...I said to Patrick from the passenger seat as we wound our way up Cheyenne Canyon. It was dark, and we were just driving around. Neither of us had to be home yet, and Upper Gold Camp Road was a perfect place to park if we were in the mood. Who isn't always in the mood to make out when they're seventeen? This was part of a convenient loop we often made in his Chevy S-10 Blazer, night or day; when we weren't at school or work.
I lived on the South side of Colorado Springs on W. Cheyenne Road. Taking the road to the West from my house another two miles would put you where we were in the canyon. Once to the top, which is a local favorite for mountain bikers, trail runners and home of Cap'n Jacks trail, we would continue to the right. Upper Gold Camp's parking lot was there. We'd take North Cheyenne Canyon Road down the opposite side of the canyon where we could catch some stunning views of the sparkling city below, and once we'd parked sufficiently. It was very unlikely that we'd see anyone else in the canyon that late at night. By day, however, it was a hot spot for recreation. We'd end up near 21st Street just West of Colorado Springs. It was an easy jog from there to 8th Street, which would come to an end right back at the base of Cheyenne Canyon. We could turn left and be at my house in two minutes.
Patrick drove me everywhere. I didn't have my own car, and it would be another five years before I'd even bother to get one. He lived just Northeast of downtown and a measly twelve or so blocks from Palmer High, where we went to school. The address of the apartments that I lived in was the cutoff for attending Palmer. The house next door was in Cheyenne's school district. Cheyenne was tagged as the rich and snobby kid school. I was thankful for having just barely squeaked into District 11, though I was a good fifteen to twenty minute drive away.
My best friend, Erin, lived in my apartment building. She'd gone to junior high and her freshman year of high school in Manitou Springs. She had been grandfathered in from living there with her parents before they split, but they both lived in Colorado Springs now. When tenth grade rolled around she decided to join me at Palmer. Her older sister, Jill, lived with their Dad and went to Doherty. Her school was still in District 11, but was further North than Palmer.
Erin had her first car all lined out by her sixteenth birthday. She bought an early nineties chocolate brown Ford Taurus. Ever since I'd met her she'd been going to see a chiropractor weekly. He'd crack the holy heck out of her back and neck, and then send her on her way. She started working in their office a few days a week after school when she was fifteen, and they'd practically watched her grow up. They loved her, and she them. But, it was easy to consider the brown hair and blue eyed girl part of any family. She was such a part of ours that she'd regularly add items to our grocery list. Things like chocolate doughnuts for Erin or simply, chocolate for Erin. The Chiropractor sold her the Taurus for a good price, and she used the money she'd earned working there to buy it.
The Taurus meant freedom for us, and less walking which she nor Jill were ever as excited about as I was. It also meant that she could start driving us to school. Before that, her mom and mine would alternate giving us rides. We were often late to school, and always were on the days that her mom took us. So, it was only natural that we'd always be late once Erin started taking us. Only now, that meant that we were late everyday instead of every other. I'd walk into the front door of Erin's apartment on the lower level, and straight back to her room where I'd sit on her bed. I'd watch her brush out her long and perfectly straight hair, and finish her make-up. She had porcelain colored skin and bright rosy cheeks. Her mom sold Mary Kay, so she and Jill always looked nice in their make-up. Erin wore a thin layer of foundation and powder, taupe eye shadow, black eyeliner top and bottom, mascara and Chapstick. Her complexion was flawless. She would moisten a Q-tip in her mouth, and run it along her upper and lower lashes in succession while she pulled at the outside corner of her eye; with the pointer finger of whichever eye she was perfecting. Doing so would give her eyeliner a clean edge and erase any mistake she may have made. I had learned lots of fancy tricks like that from watching her over the past three years. The naturally dark hair that framed her face made a striking contrast with her sky blue eyes and fair skin. Her black eyeliner brought it all together. When she was done, we'd head to school.
It wasn't easy telling Erin that I couldn't ride with her anymore. We were into our second semester of our junior year now. I'd told her over and over that I couldn't be late. My first period Social Studies teacher, Mr. Smith, was over it. He would not allow me to sneak in, and sit down, without paying attention to me. He was huge. As in tall and broad, and not a bad guy at all. He was just one of those teachers who took students being late to his class personally. Either that, or he just considered it a major part of his job to teach them the importance of promptness.
"It's disrespectful! Not only are you interrupting my lesson, but you are taking time away from the other twenty-three students in this class who should be learning. Instead, they have to sit here and listen to me explain this to you. What makes you so important, Browning?" was Mr. Smith's final spiel.
"I've told her that I can't be late, but I can't make her not be!" I pled.
"It is your responsibility to get here on time. No one else's." was his come back. "Future tardiness to this class will get you suspended. I suggest you find another means of transportation."
When I told Erin the next morning that Patrick would be picking me up to take me to school from then on, it was nothing short of a fight. "Fine." she said finally, and disregarded us as we drove off. It was yet another point for boyfriend. She'd been a good sport since Patrick and I had gotten together, a couple months earlier. But, now she and I would see even less of one another. I guess it's sort of the natural progression of things. At that age, it's just a matter of time before friends' time gets snagged up by boys. We'd already seen it happen with Jill. She'd recently moved in with her boyfriend from high school, Tre.
It was warm in the Blazer despite it being seven-thirty at night and January. Third Eye Blind's, How's it Going to be, softly filled the cab of the SUV as we followed the curves of the canyon. The lights of the dashboard display illuminated Patrick's face as he watched the winding road in front of him. His hat was ever so cooly backwards, and his left hand was relaxed on the wheel at 11 o'clock. His right elbow rested on the console while holding my hand. I glanced down toward the Fossil watch that glistened on his wrist before I shifted my body to look at him. This is it. I had to tell him. My stomach was in knots. This was so silly and dumb, but was such a part of me. I could barely say the word without cringing. It just isn't something that girls do. I could remember being little and my mom telling me not to say it. She didn't even give me a replacement word to use. It was more like, girls just don't. I desperately needed to be freed of this inhibition. Patrick and I were getting so close, and I might very well spend my life with him. He had to know. I couldn't fully relax around him anymore until he knew.
He turned his face to look at me as I said the words. He wore a subtle expression of alarm as I told him, "I know you already know this, but I have to tell you anyway." His eyes glinted back to check the road and then back to me. All the blood drained from my face as a circus performed in my stomach. Here it goes.
Blood quickly returned to my face turning my entire head the color of Rudolph's nose as I held my breathe waiting for his response. His wide eyes slowly narrowed as the outside corners wrinkled. He bore his best smile, stretching out the scar just above his upper lip. I exhaled and smiled shyly as I relaxed into the seat. The double yellow lines shone bright in Patrick's headlights through the windshield. I felt amazing. Now I could go anywhere, with him.