“Did you shit yourself, Amelia?”
My heart was now beating out of my chest as I looked down at myself. I knew that despite my nerves, I hadn’t lost control of my bowels. One knows if that happens, right? No. This was not poop; it was blood. I wasn’t prepared for it because it was the first time I’d ever gotten my period. At thirteen, I was later than most of the other girls I knew. This was probably the worst timing imaginable.
Justin looked down then up into my panicked eyes.
I mouthed to him, “It’s blood.”
Without hesitation, he gave me a quick nod as if to say that he had it covered.
“It’s blood,” he said.
“Blood? Ew…gross!” the other boy, Ethan, said.
“Amelia stabbed herself with my knife on the way here.”
I’d been looking down, but I whipped my head up and looked over at my friend incredulously.
Chandler’s eyes widened. “She stabbed herself?”
“Yeah.” Justin smiled. To my surprise, he took a pocket knife out of his jacket. “See this here? I carry it everywhere with me. It’s a Swiss Army knife. Anyway, I was showing it to Amelia on the bus. I dared her to stab herself in the abdomen. Crazy girl that she is, she actually did it. So, anyway, she’s got blood on her pants now.”
“Are you joking?”
“Wish I was, dude.”
The three of them looked at each other before Chandler said, “That’s the coolest fucking thing I’ve ever heard!”
Ethan smacked my arm. “Seriously, Amelia. That’s some epic shit right there.”
Justin laughed. “Yeah, so anyway…we figured we’d come say ‘hey’ since we were almost here anyway…but we should probably get her to the emergency room.”
“Cool, man. Let us know how it goes.”
“What the heck did you just do?” I whispered as we walked away.
“Don’t say anything. Just walk.”
The cool night air hit us as we exited the rotating doors of the mall. We stood on the sidewalk and stared at each other for a moment before breaking into hysterical laughter.
“I can’t believe you came up with that crazy story.”
“Not that you should be ashamed of the truth, but I knew you were embarrassed. So, I wanted to do something. You were pulling on your hair like crazy.”
“I was? I didn’t even realize.”
“Yeah. You do that when you’re really nervous.”
“I never knew you noticed that.”
His eyes travelled down to my lips for a moment when he said, “I notice everything about you.”
Feeling suddenly flush, I changed the subject. “I never knew you carried a knife.”
“I always do. You know, in case something happens when we’re out. I need to be able to protect you.”
My heart that was beating for those jerks just a moment ago was now beating incessantly for an entirely different reason.
“I’d better get home.”
“There’s a drug store right there. Why don’t you go get something. Ask them if they have a bathroom you can use.”
I went inside and used the money I had reserved for video games at the mall arcade to buy a box of maxi pads and some cheap granny underwear. I’d tackle tampons later when I had time to figure out how to use them.
When I emerged, Justin took off his hoodie and handed it to me. “Here, wrap this around your waist.”
“Where are we going now?” he asked.
“What do you mean? I have to get home! I have blood all over my pants.”
“No one can see it with my jacket wrapped around you.”
“I still don’t feel comfortable.”
“I really don’t want to go back home tonight, Patch. I know where we can go…where we won’t know anyone. It’s some place I go by myself sometimes. Come on.”
Justin led me down the sidewalks of Providence. After about ten minutes, we turned a corner and approached a small red building. I looked up at the illuminated sign.
“This is a movie theater?”
“Yup. They show the kind of movies that nobody knows about or that people don’t talk about. The best part? They don’t even care how old you are here.”
“Are they bad movies?”
“No. Not like those naked kind of movies, the ones I told you my dad watches. No. These ones are like foreign with subtitles and stuff.”
Justin bought two tickets and a popcorn for us to share. The theater smelled musty and was practically empty, which was perfect considering I didn’t want to see anyone tonight. Even though the seats were sticky, this was just what I needed.
The movie was a French film with subtitles, called L’Amour Vrai. The cinematography was mesmerizing, and the plot was more serious than the comedies we normally watched. But it was perfect. Perfect not only because of what was on the big screen but because of who was next to me. I lay my head on Justin’s shoulder and thanked God for a friend who always knew exactly what I needed. There was also a twinge of something unidentifiable running through me, a gnawing feeling that would eventually identify itself over time and reach its pinnacle shortly before I ran away from it all.
That wasn’t the last independent film Justin and I would watch together at the little red theater. That place became our secret hangout over the next couple of years. Indie movies became our thing. Going there wasn’t about being seen at the big cinema or running into people from school. It was a place where we could both escape from reality without being watched, a place where we could be together and get lost in a different world at the same time.
The following afternoon, I listened from my window as Justin sat on Nana’s stoop, playing a new song I’d never heard him perform before. It sounded like I Touch Myself by the Divinyls, but he’d changed it to I Stab Myself.
Gotta love that kid.
A couple of weeks passed, and things hadn’t gotten any better between Justin and me. Rather than taunt me, he’d resigned himself to just ignoring me altogether.
The house had four bedrooms. Since I’d turned one of them into an exercise room, Justin used the other one as an office during the day. His muffled voice could often be heard from behind the door as he made work calls. Apparently, the company he worked for sold business solutions software.
Jade and I were working almost every night at Sandy’s as well as the occasional afternoon. One day in particular, we were on break when we overheard the restaurant owner, Salvatore, complaining that the band who performed most nights had suddenly quit. Sandy’s was probably the most popular spot on the entire island for live music. That’s what it was known for even more than the food. So, this didn’t bode well for business.
Jade’s voice was low. “I wonder if Justin would be interested in playing here.”
I’d been feeling kind of sick as it was this afternoon, but the mere mention of his name made my stomach feel even more unsettled.
“You think he would want to perform in a place like this?”
“Well, he’s used to bigger venues, but it’s not like he’s doing anything else. He took the summer off, but I get the feeling he actually regrets it. He’s been in a horrible mood since we got here. I think he’s itching to play again. It might do him some good to get back in the game for a bit on a smaller scale. It’s not like there would be any pressure. No one knows him out here.”