CINDER-BELLA - Ballrooms, Ballplayers, Boulders & Byrds
Updated: Dec 11, 2021
Continued from: TRUE BLUE - The Quarterback & the Cheerleader
Remember how I said that, with every year, I became less and less a member of my alma mater and more of an adoptee of the high school my boyfriend attended? Only five miles away, they were our main rival in everything. They were also our sister-school where, for those of us in Advanced Placement classes, we bussed over for part of our day. By the time I was a senior, I spent over half my school day there, including the lunch hour.
No complaints here.
Conveniently, their school taught the entirety of World History in junior year, whereas ours split it between the fall semesters of eleventh and twelfth grade. Since I had no interest in repeating an entire semester, I chose to stay over and take some more classes that my hometown didn't offer.
I had also discovered a formerly unknown love of history with this new teacher. He was far less concerned with names, places, and dates than he was about making sure we understood the importance of these significant events, how they had come about, and how they impacted what happened next. He was focused on the Story of history, which I would carry with me into college and beyond.
Besides, the history teacher at my home school didn't like me much. He was one of the most vocal about about his issue with me wearing that rebel-uniform-of-a-rival-letter-jacket, so I was relieved not to have to return to his classroom.
I also had far more friends at my boyfriend's school than I did in my hometown, and I liked the atmosphere better. I'd been hanging out with these kids since the end of eighth grade, and attended two years of their prom with Carl before he graduated.
Since I was only a freshman that first year we dated, he had to fight for me with his administration--and he did. Nobody had ever done that before, really stood up and went to bat for me like that. But Carlton Gregg was an all-star champ in more ways than one, and I received special dispensation to go with him.
He tied a corsage around my wrist and drove us to the Plaza in his dapper tie and cumberbund that matched my dress. I had chosen royal blue--an unconscious choice that began my shift to wearing that blue-and-white letter jacket around more than just my shoulders. I was fresh-faced and starry-eyed, barely fifteen that night, and he was the perfect gentleman. (We still hadn't done much past kissing yet.) In all, it was the idyllic romantic dream.
For his senior prom, I wore a lacy white dress with spaghetti straps and a jagged faerie-hem. Fitting for Cinderella all dressed up for the ball. As we danced and kissed under the streamers and balloons, I believed that we would be together for our whole lives. It seemed inevitable. He had been accepted at the closest university to our home towns, and it would be natural that I follow him in two years.
When Carl moved away for college, he officially ascended to the rank of Young Man, whereas I was only sixteen. Although inspiration had struck out in the Playhouse that one hazy summer afternoon when we had sex the first time, that was it. We didn't automatically fall into the home base habit.
It had been such a spontaneous decision, so we hadn't used a condom and that had scared both of us. For the next two-and-a-half weeks, we danced around on eggshells until I finally--blessedly--got my period. That was enough for me.
Neither of us wished to repeat that. Unfortunately, the four other times I agreed to it, neither of us had condoms then either. I had no idea how to get any in my hometown. We had one gas station, but I didn't bother looking to see if they had any. It was such a small town that my purchase would be guaranteed to get back to my parents. Same deal if I'd walked into our single bar to scout out the bathroom. I wasn't a pool player. I wasn't a dart, video game, softball, or horseshoe player, which meant I had no legitimate business up there. Everybody knew everybody in that town, and everybody talked about everybody, so there was no way I would risk that.
I suppose if I’d really wanted to make intercourse a regular occurrence, I would have risked those things. Or I could have poked Carl while we were on a date. “Hey. Let’s go to the store and get condoms. Hey. Go into that truck stop and snag some. Dude. You say you wanna have sex but you never bring condoms. Why? You're the older one with the driver's license from a bigger town. Get on that! NOW. 'Cause I want you, RAWR!” If I’d been really determined, I probably could have come across some in a truck stop bathroom while traveling to an away-game.
The truth was, I didn’t want to keep hitting homers with him. I wasn't ready for that caliber of intimacy and the risks that came with it. Even the "safety" of condoms wasn't enough to assuage my paranoia.
When I was twelve, an age much too young to begin processing what I had seen, the Catholic Church had taken it upon themselves to go even farther than public school sex ed. My catechism class determined to scare us into celibacy-until-marriage.
They showed us the ultrasound video recording of an abortion.
If you're sensitive to this topic, you'll want to look away for the rest of this paragraph. I wish I would have known to look away before I had seen too much. Heard too much. All those sounds. The teenage girl's crying. The violent vibration of the machine, and how that tiny fetus had jumped and thrashed, desperately trying to escape the inevitable.
I was traumatized and frothing furious that they showed us that. I am still enraged to this day. The image is seared into my mind for all time, and it still makes me sick, panicky, and heart-shattered when I recall it.
Their ploy worked. I guess.
Then again, so did all my research in preparation for my argument during the Debate segment of Speech and Communication class. We'd drawn lots to see who would argue for and against various touchy issues. My assignment was to defend Pro-Choice. My speech included the prop of a coat hanger.
I won. Hands down.
What I said even horrified the most towering, ruthless, and hardened of my bullies. I've heard I have a way with words when I put my mind to it.
All it did to me was create an excruciating debate inside me. I HAD to get out of that town. Period. No matter what. And we all knew the horror stories. Condoms break. Condoms fall off. There's only one failsafe to not get knocked up, and I needed to have zero hindrances to the trajectory of my life.
I also knew that I did not have it in me to kill a living being that I had created inside me, and the last thing I wanted was the temptation to do so. The dilemma would have torn me apart. The "best" outcome I could hope for: the knowledge that somewhere out there, my child was living a life that might be way more awesome than the one I could have provided as a teenage mom.
Or maybe not.
So the thought of pregnancy terrified me so badly that it overrode any pleasure I might have taken from the act. And let's face it. Carl and I weren't very good at sex yet. I’m sure that if I had ever let him do it regularly, he would have swiftly gained the momentum to transform intercourse into another sensual wonderland like everything else he did to me.
But I put it off over and over, sprinting for anywhere other than Home Base.
Once he started coming back to visit from college, his patience shifted to frustration that he tried not to show. He was a sweetheart, after all, and a truly good man. But that was the key word: man. Even in that first autumn apart, I could tell already. If we were going to make it work, either his high school girlfriend needed to grow up quickly or he needed to put certain aspects of his maturing self on hold.
That divergence unraveled our faerie tale bonds within months. We began to chafe, then argue, then quarrel over the phone. Visits became more and more strained, and I had no idea how to bridge the ever-widening gap between us, yet hold fast to what my guts were screaming: Not Yet.
And not without birth control.
I also had no idea how to break up with someone, especially when it was the last thing I wanted to do. So we stayed together longer than was good for either of us.
Thankfully, the five times Carl and I used the pull-out method, it worked. Unfortunately, our relationship no longer did.
Beyond the worry of pregnancy and the age gap between Mr. College Ballplayer and Miss Sweet Sixteen, there was something deeper at work--something I didn’t remotely understand at the time. I certainly didn't have words for the pieces flickering here and there in my mind, so I couldn’t have explained it to him.
Even if I could, I never would have dared. Heck, I never breathed a word of it to my best friend. Some of it would take me forty and nearly fifty years to speak about to a living soul.
See, Carl was Mr. All American. He was sweet and fun and smart and vibrant. He was also very wholesome--at least in the way he presented himself to me. Who knows if he had similar dark chocolate leanings he never would have owned to. In that place at that time? No way! Zipper mouth ruled the day about the sort of stuff that tantalized my most covert fantasies.
There were reasons why I had been attracted to Trent, and I'm not only referring to traumatic brain patterns. Some of these interests only gain in strength and sweetness with every episode of healing from PTSD and toxic relationships that I experience. All these fiery propensities--both the healthy and the damaging--were the same reasons why I found myself attracted to my second high school boyfriend.
Shane Byrd was from the same school as Carl, rakish with a dusty-brown mullet and piercing blue eyes. He smoked, which I didn’t like, but he had an edge that beckoned me toward that exhilarating precipice I hadn’t danced along in several years. I had forgotten the rush, the thrill, and he sparked within me a tiger-eyed desire to fully let my hair down and fling it in reckless abandon. With him, I was safe to stop pretending that I was some cotton-candy, saddle shoes, Catholic good girl.
Yes, I was an academic and an intellectual. I was an artist, a jock, and a performer. But beneath those acceptable waters, I was so much more. My insides were surging with an ocean of things that you just didn't do in proper society, especially in rural Minnesota in the late 80s. I was a smoking, occasionally tremoring volcano needing to blow. Shane didn't bat an eye on the days when the lava leaked from the fissures of my facade. He welcomed all those sides of me, encouraged them. I felt like I might be ready to start letting out a little bit of length on that leash and choke-chain.
Shane and I met during rehearsals for the spring musical put on by his school every year. As a junior, I’d started taking AP classes over there, and they invited me to try out for Cinderella after remembering what it was like to compete against me in the One Act Play Contest each year. I auditioned, and they cast me in the lead.
Much to the ruffled feathers of students and parents alike. I get it. But they asked me, and they cast me.
Then I downright plucked tails by breaking up with their recently graduated star ballplayer and taking up with a “burnout."
Shane was the younger brother of Byrdo, one of Carl’s best friends. The Byrd brothers were quite different. Tall, lanky maverick Shane did track and theater; sharp-tongued, stocky Byrdo played football and baseball, and hung out with the jocks who ran that school until they graduated.
Needless to say, when my ex-boyfriend's buddies descended on their old high school to watch Cinderella, it was a slightly stressful night for me. Besides Byrdo, another of Carl's Crew had a sister who had been cast alongside me--convenient excuse to attend en masse. So there they sat in that audience, once again sporting their old letter jackets like a quartet of burly, menacing mercenaries returned to home port after nine months at sea. They made no bones about how they felt about an outsider being cast as the lead, and about how I had “cheated on” one of Their Boys.
I hadn’t. That wasn't my style.
But I had started having feelings for Shane at rehearsals amidst our offstage chats and our twenty-second dance during the ballroom scene. The telltale pitter-patter of my heart provided the incentive to finally admit that my first love and I hadn't survived his move to college. I ended things with Carl before anything happened with Shane, but nobody wanted to hear that.
Once again, I was the “horrible slut.” Once again, I consoled myself with a new beau and each glowing accolade I had "stolen."
Unfortunately, Shane was even farther away from what I truly wanted. At first, it was thrilling and fun, a refreshing change of pace from trying to maintain that facade of the Classic High School Sweetheart I had once been. I did not wear another blue-and-white letter jacket, exchanging the name Gregg for Byrd. Instead, Shane wrapped his brown leather jacket around me, and I held my breath until it smelled more like me than like cigarettes.
But along with Shane's smoking came the drinking, the fighting, the bad grades, the skipped classes, the temper, and the belligerent attitude. Definitely exciting. Definitely not the fun kind.
Especially when it got turned upon me.
Senior class photos, September 1990
Shane and I lie intertwined and making out on a large flat rock, way up on a secluded overlook in the state park. If anyone ventures out this far, we'll be able to see them coming and duck behind the slope of the rock. Moss and crinkled leaves cover the gray granite, but we've laid down a plaid picnic blanket. My clothes are piled up beside us, mingled with his.
We've only had sex once--really quickly and quietly at his house over the summer. His mom was home, but she never bothers us, much less walks unannounced into his room like Carl's mom did. (Wise woman. I can't count the number of times that I pretended to be curled up on her son's chest, snoozing with my face under the covers as though it hadn't just been buried in his crotch half a second before.)
But Shane's parents are very different from Carl's, so he wasn't worried at all about locking the door, pulling our pants down, and doing it doggy-style in his chair-swing that hung from his ceiling. He was a virgin that day. I'd only had sex five times with Carl, and except for that first time, I wasn't super enthusiastic about it. I just couldn't relax about the idea of getting pregnant.
But Shane has a little pack of condoms. He did the first time, too, and that is incredibly sexy, so I agree to it with an anticipatory thrill that I'd begun to wonder if I would ever feel about this act. I'm no longer Mr. Baseball All-Star's little ball-n-chain who won't put out. I'll be eighteen soon--I'll be an adult--and I think I'm finally ready to start doing it.
Up on the sun-dappled boulder, Shane rolls onto his back, then rolls a condom onto his dick. With his lopsided, reckless grin, he beckons me to him, indicating that I should climb on top.
My heart races. My palms grow damp. I am all butterflies and fluttery giggles as I straddle his hips. I've never been in this position before.
He flashes his brows and tosses his head, urging, "Come on." He is always so bold about it, so assertive. Sometimes aggressive. I like how hard he sometimes clenches my hair when he kisses me, how tightly he grabs my ass to grind me up against him. I like the way he pins me against the wall, pins my hands to it with our fingers laced and his tongue down my throat. It brings out fangs in me I never knew I had.
At school, whenever we get around a corner and get each other alone for two seconds, it's like an ocean wave crashing against the rock, then receding with a clandestine hiss as we let our hands slide apart, pry our gazes apart, and slip off to our respective classes. Delicious.
I really did love how sweet and tender Carl was with me, especially considering how young we were. He never lacked for passion or lusty skill. But this...
Shane's hands clamp around the swell of my ass as I position myself. I give him a sexy look like I know what I'm doing, when I'm just trying to figure out how to get him in me. He grins back, practically salivating his hunger and anticipation. I finally manage it. My weight sinks down and I sheathe him to the hilt. The air hisses in through my nose.
His head tips back as his eyes fly open, then slam shut. His encouraging groan and the deeper push of his hips tell me, with zero doubt, how much he likes it.
I love it! I love how it feels to be the one pinning him down this time. I brace my hands on his chest. My knees gouge the hard granite. But...okay, so here we are. Now how do I move? I try to keep a calm look on my face, but how do I get it to--I think I have it. There? Like that? Yeah, there it is. That works.
I wish I hadn't ducked out of the room when Johnny's older brother put that porno on that one time when we were eleven. Shane has watched porn before. I've never seen anything close, so I don't really know how to--
My eyes pop open. My nails dig into his chest--pure reflex to what I just did, what tilting my hips like that just did deep inside me. Way up there where his head is pressed against me. "Oh, God," I gasp. I do it again just to make sure. Yep! That's definitely how it's done. I can tell in his breathing and the sounds he makes that it feels just as good for him.
I think I've got the hang of it. I really think I've got it!
"Yeah," Shane agrees, eyes still scrunched shut. "Oh, yeah."
I dig my nails in harder. I like the grunt he makes, and especially the way his wolf-eyes ignite, drawing a bead on me. I flash my eyebrows and smirk back, grinding down on him.
His fingers gouge into my hips, urging my motions deeper, higher, harder. "Come on. Oh yeah, that's it, come on!"
I lean on my palms to get better leverage because I can't put enough pressure onto my knees. The granite is too hard. Shane is not. He's perfect. Pulsing and straining and so intensely deep. Deeper than anything ever before.
"Oh, fuck," he groans, and I can only agree.
Is this actually a rhythm? Is this why everybody makes such a big deal about this? Why they love it so much? Yes. Oh, yes. This tingling, hair-raising furnace inside me is absolutely why! I let out a shuddering moan--part tiger-lust, part elated giggle. Oh, my God, we're getting it. We're getting the hang of it! He starts to move with me. It feels like--
As we hit a grinding angle, Shane grabs me and throws me off him, yowling and bellowing with his hands at his crotch.
I reach for him. "Oh, my God! Honey, are you okay?"
He shoves me away. "Chr-IST! What the fuck are you trying to do? Kill me?"
Back to being owl-eyed, I scoot to the edge of the blanket and draw my knees to my chest to hide everything I suddenly don't want him to see anymore. Why is it all my fault, just because I was on top? I had it going great--obviously great, by his reaction--until he started moving. It was the two of us together, not just me.
But he keeps swearing and yelling and chastising me. I sink lower and lower. I wish I could melt across the boulder like a pool of butter in the sun and slide off into the woods.
Better yet, I wish I could punt his nuts off this rock and really give him something to yowl about.
I don't know why I bother with all this love and sex crap. I definitely won't be trying anything like that with him again.
Maybe not with anybody. Ever.
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**It should be noted that I’ve never dated or even known anyone who was named Shane Byrd. That makes this tale a work of fiction.
Based on the incidents of my life that aren’t.