This is the third part of an ongoing story. It all started with A Tennessee Education. The Best Gift Ever continued the story. Each can be read independently but it's best to read all in order.
I do want to state that this is a tale about male submission and female dominance. The men in here all defer to more powerful women. I know this topic will not appeal to all and if this is not something you enjoy you may want to select another story more suitable to your taste.
May 27 7:17 PM
James Reynolds finished Reading the two paragraph letter. It ended with “I'll be fine Dad. I've been thinking about this for a long time. Travis”
He put the note down and for some reason moved from the bed to the old laminated desk. James pulled on the top draw but it hardly moved. Because the glue joints had come lose the desk now wobbled and the drawer was ill-fitted. James jimmied it open with a single hard jerk. Inside was a jumbled mess of pens, pencils, matchbox cars, rubber bands and miscellaneous papers. Seeing the papers were his sons' collection of artwork and memories. He examined what was there by grabbing several papers and looking them over. When he came to Travis' second-grade report card he opened it and read. The marks were all the same. They were always all the same – straight A's. The boy had always been brilliant. Several notes on the back dated periodically throughout the year by his teacher read: “not understanding why Travis doesn't want to play with the other children. He is often alone during recess.”
In a different pen another notation read, “Travis only has one friend – a girl that sits next to him in class. Do we need to schedule a time to talk?”
The next several items were ones holding no meaning to James but when he saw a torn scrap of paper and recognized Travis' scribble he stared at the formative print. It must have been from when he was still only six or seven. “I love my mommy.” James smiled. He read through several more notes and although he was not an analytical sort of man he saw a side of his son he never truly considered.
Mixed in amongst papers of submarines, cars, and Jets were several notes. Two other teachers commented on report cards stating once more of his difficulty developing relationships with male classmates. They all noted he did associate with girls more easily than boys. And of course his grades were all A's; every one of them.
“He's always was a mama's boy,” James thought. “That is, when mama wanted to be a mama,” he mused.
Almost every teacher complimented him regarding his intellectual giftedness. It was the notes that Travis had penned at an early age that James feel sad however. “I wish I could spend more time with mom.” “I'm so bored. Dad is always at work and mom is always too busy.” That one stung because he knew it was true. He grinned when he saw the stick figure drawing of a girl standing and boy kneeling. “What was that about?” he wondered.
He'd not soon find out since Travis was now gone and he couldn't show him the old drawing to ask if he remembered what he was thinking so many years ago.
“First Margaret and now Travis,” he said somberly.
James stuffed the papers back in the drawer and took a look around at the wrinkled posters hanging from the wall before closing the door. He headed down the creaky stairs intending to drink and watch TV. It was a sure way of pushing aside the pain of his loneliness. Indeed he was now alone. They had all left him one by one and now there was no one living here but him.
(Ten Weeks earlier)
Travis Reynolds drudged through the late winter snow, now black from soot and car traffic on his way home. The bus didn't take kids to his neighborhood and although the school officials would never admit it, they didn't' because his part of town wasn't deemed important by the powers to be. Yes he lived just inside the walking/bussing distance the city had set for their bussing criteria but Travis knew of others living within a half-mile of school who were bussed. Why was it he had to walk all this way? He knew why. It all had to do with economics and privilege; something of which he had neither. Bridgeport Connecticut was a blue-collar city located along the southern coast of the state and along the I-95 corridor. Ninety nine percent of people passing through here did so on highways that connected New York City to Boston, Providence, Hartford and the rest of New England. Although Travis lived a little more than three miles from school the statement the School Board always fell back on was students living less than two miles from school might have to walk if bus transportation was not available. Although kids living in the nicer parts of the district were always transported no matter how close they lived to Bridgeport High, busses never seemed to be available to drive through his part of town.
Today had been another crappy day at school and he couldn't wait to be done with it once and for all. School sucked. It was so boring and for the past year or two Travis had been going through the motions. He was there because that's what kids did. High school was a seven-hour teenage baby-sitting establishment. There was no education going on here, at least none that challenged him. Most teachers had lost the desire to teach, students cared less and most of the parents had no interest at all in their child's education. If Travis wasn't so gifted academically maybe it would have been more interesting and more challenging but it wasn't. School was way too easy and as a result, it bored him to know end.
He rounded the corner onto Remington Street where he lived with his dad and walked past the nondescript brick row homes that had been here for nearly a century. Here was where the lower class of society lived and it was easy to see money never made it into this part of town. The sidewalks had buckled under a century of freezes and thaws, the roads were a mass of asphalt patches and just as many potholes waiting repair. The homes were identical; red brick, black roofs and four windows facing the road – two on the first floor and two on the second. The only thing distinguishing one home from the other was the color of the door and the amount of crap laying around in the front yard.
Travis walked up the chipped and broken concrete steps, unlocked the door and walked into the dark home where he lived with his dad. Dropping his book bag at the foot of the steps he headed for the fridge. Five minutes later he sat at the Formica table in one of the old metal chairs and ate a couple of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Chugging down a glass of milk he piled his plate and knife in with the growing pile of dishes overflowing from the sink and onto the kitchen counter.
Just before he got up he saw the note and groaned. “Clean this shit up!” Travis looked around at the mess that was everywhere. Yea it had become his job to keep the house clean but still he hated it. He hated it because his dad didn't do anything except work at his dead-end job and come home and watch TV all night or hang out at the bar and drink. That's why they didn't have any money! That's why they could never do stuff. That's why he had to work and give most of the little he made to his father. His father drank way too much and ever since he turned eighteen helping with the bills had been the deal his dad demanded.
“If you're going to live here then you're going to help out. If not, then go find someplace else to eat and sleep.”
He wasn't ready to clean up this mess. He'd been at school since eight in the morning and didn't want to tackle this project. Besides, his dad wouldn't be home for a few hours so he had time. Travis climbed the stairs and went to the bathroom to take a leak. The bathroom looked as rundown as the kitchen, mostly because of the iron in the water. The toilet, sink and tub all had nasty rust stains around the drains making them look as cruddy as they really were. Of course the linoleum that covered the floor ever since his grandma was a child only emphasized the feeling that the entire house needed work. The place was falling apart but it was home.
Travis lifted the lid, jiggled the handle to make sure the water didn't run continuously and went into his room. Logging in on his desktop he checked a few websites and then happened to check his email. That's when he noticed there was a return email with the subject heading “Re: Want to talk?” Travis felt his pulse quicken. He opened the email and read:
Email from: Chev2468March 12 7:43 PM
Hey Travis, I got your note. Yea, I don't mind talking if you don't. But tell me, why did you write me? And how did you get that email address? I haven't had anyone use it in ages. I was about to shut that account down. I just saw you wrote me over a month ago. LOL. Yours was the only thing in my inbox that wasn't junk. Anyway, if you still want to talk drop me a line. Hit reply to this email. I'm writing from a different one than the one you wrote me last month.
Travis slumped back in his chair. He was beaming with excitement. This Chev girl actually wrote him! Travis pulled the cursor down and re-read the note he had sent her so long ago. He had completely lost hope in ever getting a reply after a week went by. He remembered writing on a whim one day when he felt particularly lonely and depressed. He had kept the email address on a piece of scrap paper after finding it on a discussion board. He had been surfing sites that dealt with depression and one guy had commented that he had made friends with a girl online. Seeing the email address he scribbled it down on a scrap of paper.
At the time he hadn't the balls to write and instead shoved the paper in one of the drawers of his rickety old desk. A few months later he decided to take a chance when he felt especially depressed. He remembered that day. The house was even colder than it was today. He remembered wearing his computer-gloves, as he called them. He found them at the Dollar Store. They were nothing more than thin cotton gloves that he had cut the very tips of the fingers off. They kept his hands warm and yet allowed him to use the keyboard during the winter months when Dad insisted the house thermostat be kept at 40 degrees. He looked at them now and considered putting them on. The freaking temperature in the house was no warmer than outside. He studied his initial email to Chev:
Email from: Travis.ReynoldsFebruary 20 2:12 AM
Hi. My name is Travis and I saw your email posted on a discussion board dealing with depression. I feel depressed and I'd like to talk to you if you have the time and if you are a girl. I live with my dad in Ct. and am a senior in high school. I can't wait to be done school. I also work at a convenience store. Hope you want to talk.
After reading his short note, and then reading Chev's once more, he decided to respond. His heart raced and he felt his hands suddenly getting moist even in the chill air. Was he that stressed? “Of course I am,” he thought. “I'm writing a girl I don't even know!” He stopped and went back to the bathroom, scooped out a few handfuls of water from the faucet and washed his face.
Email from: Travis.ReynoldsMarch 12 7:57PM
Hi Chev. Thanks for writing! Like I said, I was reading a discussion board and someone had your email posted. They said there was a woman that would talk to you if you wrote her. I wrote your email down but was afraid to contact you at first. One day I felt like I really needed to talk to someone that might listen and found that paper. I sent you a note in the hope you'd respond. I needed someone to talk to. My question for you is, are you really a girl? If so can you tell me a little about yourself? I am writing because I think it would be nice to talk to someone. I don't have many friends and basically live alone. I'm interested in girls but it always seems that the girls aren't interested in me. It's probably because I'm poor. We don't have hardly any money. Anyway, I was hoping you might be different. I hope to hear from you again.
Email from: Tianna.JohnsonMarch 12 9:29 PM
Hey Chevonne, You wouldn't believe what happened today. I was checking the old email account, you know, the one you used to recruit boys for the farm? Well I got a hit and decided to see who was at the other end. Turns out it's a high school kid from Connecticut that wants to talk. Fresh meat! Don't know much about him yet but I told him to write me through one of mom's accounts the 2468 one. Feel free to read what he said. In case you forgot, the password is the usual one. Anyway, I wanted to see what you thought. Should I try? Do you want to take a go at him? I mean, you're the pro. I could use the cash but I thought I needed to ask since he wrote your email and not mine.
Email from: Chevonne.JohnsonMarch 13 6:44 AM
Tianna, I've done this so many times that I'm getting bored. I think you should do this one. My job is keeping me busy and I'm doing fine financially. I'm going to pass. Besides, I don't have much free time anymore to spend it talking to guys I really don't want in my life. Ever since Mom got me that great job I need to put my time into my work.
Yea, I read his email and the one you sent. Hey… He thinks he's talking to me! ha-ha You can keep pretending he's talking to me. I don't mind and he's probably not going to pan out anyway so no reason to tell him who you really are. But you need to get him to open up to see if he is a candidate or not. It's not hard. Just be yourself. You've done this before lots of times so you know the deal. You'll do fine and if things work out, you know there's money waiting for you.
Hope everything is going OK at school and sorry to hear about Jerome. If he did what mom said then screw him. He's not good enough. To tell you the truth, I wasn't a big fan of him anyway. Let me know when you find a new one LOL.
Love you back,
“Hi dad. How was work?”
“Yea, it's cold in here too.”
James looked at his son for the first time since coming home. “If you made more money at that damn job we could afford to turn up the heat. Put on a sweatshirt if you're cold,” he said gruffly.
Travis shook his head. He already had three layers on under the ratty sweatshirt he wore now. His dad was clueless! “That's not what I meant dad. I just thought you might still be cold after being outside all day.”
“I cleaned the kitchen,” he said trying to keep the conversation going.
“Bout time. When you going to do the clothes?”
Travis rolled his eyes and turned away. Trying to talk to him was like trying to talk to a brick wall. He walked out of the living room and left him alone with the TV. He acted like he wanted to be alone all the time anyway. Travis always got the feeling his company was more of an irritant than welcome. When he got upstairs he shut the door and spent the rest of the night surfing the web.
Between classes in school the following day Rachel Kennedy stepped back from her locker just as Travis Reynolds stepped into her path. The two collided and Rachel's books went flying. The hallway was packed and someone kicked one book some distance away. Students stopped, then snickered, then negotiated the mess on the floor. Some were careful, others were not. Papers were everywhere.
“What have you done!” she screamed at the shorter boy looking suddenly panic-stricken.
“I'm so sorry,” he said. “It was totally my fault.”
“Well don't just stand there,” she screamed. Get my books. Get my papers! Hurry up before they get ruined!”
Travis scrambled along the tile floor while a hundred students passed by in either direction. He could hear the mock murmur when some of the older ones recognized him gathering papers while trying to avoid getting his hands trampled.
“There's another one over there.” The girl pointed to the book that had been kicked at least ten feet away and now rested by a locker. After finally retrieving everything he piled her belongings on the floor. Things were a mess. Everything was in disarray.
Rachel watched him stack her books into one pile and organize the miscellaneous papers into another.
“I'm really sorry,” he said again looking up. “I'm sure everything here is mixed up.”
“Then why don't you pick them up and carry everything for me if you're so sorry? I'll deal with the mess you made later.”
“OK. Where's your class?”
“Down that way. D24. I can't believe you did that,” she said in a huff. “I just can't believe it! You totally embarrassed me, you know.”
Travis looked into the slender girls eyes. She really was tall, especially in those booty-heely things she was wearing. “OK, I'm going that way too. I'm in D37. And like I said, I am really sorry for this.”
Rachel breathed out another audible huff and tried to settle herself.
Trying to ease the tension Travis blurted, “What's your name?”
“Rachel. Why? What's yours?”
“Just wondering. My name is Travis.”
She looked at the kid she had never seen before. “I don't know you. Are you in 10th grade?”
Travis rolled his eyes. “No I'm a senior,” he answered feeling suddenly stupid.
“Oh, well so am I, but you probably knew that. Didn't you?”
“Actually I did.”
By then they were near her class. Travis was about to hand her books but just before doing so she pointed to the desk on the far side of the room. “Put them there. I sit at the front desk on the far side.”
Travis appeared startled but answered. “OK.”
“And you can carry my books tomorrow too. Meet me at my locker and be on time. I can't be late or I'll get in trouble.”
He looked at her curiously. “You want me to carry your stuff again tomorrow?”
“Yes! You said you were sorry so this is the least you can do to make up for this.” She pointed to the crimped and folded papers shoved inside the cover of the top book.
“Alright. Uh, I'll see you then. Bye Rachel.”
“Yea, bye,” she grunted.
Travis had a hard time paying attention for the first several minutes of his geography class. It wasn't because Rachel stepped right in front of him or because her stuff went everywhere that bothered him. It was how she acted after they collided. “Well, pick them up.” “Hurry up!” He recollected the way she acted after the mishap. He guessed she was one of the rich girls who went here. “She sure acted like it,” he thought. He wondered if she had sized up the differences in their socioeconomic status that quickly. But how could she? He was wearing clothes he only worn for the first time yesterday. They weren't dirty and he just had a shower the other day so it wasn't like he had obvious body odor. But when she thought he was just a 10th grader! God that made him feel even more foolish than having to get her stuff on the floor while the halls were jammed with kids changing classrooms. More honestly it made him feel more invisible than ever! “Did she really think he was a 10th grader? Did he really look that young?” He knew he wasn't real tall but to be called a sophomore? Come on!
And to top it all off she now expected him to do this again. He didn't mind helping her and besides she was cute. And her class was just down the hall from his so it wasn't really a problem. But he couldn't get over how easy it seemed for her to tell him he had to carry her belongings again. He shook the scene of the collision aside and focused on class. He needed to pay attention, even if this was a cake-class. Mr. Livingstone was talking about US National Parks. Just has Travis tuned him back in he was saying something about the Appalachian Trail. Just then a girl behind asked, “How can it be a National Park when it's only a path? Livingstone smiled and went on to explain that it indeed wasn't a park in the traditional sense of the word but a National Treasure and a scenic landmark. He mentioned a few more things about it including how it was over 2000 miles long and one of the oldest trails in our country.