After my mother’s scolding I just stood there for a moment trying to collect myself. I was shaking all over and feeling absolutely miserable. My face was burning with embarrassment too. I wanted to act like none of it mattered to me so I could save what was left of my crippled pride, but I simply couldn’t. The spanking my father had given me had been way too painful and demoralizing for that, and my mother’s obvious disappointment and anger with me was making me feel a little sick to my stomach. I turned slowly, trying to ignore all the pitying stares of my siblings, and limped carefully into the adjoining room.
The room was basically cleaned out except for my stuff which was still scattered all over the place. It was clear that my mother had forbidden Zac or Ike to do anything to help me. I know they would have tried if they could have though. That’s just the way they are. I was suddenly overwhelmed with a powerful wave of shame. I didn’t feel I deserved their caring and loyal sympathy right now. It made me want to cry. I knew I couldn’t do that though, because I had way too much else to do, so I sucked it back up.
Thankfully the rest of the clan was already loading the bus so I was left alone to wallow in my self-pity. As quickly as I could, given the physical and mental pain I was in, I collected all my things and stuffed them into my various suitcases, bags and backpacks. Any other course of action would have been extremely unwise at that time and I’m not that stupid. I knew I was going to have to cross that parking lot again though, and the sensation of panic that thought ignited in me left me almost breathless. I tried hard not to think about it.
When I was packed, and I knew I couldn’t procrastinate any longer, I swung my bags onto my shoulders, grabbed my suitcase, and headed out the door. I would have to ask Zac or Ike to do the final room check for any forgotten stuff though – my head wasn’t clear enough to do it now and, more importantly, I knew I couldn’t come back out of the bus once I was inside its comforting shelter. I kept my head down and strode rapidly across the pavement. I was so thankful for the barrier provided by all of my bags. For some reason they really seemed to create a kind of protective armor against all the intense looks and screams.
I dropped my things next to the loading area and quickly disappeared inside the bus. Once I was finally free of all those knowing eyes I breathed a huge sigh of relief. However, I immediately shuddered thinking about what all those fans must have seen. I hoped with everything I had that my parents wouldn’t make my brothers and me go back out there and talk to those girls before we left. I couldn’t face them. I just couldn’t.
I looked up from my self-absorbed musings to find my mother watching me. She gave me an exasperated look that made my stomach knot. I could tell she was far from satisfied that I had learned my lesson yet, and was very much intending to make sure I didn’t step out of line even one tiny little inch for the entire foreseeable future. She was gonna make my life hell. I was sure of that. And she was incredibly skilled at that too. In fact, she was the supreme ruler of that domain.
“Don’t get comfortable just yet, young man,” she said when she saw me head for my bunk. “You’re not going to get to go hide away in your little nest. Not by a long shot. You’re going to go stand in that corner over there until I decide you’ve had enough time to think long and hard about your behavior. You are in the doghouse, mister.” Ugh, I hate when she says stuff like that to me. It makes me feel like a naughty little boy - which, of course, is very much her intent. There’s that squirming thing I mentioned again. I really wanted to plead with her not to make me stand in the corner but I didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of seeing me looking that obviously pathetic and desperate. As if I didn’t already. Sometimes I appall even myself with my stupidity. But I also knew very well that it would be useless to argue with her about this. She was not open to discussion. She never was about such things. Especially not when I was as guilty as I clearly was. So despite all those pitying glances from my sibs again, I hung my head and meekly headed for the corner she had indicated.
I stood there like the pathetic jerk I knew I was for what seemed like an eternity. When the bus was loaded and the whole family settled in, we finally took off. I had hoped beyond reason that my mother would let me out of the corner at that point because standing there when the bus is moving is so humiliating. Usually my primary objective when I’m in this ridiculous position is to stand stock still in the sad hope that I might become invisible to everyone in the room. But, as I mentioned before, when you’re in the corner while on the bus you have to keep staggering around just to keep your balance, making it completely impossible to appear nonexistent in any way. The whole situation made me feel so friggin’ small I just wanted to curl up into a little ball and roll under the couch or something. If only I could.
No, Mom didn’t let me off that easily. Not even close. In fact, she made me stand there for an inordinate amount of time – at least to my mind – until well after we’d left the motel. Once I got over my original angst about being forced to be in the corner at all, I spent some time reliving the awful spanking Dad had given me. That was the enforced routine for this particular punishment and I figured I’d better obey. I couldn’t really have stopped myself anyway. My mind just went there - even though it made me wince and tremble all over again just thinking about it. My heart even started racing again just from the memory alone.
After awhile I calmed down a bit which, sadly, only served to free my mind up to immediately settled on another awful thought. What was Brian thinking right now? And, worse, what was he going to tell all our friends? I knew the last thing he had probably heard, after what must have been some obviously scared gasps on my part, was my father slapping my face, then ordering me very angrily to tell the person on the phone that I was “done talking now!” And then, of course, me whimpering pitifully, “Brian, I … gotta go.” Oh god. I wanted to die. How was I going to reclaim any of my self-respect after that pathetic performance?
And there was still the bigger issue to consider. How was I even going to communicate with him - especially before he had the chance to spill the story to anyone? I wasn’t allowed to use my phone for a week! I couldn’t think clearly enough yet to come up with any solutions. I needed more time.
Eventually I hit on the idea that maybe I could get Ike or Zac to call him for me. That thought was only slightly comforting though, because I knew the only way I could carefully control every piece of information that was relayed was to be the only one doing the telling. I was well aware that Brian knew I had gotten in serious trouble. That could hardly have been made clearer, both from the way I had been reacting on the phone, as well as from the tone he’d heard my father use with me. Brian also new my father had spanked me before – although not necessarily in the last year or so! - so I was really panicked that he’d guessed that much already. I groaned as I thought about that fact. However, Brian didn’t need to know every detail, did he? I’d have to determine how to explain it so it didn’t sound quite as bad as it actually had been. I knew what a wimp I’d been but I sure didn’t want him to know that. It was just too humiliating.
Then it hit me. I could email him on my computer. My folks would just assume I was working on homework or business stuff so they’d never be the wiser. Brilliant, if I do say so myself, I thought. As soon as I was let out of the damn corner I would go straight to my bunk, close the curtains and pull out my laptop. I could even get a little retribution too. My mother’s punishment wouldn’t have to faze me at all. She’d slipped up just enough - and I’d found the loophole. Hah. I was feeling suddenly rather proud of myself. Little did I know.
When I was finally allowed out of the corner, I gathered up what was left of my dignity and made a bee-line for my bunk. I immediately pulled out my laptop and booted it up. I was a bit too scared to open my email program right away though. I had to build up a little nerve first. I didn’t really want to think about it too much, but deep down I knew that if I got caught my parents wouldn’t take my weak excuse - that they hadn’t restricted me from emailing, only phone-calling – too well. It was the principle that counted with them. In truth I knew very well that I was really forbidden from communicating with my friends in any way. It was pretty plain and simple. I was being extremely underhanded by taking advantage of my mother’s lack of computer savvy. I felt kind of sick at that thought. Still, I was pissed enough right then to refuse to let myself totally acknowledge my deceit.
I worked on a school report for awhile until I couldn’t stand it anymore. Then I started composing the email I would send to Brian as soon as I could get online. I found that it was hard to make the story sound believable without actually revealing the truth, so in the end I gave up and basically wrote him a blow by blow account. Writing it all down gave me the chills, but it was strangely cleansing and brought some relief in an odd way too. When I was done I closed my computer down and went to sleep. I was exhausted.
When we got to the motel later that night I told my parents I needed to send off a school report I’d finished. I was trying to look innocent but I usually suck at lying. However, since I was still so pissed about it all, I must have been particularly convincing somehow. They simply nodded and I quickly went into the front office to send the email instead. I knew I would have to play that ruse several times over the next couple days to get responses back too. I was walking right into the fire but I chose to ignore it.
I played it safe for two whole days, then I used the same lie again and retrieved my emails at the next possible opportunity. I had gotten a response from Brian. He was totally cool about it all and told me not to worry – he wasn’t going to say anything to anyone about it. He wrote that he hoped I was feeling better and also that he assumed he wouldn’t be hearing from me for awhile. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Brian was a great friend. I would have to make sure I told him so.
I waited another day before risking responding, but I could feel myself getting itchier to push the limits. So the following evening, as we were all finishing a pre-show dinner in the basement of the theater we were performing in that night, I blatantly set up my computer in full view of my parents and started drafting an email back to Brian. I figured by now my parents had officially decided that I really was just doing my homework or something, so I let myself get lost in my task - so much so that I didn’t realize my mother had gotten up and walked over to see what I was writing.
All of a sudden she grabbed me by my ear and pulled me to standing. “Just what do you think you’re doing, young man?” she yelled loudly and angrily. I could feel everyone in the whole room abruptly stop everything and focus all their attention on me. I was speechless. I’d been caught red-handed. And my mother was holding me by my ear! She didn’t do that to any of us very often – and she certainly hadn’t done it to me in years. It hurt unbelievably and made me feel totally vulnerable and exposed. Both my hands went to my ear in an effort to break her grip – or at least soften it. Or, at the very least, hide what she was doing to me. It was so embarrassing.
“Mom, please,” I whimpered under my breath. I didn’t want anyone to hear. “It hurts. Let go. Please mom.”
“Answer me!” she demanded.
“I…, I… was just, um, writing an email to Brian,” I stammered, hoping somehow that would actually be a satisfactory answer. My mind was pretty confused at that moment. Obviously.
“Well, we’ll just see what your father has to say about that, now won’t we?” she stated firmly and, tightening her grip on my ear, she hauled me across the room to where he was sitting. I was beside myself.
“Taylor was writing an email to Brian on his computer,” she told him. “He knows he isn’t allowed to use his cell phone but I never specifically said he couldn’t email someone. I didn’t think about it. And he knows that!” She gave me the evil eye, knowing exactly what I had pulled, her motherly instincts at full throttle. She turned back to Dad. “What do you think about that?” She was looking for verification of what she instinctively felt was my very sneaky way of disobeying her. I felt guilty as hell but I wasn’t about to admit that to either of them at that precarious moment.
My dad looked hard at me, searching for my reaction. “I don’t know,” he said, drilling me with his eyes. “What do you think about that, Taylor?” God, I wished my mom would let go of my ear. I swallowed hard. My skin was crawling with fear. I knew my face was probably bright red by now too. My palms were certainly sweaty and my nerves were jangling enough to make me shake.
“I…, I… um, I… don’t know,” I offered feebly. “I guess I … um … thought it would be alright. She never said I couldn’t.” I could feel myself growing a bit more brazen and I could see both my parents bristle slightly at the ever so subtly cheeky tone that had crept into my voice. Still, I knew I had them - just a little. They really were unsure who was right at this point. My mother twisted my ear again to regain some control. It worked. I felt my resolve beginning to crumble.
“I think you knew exactly what you were doing, young man, and that you also knew it was very wrong of you,” my father stated empirically. I tightened every muscle in my body against what he would say next. “However, since it’s true that you were never specifically restricted from emailing, you are off the hook – for now.” His eyes narrowed tightly, revealing just how guilty he knew I was. I must have nearly groaned with relief then because my father quickly added, “You got very lucky this time, young man. And I think you know that. All too well, I’d say.” His eyes glowered at me again. “I hope you also know you won’t be nearly so lucky the next time.”