koala to hug. Nobody needs to know that I’m pretending its Jeff.
September 1, 1968 – Labor Day
Tomorrow is the first day of school. Usually, I look forward to going to school and as a senior this year, I should be ecstatic. But I’m not. Jeff is in college, and I’m stuck in limbo. I don’t fit here any longer. Most of friends graduated last spring. Other friends say summer changed me—they say I’m too serious and no fun. Only Deb understands.
To make things worse, Jeff called tonight and said that it would be another week before we could see each other. He said he’d been in a car accident, but I shouldn’t worry. He just had bumps and bruises, but his “Beast” ended up in a ditch and was pretty banged up. It would take a week to get her fixed. When I asked him what happened, he started by saying, “Don’t worry, baby, I was out drink. . .” then he stopped for a second and said, “I mean I was out with a couple of guys and this drunk ran us off the road.”
When he asked if I told my parents that I was his girl, I admitted I still hadn’t. It hurt when he said, “So you’re ashamed of me?”
Ashamed? Never. He was the best thing that ever happened to me. I loved being in love with him. When my mother walked into the room, I said, “I have to go.” The last thing he said was, “I love you.” I said, “I know.” Then I hung up.
September 8, 1968
One word describes today – Perfect. It was sunny, warm, blue sky and Jeff was here. We celebrated by going on our last picnic for the year. We lay on a blanket under a huge pine tree, had our lunch and then laid beside each other talking about the college and high school and how we wished we could be going to school together. He said he had gotten his education deferment and he wouldn’t be drafted. I couldn’t stand it if he had to go to Vietnam. I told him about the fights with my parents, and he was very hurt and disappointed he couldn’t seem to live up to their standards. I saw real pain in his eyes because we are still keeping our commitment a secret.
The warmth of the fall day and Jeff’s affection made me feel alive after being dead for three weeks in my “real” life. We held each other and vowed that we wouldn’t let my parents pull us apart. No matter what.
September 18, 1968
Well, the “shit” hit the fan today. There’s no other way to say it. As soon as I opened the back door, I knew I was in for a battle. I could feel my mother’s anger brewing the second I stepped into the kitchen. Like a dog, she commanded me to sit. She rolled Jeff’s ring across the kitchen table in my direction. “Explain this to me, young lady.”
I gulped. But before I could answer, she screamed, “I knew something was up! You deliberately defied me!” I jumped when she screamed, “Say something!”
Tears welled in my eyes when I asked, “How did you find it?”
“I was for a barrette for your sister, and I found it in your jewelry box.”
Naturally. I always kept my baby sister’s barrettes in my jewelry box. Then I yelled, “Yes, I’m going steady with Jeff. I confess. I don’t want to date anyone else. I love him.”
“You don’t even know what love is!” She screamed.
I was shocked. “Just because Jeff’s not your choice, doesn’t mean he’s not mine. I wanted to tell you, but you never listen.” As soon as the last word was out of my mouth, she slapped me across the face harder than she ever had.
She screamed. “I will not have that boy turn you into a tramp! He’s already got you lying to your parents. I’m going to tell you what you’re going to do. You’re going to give him his ring back and tell him you can’t see him any more.”
My cheek felt like a wasp had stung me. I felt it swelling, but I glared in defiance.
Then she said, “This relationship is all wrong and you know it. French kissing? No decent boy kisses a girl that way. And no daughter of mine is going to end up pregnant at 17!”
I couldn’t believe what I just heard. She read my diary! “You read my diary! How could you?”
She towered over me with her hands on her hips. “I’ll do whatever I please to know what’s going on with you. You don’t talk to me, so if I have to read your precious little diary, I’ll do it. I’ll be damned if someone like Jeff is going to shame this family.”
And there it was. She was more concerned about appearances than she was for me. I couldn’t hold back the tears back any longer. How could my own mother betray me like this? She had me convicted without a trial. How could she think such things about me? I am a “good girl,” but where does it get me? Maybe Jeff and I should make love, especially if I’m going to be accused of it.
After she finished her lecture, she commanded me to go to my room. I scowled at her and grabbed my jacket. I bolted out the back door. I heard her scream, “Get back here, young lady! Wait until your father gets home.”
With tears streaming down my face, I ran to Deb’s house as fast as I could. By the time I got there, I was out of breath, my side ached and my face was red and swollen. Deb’s mom took one look at me and said, “Beth are you alright?” I nodded. “Debbie’s upstairs, sweetie.”
I told my best friend everything; she listened and didn’t say a word. “I don’t want to give Jeff his ring back, Deb, I love him. I want to be his girl. He makes me happy.” When I told her that my mother thought I was fucking Jeff, Deb couldn’t believe it. I said, “I don’t want to ever go home, again, Deb. I spent my whole summer like a slave because I know Dad’s heart attack has made life hard for everybody; but my mother spoils everything! Can I please stay here?”
“Of course. My parents love you as much as me. You just take a couple of deep breaths, and I’ll tell my mom what’s going on.” While Deb was downstairs, I went into the bathroom, washed my face and combed my hair. The cold water soothed my bruised cheek. Deb came upstairs with an ice pack and the good news that I could stay for dinner.
I helped Mrs. J set the table and thanked her. She just put her arm around me and said whatever was wrong would be all right. Why do adults do that? Assume everything is be okay when it never will be?
When I got home, my parents were waiting for me. I knew I had to say something, so I looked at my father and said, “I didn’t mean to break the rules, Daddy. I just followed my heart, and if that’s wrong and makes me evil, then I guess I am.” I took a deep breath and said, “I didn’t do anything wrong with Jeff no matter what Mom thinks. I just wish you could see him the way I do.” Before either of them could say anything, I ran down the hallway to my room and slammed the door.
Diary, I keep hoping you can help me sort out my feelings. I’m not a bad girl. My mother says I don’t talk to her. And she’s right. I don’t trust her. How dare she read you! She’s more interested in her reputation than she is in me.
September 19, 1968
Mom, if you’re reading this – enjoy. Today was dull. Too much school work and no fun. Whoever said high school was the best time of life must have been drunk. Because if this is the best, kill me now.
September 20, 1968
I wish Deb would quit asking me if I was okay. She knows I’m not. But she’s a great caring friend.
I tried writing to Jeff in study hall, but the words on the paper seem so lame.
After school, Deb said she was very worried about me. She said she would call Jeff and tell him what happened. I gave her a hug and thanked her.
September 21, 1968
The doorbell rang around five o’clock tonight and to everyone’s surprise, it was Jeff. He apologized to my father for not calling first, but asked whether he could see me and take me out for a hamburger. To my surprise, Dad said it was fine. Jeff took my hand, and we walked to the car. I slid beside him and cuddled next to him. He started the car and kept his hand on my knee as he drove. I rested my head on his shoulder and a silent tear escaped. He finally said, “I’m worried about you, Beth.”
After stopping at the A&W, we went to the beach where the crescent moon gave a sliver of light. At least Jeff couldn’t see the ugly bruise on my cheek. We I took his ring out of my purse and put it in his hand. He said, “What’s this? You’re breaking up with me?”
I started to cry. “No – that’s not it at all. I love you more than ever, but I have to give your ring back to you. My mother found it–” My tears turned to choking sobs. My mother had won. She was the puppet master and I was the puppet.
He put his arm around me and let me cry. In a soothing voice he said, “I know. Deb told me everything.” After a few minutes said, “Baby, why do they hate me? We never did anything wrong!”
I shook my head. “I don’t know. They always believe the worst of me. It doesn’t matter what I say, or what I do. I told them I love you, Jeff. It didn’t matter to them. I still have to give the ring back. This is hardest thing that I’ve ever done. Sometimes I don’t think my parents want me to be happy. They just keep me around for babysitting and housework.”
He kissed me sweetly. “Please don’t cry, Beth. It makes me so sad when you cry.” I buried my head in his cardigan sweater, and he kissed the top of my head. I wrapped my arms around his neck and pressed close to him. I whispered, “Let’s run away.”
He kissed me and said, “You make me crazy, girl. I love you so much.” Then he gently pushed me away gently and said, “As much as I want to run away with you, we both know we can’t. You have to finish high school, and think about it. Where would we go? When we go away together, it will be the right way. It won’t be secret. We’ll be married and have nothing to be ashamed of, okay?”
I dropped my arms from around his neck and stared blankly into space. I turned away, knowing what he was saying would never come true.
Jeff put his arm around me as we drove home, but even his warm touch couldn’t cure the numbness that had overcome me. He walked me to the front door, embraced me, tipped my chin and we gazed into each other’s soul. Then it happened. He kissed me, and at that instant I knew his goodnight kiss was a goodbye kiss.
Thursday, September 22
This will be the last time I speak with you. It’s nothing you did. You’ve always been there for me, but I don’t want to talk any more. After my mother read you, I can’t pretend that you can keep my secrets any longer.
My parents expect me to be happy because I’m 17, but I can’t. As I see it, my life here is over. I’m leaving. Living with my parents will always be a prison, and I have to break out. But how do I do that? Do I get on a bus? And what direction do I go? Jeff said, running away is not the answer. Maybe he’s right, but I don’t see any other way.
I can’t cry any more. I can’t fight any more. I’m tired. I’m weary of being accused of deeds I haven’t done. Jeff is lost to me because my parents drove him away.
Tell Debbie that I will miss her more than anything, but assure her that somehow I’ll find her again somehow. She’s my best friend, and she knows the truth. I don’t know what I will do without her because she’s always been there for me in every way. I love her – tell her that.
Debbie’s eyes were wet as she closed the diary and laid it on her night table. She felt comfort knowing her friendship with Beth had been a source of strength for her best friend. But even Debbie never realized just how distraught Beth really had been. Deep down she felt like she had failed her friend, but after reading the diary, she knew better. Beth had sent the diary to release Deb from any guilt and show her how much their friendship truly meant.
That evening, Bob called Debbie and told her when Jeff heard the news that Beth had thrown herself in front of a train that awful Saturday night, he went out to the barn and shot himself with his hunting rifle.
The only way Debbie could deal with the death of her best friend was to imagine she and Jeff were finally happy together in another place.