Thanks as always to my editing team. PapaKilo14, Hal, Pixel the Cat, GeorgeAnderson and Olddave1951. Their work makes smooth reading. They make all the mistakes you never see go away. As usual, Harddaysknight gives me peer review and a critical read. SBrooks103x also gives me a pre-post read and criticism. These guys are the best. I love you all.
Author’s note: This one is a bit different. I had approached GeorgeAnderson about coauthoring a story with me after he contributed heavily to “Catch of a Lifetime.” I had an idea for a story and a good start. We agreed on a division of labor and I’m as happy with it as anything I’ve ever written. I am very grateful to George for doing this with me. I always wondered how that process worked. He was off the hook to work with and a first class writer in his own right. I hope you enjoy. Randi.
Co-author’s note: Randi Black is widely known as one of the most talented and respected writers on the site. To be on her team and have my name mentioned on her stories is a tremendous honor. So, when she asked if I would coauthor a story with her, I jumped at the chance. I don’t know if we actually figured out how the process works, we sort of made it up as we went along, but I’m very happy with the result. Working with her has been an amazing experience: Randi is as gracious and kind as she is talented, which is saying a lot. Coauthoring has been a blast, and I hope we can do it again sometime. Meanwhile, enjoy “Hate at First Sight.”
Do you believe in hate at first sight? If you believe in love at first sight, can the opposite also happen? I hated Talbot McCoy the first time I saw him. It wasn’t that he was ugly or weird, quite the contrary. He was tall, well built, and I would discover, very smart, too. He had tons of curly dark hair, a face off a fashion magazine and all the other kids at school loved him. I hated him.
My name is Livingston Brookes. Don’t call me Livy, either. I hate that name. I seem to start out here hating a lot of things. I’m really not like that. Just as many people loved me as loved Talbot. I’m a bit like him in a lot of ways. I’m tall, athletic and smarter than he is. The biggest difference between us is that I’m black and he’s white. That doesn’t matter to me. There were only nine black kids in our high school and I didn’t care for most of them. A white family adopted me when I was little and I love my parents. I just point that out as a matter of fact, not to indicate that I hated him because he was white.
I moved to the school I was attending between my sophomore and junior years. I was number one in my class at my old school. When I got to the new school, I was number two. You guessed it; Talbot was number one. What pissed me off was that he never worked at it. He took blow off classes and aced them. It didn’t hurt that all the teachers loved him. Hell, my mom and dad loved him. My mom was a science teacher and my dad was the football coach and taught health and PE.
I took dual credit, college and high school, classes and I worked my butt off to get those grades. Talbot played defensive end on Dad’s football team and he was all state three years in a row. I played volleyball and ran track. Talbot did track, too, but he threw discus. I was out there running my ass off trying to break the school record in the 400 meters. He would be leaning against the fence. He’d push off every now and again, go throw three or four times and then hold that fence up again for a while. What made it so infuriating was that he won state our junior and senior years. So did I, but I busted my ass and he goofed off.
By taking those weighted classes, I passed him in the class rankings. He never seemed to mind. He was always happy and cheerful. He talked to me every day. I had him third hour in art three my junior year, and when I walked in the first day he introduced himself and hugged me. He hugged me every day for two years. It wasn’t special; he hugged everyone. He’d be going down the hall and everyone he hadn’t seen yet that day would stop for one of those hugs until he’d be late for class. The teachers never counted him tardy.
We had the same conditioning class first hour our senior year. He was ten minutes late on the days he bothered to show up at all. Dad taught that class and he never counted him tardy or absent. When I told Dad I wanted to sleep in and miss his class, I got this lecture about responsibility and being the best I could be. When I mentioned Talbot, he got this huge silly grin on his face. “Talbot is just special,” he said.
“What about me?” I asked. “I’m your daughter! Aren’t I special?”
He snatched me up and squeezed me until I could hardly breathe. “Of course you are, Honey. You’re my baby girl. Your butt is getting fat, though, so you need the conditioning.”
Beating on him with my fists didn’t faze him a bit. He just spanked me on my fat butt and kissed me. My butt isn’t really fat. Phat, maybe, but not fat. I have one of those sprinter butts and guys can’t keep their eyes off it. It’s hard and round and I work on it a lot. Dad knows that and he loves to tease me about it.
Our senior year, I decided to run for student council president. Guess who was running against me? I was eating lunch, and Talbot came and sat down beside me.
He hugged me, of course. “Livy,” he said. “I don’t want to run against you.” Of course, he would call me that. “I know you’ll beat me. You’re the class president and more people like you than like me. Do you want to be both things?”
I thought about it. “No, I don’t really have time to be both. Talbot, how many times have I told you not to call me Livy?”
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I always forget. I just call people nicknames. Think about this. You decide which one you want. If you want to be student council president, I’ll drop out and run for class president. If you want to be class president, you drop out and run for that.”
I wanted both just to rub his nose in it, but I’m not stupid. I doubted more people liked me than him anyway. “Okay,” I said. “I’ll drop out of the class president race. You take that.”
He hugged me again. “Good choice,” he said. “You’ll be a better student council president than me anyway.”
“Stop that,” I told him. “Why do you always do that? We aren’t friends, Talbot. Stop being so nice to me, and stop hugging me!”
I’d told him that a thousand times and he never paid the slightest attention to me. He just laughed. “I’m wearing you down,” he said. “Someday you’ll admit that you’re in love with me.”
He talked to me all the rest of lunch hour and the next morning he actually showed up for conditioning. The first thing he did was hug me. He was infuriating.
When we graduated, we both made speeches and he actually thanked me for pushing him to be better. He said I had been a wonderful inspiration to him because of my work ethic and he admired me. It nearly made me puke.
We wound up at the same university and he made it a point to talk to me every day. It was the same old hugging routine, and people actually thought he was my boyfriend. No one would ask me out because they thought I was with Talbot. Since we were on the track team together, he made it a point to sit by me on the buses or airplanes and it seemed like I couldn’t get away from him. He was such a nice guy that I couldn’t be mean enough to him to drive him away, and it just got worse and worse. I had thought that high school was bad enough, but college was even worse.
People would invite me to parties by asking if Talbot and I were doing anything Friday. I would tell them I had no idea what Talbot was doing, but I’d be happy to come to the party. They would look at me as if I was weird and ask me if we had broken up. It just wasn’t worth it to straighten them out. He would even ask me things like, “Hey, Calvin asked if we were going to the lake with them, are we?”
I got so sick of it that I stopped going anywhere. My roommate thought something was wrong with me. “Are you sick, Livingston?” she asked me one evening.
“No, I’m fine!” I shot at her. “Leave me the hell alone.”
“Jesus, girlfriend, I was just asking,” she said. “I’m worried about you.”
“I’m sorry, Allie, I didn’t mean to snap at you,” I said.
“You need to relax,” she said. “There’s a party at the Wilsons’. Let’s go.”
I grumbled around a while, but she dragged me off to the party. I actually had a good time and there was no sign of Talbot. I smoked a couple of joints (it’s legal here) and had way too much to drink. The next thing I knew, I was away from the lights, fighting off two douche bags from the baseball team who were trying to get me naked.
“Come on, baby, you know you want it,” one of them kept telling me. I managed to get one leg free and I made a mess of his nuts with my knee. He screeched like a banshee and that pissed the other one off. He slapped the shit out of me and my head was spinning. I heard a kind of roar, and when I could see straight, I saw Talbot, mounted on top of the one that hit me, and he was turning the asshole’s face into mush.
“I’m going to kill you, you motherfucker,” he was screaming over and over. “You hit her, you son-of-a-bitch! No one touches Livy!” He was driving one fist after another into the guy’s face.
I was scared to death and I ran over and tackled Talbot off the guy. “Please, Talbot,” I begged. “Don’t kill him! Don’t hit him anymore. Take me home, please, Talbot!”
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