Stephan Lewis
Stephan Lewis is an author of mystery novels. The Pinnacle is his latest book. Enjoy it!

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The Pinnacle

He took careful aim, his index finger pressed ever so gently against the trigger. The slightest movement would cause a deafening explosion, the difference between life and death. This was the power Kain held in his hand. His target in clear view through the infrared scope attached to his lethal AK-47. Kain stayed on his knees, weapon ready to answer any command given. The final absolution only he could provide, no matter what his final decision was.

Chapter 1

Jeromy was studying hard, it was almost one o’clock in the morning. Finals were just two days away. This wasn’t the way he wanted to spend his Saturday evening however his parent had laid down the law once and for all. He needed to pass both Chemistry and Humanities in order to graduate high school. His college admittance hanged in the balance. Jeromy was no great scholar, rather an average student who didn’t work very hard at maintaining decent grades. All of this caught up with him this senior year and now it took all of his concerted efforts to ensure he did well on these final exams. Otherwise he’d be spending his summer vacation in school. Thus he sat there trying to keep his eyes open, fighting against those idiotic symbols that represented the various elements found in the world. “Why can’t they just say ‘water’ instead of H2O?” Jeromy thought to himself. He pushed his books aside and rolled over on his back, arms stretched out over his head. He locked his fingers together letting his head settle into the cupped area they provided. Putting one knee up he crossed it with his other leg. His thoughts broke away from his tedious studies and wandered about three miles away. A picture of his girl friend Jennie appeared, sound asleep with her soft delicate face buried within her pillow, brunette hair overflowing. Jeromy fell into a dream state without realizing it, forced upon him from the fatigue of his intense studying. They were together hand in hand, shoes kicked off, stockings and socks as well, stomping playfully in the majestic waves presented to them by the mighty Atlantic ocean. They turned and smiled at one another, brushing their lips together shyly, wiggling their toes in the mushy sand beneath their wet feet leaving imprints only to be washed away with the next thunderous crash of the high tide.

Waking up abruptly Jeromy reflected back on these images, knowing they’d been a reality just a week before – heading to the beach after the Senior Prom. “What a magical weekend that had been,” Jeromy thought out loud as he re-lived this wondrous time in his mind. Jennie had been part of the Prom committee. She’d worked hard with the other members getting a super band, the Kool Cats. They’d made the gymnasium over to create the image of their theme for the evening, Stairway to Heaven. Stars and all of the known planets with their associated moons had been painstakingly developed, down to the minutest detail. The infamous “stairway” leading to “heaven” took center stage.

Only one couple traversed these stairs that evening, the Prom King and Queen – Ted Smithhouse and Julie Packston. Funny because they couldn't stand one another. Yet on this one occasion having been voted King and Queen by their peers, they put their differences aside and strolled up that “stairway” leading to “heaven” as if they were the perfect couple. This illusion cast to everyone out in the audience (who clapped wildly) even though each one of them individually knew better. Strange how love/hate relationships can be placed on “hold” if the occasion warrants.

A loud thud startled Jeromy. He looked down and saw his Chemistry book face up on the floor staring guiltily up at him. He bent over and picked it up closing it tightly knowing that it was useless to try and continue studying that evening / morning. He reached over and turned out the single lamp that had illuminated his room. He took the remaining items, notepad, pencils and stray papers and threw them on his desk. He got up his room engulfed in darkness and took off his shirt, pants and underwear replacing them with his pajamas. He crawled back into bed pulling the sheet up tight to his chin. He tried to fall asleep however his sub-conscious took control and he was once again at the Prom with Jennie.

They’d gone to the Prom with another couple, Jeromy’s best friend Scott and his girl friend Suzanne. Jennie didn’t like Scott all that much but tolerated him because of Jeromy. She’d become friends with Suzanne and they used to spend time together discussing their respective boy friends. Once they got to the Prom the two couples separated. Jennie had work to do with some of the other prom committee members trying to take care of last minute details. Jeromy tagged along staying behind the scenes with the other boy or girlfriends of the various committee members. They chatted quietly amongst themselves waiting for them to re-appear. Once everything was checked and double checked Jennie broke away. She and Jeromy were free to enjoy this night just like all of the other seniors. Jennie looked radiant in her strapless pale blue chiffon gown, the color enhancing her delicate features. Her brown-green eyes were glowing as they made their way towards the center stage. Jeromy stood next to her in his white tuxedo with long tails. His nicely tanned face, deep set hazel eyes and slender build generated a strong contrast to Jennie.

The band began to play and everyone headed for the dance floor. Jennie was a good dancer, hips gyrating, and feet moving deftly to the rhythm of the beat. She looked up and laughed at Jeromy who was having a tough time trying to keep pace with her. No one cared about who could dance and who couldn’t after all this was the Senior Prom. This was their last night to escape from the corridors down the hall that had imprisoned them for the past three years. They all knew that escape would be permanent in a few short weeks. Just as quickly as it began this part of the prom was over and the music ended as the last lyrics of Stairway To Heaven flowed through the speakers. Phase one of this night of nights had finished for all of the seniors who looked to the future while trying to hold onto their past.

As the band began to break down their instruments Jennie and Jeromy hung around to help the other Prom committee members disassemble the decorations that had heightened the spirits of this class of 73’. Scott and Suzanne left with some other friends not wanting to wait around. Jennie was glad because this gave her Jeromy all to herself once the committee’s work was completed. They changed their clothes and stored them away and then drove down to Fantasy Island beach, their favorite location. This was partly because of the name, but mostly due to the beauty of this small beach town on the Atlantic. Few people outside the local communities knew about this beach. It was a little off the beaten path, harder to reach than the other beaches. Those would be crowded with seniors this evening and the thought of them having a quiet location separate from the maddening crowd made this even more special for Jennie and Jeromy. They left their shoes, stockings and socks by the blanket they’d brought with them. A cooler filled with soda (neither of them drank liquor), sandwiches and munchies for snacking later held down one corner of the blanket. A small portable radio held down another. They went for a ‘midnight’ stroll hand-in-hand; it was almost one-thirty in the morning. They talked softly so as not to disturb any of the sleeping town folks, discussing the success of the prom night they’d just left. An almost full moon and many of the glorious star formations within the galaxy filled the clear June sky. If they’d taken the time to look they would have recognized many of the same stars as those that filled their gymnasium hours before. However neither of them were star gazers therefore the meaning and names of each star cluster shining brilliantly above them remained a mystery. They couldn’t distinguish a star from a planet, maybe recognizing (if someone pointed out to them) the big and litter dipper. But for these two high school seniors recognition of the stars was not a prerequisite for being here this early morning. They accepted the beauty of the moon and stars in the sky for what they were, no hidden meaning or understanding necessary. Jeromy saw the star’s sparkle in Jennie’s eyes, wondering if it was true love being reflected back towards him. Exhaustion from a full day of studying overtook him and Jeromy felt himself falling into a deep sleep. A smile remained on his lips, his sub-conscious losing control after filling him with these wondrous thoughts from his previous weekend.

Jennie woke up early that Sunday morning having gotten to bed early the previous night. Normally she would have been out with Jeromy on a Saturday night going to the movies or bowling or just hanging out with him and their friends. Jeromy hadn’t been permitted to go out. His parents stated he had to study for his final exams. She would do some studying of her own later however it wasn’t really necessary. Her grades were already guaranteed – straight A’s. She never struggled in high school most subjects came easily to her even though she was taking all advanced classes. Her high intellect had gotten her into her favorite Ivy League school – Yale. With a full scholarship no less. This would take her far from home and from Jeromy. Jeromy sat next to her when she opened up the letter that confirmed her early admission. He congratulated her, feeling the happiness she felt, and the sadness as well.

“Well that’s eleven weeks away. We still have to get through graduation and then we have the entire summer together,” Jennie had said to Jeromy. “That’s if Jeromy graduates,” Jennie said out loud to no one as she decided how she wanted to spend her Saturday evening without Jeromy. She didn’t understand why he had so much trouble with Chemistry. She’d offered to tutor him and he’d gladly accepted. He planned to come over later that Sunday afternoon after she got back from church. “He has to graduate! I won’t let him screw up our summer vacation, it’s the only time we have left together,” Jennie stated to herself. She was determined to force him to understand that he would pass his Chemistry final. “Besides we both have jobs lined up during the week, leaving us our evenings and weekends as the only free time,” she finished her thought process. With this last thought Jennie climbed out of bed stretching her slender body. She started her warm-ups before beginning her daily morning exercises. She reached into her bureau drawer pulling out a hot pink leotard. She smiled as she squeezed into the leotard stepping out of her silk nightgown. She bent over and picked it up and went to hang it lovingly in her closet. She loved the feel of silk against her growing womanly body, sorry that to date no one else shared the pleasure of seeing her in it. Jennie was a mature seventeen and a half, her body was constantly sending her signals that she was finding more and more difficult to ignore and control.

She strenuously put her body through its paces, the instructor’s voice in the background on her stereo barking at her to keep those thighs twisting. Jennie thought back to the first time Jeromy had seen her exercising, wearing this very same outfit. He’d come over earlier than the time scheduled for their date. She was working out in the family room since no one else was home. She did not hear his knocking over the instructor’s blaring commands. Since no one answered Jeromy looked thru the window and saw Jennie jumping in place. Going back to the front door that was unlocked, he let himself in. He walked quietly and watched from the hallway as Jennie’s body moved in ways that Jeromy had never seen before, ways he never dreamed were possible.

Jennie caught his reflection in the mirror off to the side, saw him staring intently but he didn’t notice that she was aware of his presence. She teased him unmercifully, spreading her legs wide apart, bending back wither arms between them, her leotard stretched tight against her firm breasts, nipples visible through the slender material. She then did a split, legs at completely opposite sides of each other. She then bent her back straight behind her letting it touch the ground, head staring at the ceiling giving him a complete view of her body. Ever so slowly she brought her legs together, every muscle firm, stretched to their utmost limit. She then picked her head up looking back, pretending to notice him for the first time. She let out a gasp making him think that he’d caught her by surprise.

Jeromy tried to hide his manhood thinking he might faint right there on the spot, never had he been so aroused. Jennie looked down just for an instant and was painfully aware of his condition, her own not being that much better as she felt a wetness deep within.

The instructor stopped and the silence brought Jennie back to the present. She looked around for a moment expecting to find Jeromy there staring at her over-sized Pink Panther instead. Realizing where she was, sweat pouring off her body Jennie turned the stereo off and headed for the bathroom. She grabbed a towel out of the linen closet draped it over her shoulder and turned the shower to cold. She peeled off her soaking leotard throwing it into the hamper. As she passed the mirror she turned to examine herself. Jennie worked hard at keeping her body in shape. Anyone looking at the reflection in the mirror would have been appreciative of this fact. She opened the shower door and stepped cautiously into the waiting shooting icicles. She caught her breath as the spray hit her letting the coldness remove the heat she’d been feeling a moment before, not all of it related to her physical workout.

Jennie’s mom heard the water running knowing that her daughter would be down shortly for breakfast, dressed to go to church. They still had fifty-five minutes, plenty of time to eat and get to church that was only five minutes away. Denise Thurowgood was proud of her daughter, their only child. She was brilliant, someone who always made her parents proud. It was hard to imagine that “her little girl” would graduate High School next weekend and move far from the nest a few short summer weeks later. As the water continued to flow upstairs Mrs. Thurowgood reached over and patted her husband’s hand. He put the paper down smiling at his wife of almost twenty years. He too had felt the joy of raising an only daughter. He thought back to that memorial date – November 28, 1955. He’d been pacing the waiting room floor for hours (back then there was no such thing as natural childbirth or a husband actually joining his wife during delivery). Finally the doctor came out and called him going into a far corner away from prying ears and eyes. There was a look of both elation and concern. Joe Thurowgood held his breath waiting for the doctor to speak. “Congratulations, you’re the father of a fine healthy little girl,” the doctor said and put out his hand and took Joe’s. In the same breath he continued, “Unfortunately there were some unexpected complications with your wife. She started to hemorrhage just after delivery. She’s lost a lot of blood and we’ve done everything we can. Her condition has stabilized and she’s been moved to Intensive Care. It will be touch and go for the next couple of hours, however we believe that she will put through this just fine.” This had been the happiest and saddest day of his life. Joe took Denise’s hand in his, squeezing a bit too hard, happy to be sitting across from her. They smiled at each other as Jennie walked into the kitchen shaking out her long shiny brunette hair, a brush in her hand. Joe reflected back for a moment more – the outcome of Jennie’s birth that eventful day meant that she would never have any brothers or sisters. Her mom took the brush from her hand as she sat down. Her mother proceeded with the morning ritual as she started the procedure of combing her daughter’s hair with a hundred strokes. Once her hair was brushed silky smooth Jennie had her morning breakfast consisting of orange juice – freshly squeezed and a slice of rye toast – dry. Upon completing her breakfast they all got up together as a family smoothing out the creases of their Sunday best and walked the short distance to their place of worship. This was one of the true enjoyments the Thurowgood embarked upon, every Sunday morning at nine forty-five. They took their leisurely stroll to join the thirty-three other families in this weekly gathering. Jeromy’s family also attended the same church. His mom and dad along with two brothers and three sisters (Jeromy’s family was one of the larger families in the parish) would all get together on Sunday morning in church.

Jeromy and the rest of his family were seated in church even though Jeromy found it difficult to get up that morning. They waited for the service to begin sitting in their usual location, three pews from the front, Jeromy sitting closest to the aisle. “Here she comes,” Jeromy thought as he spotted Jennie entering the vestibule with her folks. He gave her an encoded wink as she caught his eye and responded with a conspirital wink of her own. They both took comfort in knowing they would be together later on that afternoon, even though Jennie knew that this would truly be a working / studying session only.

Jeromy showed up around two o’clock having eaten lunch and completing his weekend chores. He had several books, notepads and writing utensils stuffed inside his knapsack knowing they would concentrate on Chemistry, his worst subject. He’d been reviewing his Humanities notes since getting home from church and felt he had a better handle on this subject. Jennie greeted him at the door wearing tight Gitano black jeans and a loose fitting peach colored sweater. She let him in and he said hello to Mr. and Mrs. Thurowgood who sat in the family room. Joe was reading the Sunday paper and Denise sat knitting her daughter a new sweater to take with her to college. They proceeded past the family room until Jennie reached out and opened the only door on the left hand side past the kitchen. She flipped on the light switch as Jeromy lead the way down into the basement.

This downstairs area that covered the length of the house had been completely re-finished with three unique rooms created, one for each family member. As you reached the end of the stairs you entered into a short hallway. If you opened the first door on the right you would discover a nice size laundry room complete with washer and dryer along with several neatly organized shelves holding a variety of detergents, bleaches and fabric softeners. Walking a little further down to the second door, also on the right hand side a huge work area for self-created projects would become visible. Woods of all different shapes, sizes and colors were stacked neatly covering one corner of the room. A workbench complete with all the necessities to be a self-doer of various projects sat square in the middle of the room. On the far left wall shelves and cabinets (looking closely you could tell they had all been built by hand, nothing store bought in this room) took over the entire wall. Compartments for every tool imaginable, each neatly labeled immediately caught your eye. Screwdrivers, ratchet sets, wrenches, drill, drill bits, saws, each had it’s own proper place.

They entered neither of these rooms, instead Jennie squeezed past Jeromy and pushed open the only door on the left, revealing a handsomely done study lounge designed exclusively by Jennie, built for her by her father. This was Jennie’s favorite room in the house. She liked it more than her bedroom even though she and her father had worked together to blue print that room as well. Her study was extremely spacious. An over-size but not auspicious sofa-bed (Jennie would sleep down here occasionally) hugged the near wall. A mosaic of colors shown brightly once the overhead lighting illuminated the entire room. A matching love seat was set up to separate the back area of the room. Looking behind it you found wall-to-wall bookcases with finely handcrafted cabinets filling the space beneath. Staring for just a minute at the books filling shelf after shelf you’d be impressed by the variety of authors – Steinbeck, Hemingway, Yaets, Milton, Bradbury, Krantz, Hailey, Uris, Plain, Fowles to name just a few (you’d have been surprised to learn that almost every book had been read).

Continuing to gaze around the room directly across from the sofa bed stood a full wall unit, also handcrafted. A 26” color television dominated the center unit. A stereo with individual components – tuner, record player, dual tape deck, equalizer all had their own home in this specially built unit that was attached to the right of the TV unit. Invisible wires attached each piece, speakers hovering in each corner ready to radiate in pure brilliance the appropriate sounds whenever the proper buttons were pushed. This day however no sound would emerge through the speakers, silence overpowering the room.

“Welcome to my castle once again,” Jennie teased Jeromy as she pushed him through the door. “Are you ready to get down to some serious business,” Jennie’s tone told Jeromy that she meant what she said. He opened his knapsack dumping everything out onto the sofa then sorting it so that he was semi-organized.

“I’ll uh never learn this stuff, but uh let’s give it a go,” Jeromy said. He sounded depressed, worried that no amount of tutoring would help him learn chemistry. Jennie’s voice took over and told him they were ready to proceed. She started reciting chemical imperfections at Jeromy, forcing him to concentrate with all of his being. Slowly it started to make sense and he started to correct her, stating the proper answer. A smile crept across her face as Jeromy began to understand the subtle differences she threw at him. Jennie went at him for hours showing him the tricks she’d learned to remember things by memorization no matter what the subject. She was relentless in her pursuit of complete recognition for every chemical symbol and formula. Finally she was satisfied and he was exhausted. They collapsed in each other’s arms, the over-sized sofa bed engulfed them. They held on tightly to one another and let their lips touch for the first time that day.

Both of them were growing into their sexuality (Jennie a little quicker than Jeromy), shy, inhibited, not wanting too go too far too fast, enjoying the moment for what it was. The upstairs door opened and they separated quickly. “Jeromy, your folks just called, they’d like you to be home in half an hour for dinner. They asked that you please don’t be late tonight, they’re fixing a special meal,” Mrs. Thurowgood called down to them. “Uh thanks Mrs. Thurowgood, we’re just finishing up. We will be up in a few minutes,” Jeromy replied. They heard the door close and footsteps walked away.

Jeromy’s first final was at nine o’clock the next morning and he felt confident that he was ready. They kissed again quickly then separated once again. Jennie straightened her hair while Jeromy picked up his book, notepads and other materials and stuffed them all back into his knapsack. They left her study lounge and headed back upstairs. Jeromy said good-bye to Jennie’s parents and she walked him outside as he climbed into his car.

“Thanks for everything. I don’t know what I’d do without you.” Jennie leaned her head through the open window and gave him a parting more passionate kiss. She waved as he drove off.

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon and the crowd murmured in anticipatory whispers. Row after row of wooden armless chairs occupied the football field. A makeshift stage highlighting the 10 to 30 yard lines on the near side of the field took center stage for this event. Eight comfortable chairs resided on the stage in stark contrast to the hundreds of chairs that faced the fake stage. Directly in the middle of the stage was a podium, a microphone visible in its single armed hand, wires attached to two huge speakers on either side of the stage. Slowly the stage began to fill – The Principal, Vice Principal, Secretary and Guest speaker took their appropriate seats on the left of the podium. The class President, class Vice President, Valedictorian and this year’s recipient of the coveted Science and Engineering award sat down on the right. This year’s graduating seniors were ushered into the open rows directly in front of the makeshift stage, all one hundred and twenty-seven of them. Jeromy wore his cap and gown proudly having earned the right the week before by getting a B- on his Chemistry exam. He looked around for Jennie finding her five rows ahead of him in the front row. She turned back and saw him smiling brightly happy for him as well as herself. She’d finished number five in her class. Her girlfriend turned as well and then poked Jennie teasing her as they turned back together laughing. Jeromy found it hard to drop the foolish grin that remained planted firmly on his face.

Music began and the proceedings were on their way. The audience quieted down as the Principal stepped to the podium and began to address his class of 73’. Everyone waited impatiently as first the principal then the Class President spoke about the values and richness this period of the 70’s had to offer. The Valedictorian – Nancy Beemas followed, offering her viewpoint of the turbulent 60’s and what impact this period had on each and every one of them. She spoke about the new challenges that college, work or the Armed forces presented, depending upon the path each individual graduating that day chose for themselves.

Jennie listened intently to Nancy feeling she understood the deep recesses of her mind and spirit that brought forth each word. Nancy and she were friends. She’d set her own sights high, expecting Yale to offer the challenge that Nancy talked about. Her own expectations knew that life would thrust her forward towards her ultimate goal – she wanted to be an Investigative Reporter, the type of journalist who used every ounce of her powers to uncover wrong doings against the average citizen. Ultimately she wanted to be an Anchorwoman, another Jane Pauley, Paula Zahn or even Barbara Walters. She wanted to be in front of the camera with millions of viewers watching as she presented fact after fact in a cool, sophisticated style all her own. Working towards this end Jennie had been fortunate to get a prestigious summer job working at Investigation Proceeding, a daily television show that did follow-up to average citizen complaints. She’d be working with Tony Mecca, one of the leading investigative reporters on their staff. She started a week from Monday and she was counting down the days.

Jeromy sat restlessly not really paying attention to the voices floating down from the center stage. “I’ve made it, I’ve really made it!” he thought to himself as he looked around at the mass of black caps and gowns that surrounded him. Somewhere in the throngs of people sitting on the 50-yard line and beyond were his mom, dad, brothers and sisters. They sat waiting for the moment when that rolled and bound scroll of paper would be presented to him. Yes Jeromy Calley would soon be handed one of those scrolls that signified the end of his high school days, soon to become a college man! This was so hard for him to imagine considering he was one test away from flunking out of his senior year. Now he sat here with all of his colleagues knowing that this part of life would be ending forever. “Next year I’ll be 18, that magical number that gives me the ability to vote, drink legally, even though I don’t like the taste of liquor. As a matter of fact I have to register for the draft soon and possibly go off to war,” this thought brought him back to reality. This last thought made him feel very uncomfortable since he’d never believed in any kind of violence. The taking of another person’s life sent shivers through his spine. He tried to drop this thought process and concentrate on what Nancy Beemas was saying. This didn’t work very well so his mind drifted off again, “in ten short weeks I’ll be moving from my home and family, truly on my own for the very first time. To think I’ll be going to college. Is Seivelle University considered a college?” he thought to himself. “Now this is just a summer away,” Jeromy’s thoughts were disrupted as a stirring began with all of the seniors sitting around him.

The front row began to move, a steady stream of black gowns swishing in the air as the class of 73’ made it’s way onto the center stage. Jeromy’s row stood up as Jennie’s first row stepped up onto the stage. Moving ever so slowly the chain of students began to move towards the long flight of steps that lead to the class of 73’s new beginnings. It seemed to take forever as Jeromy stood there inpatiently. Finally it was Jennie’s turn (even though she was the fifth person to receive her diploma) and she reached out her hand to accept the document that freed her and sent her forward towards a new life. The Principal smiled broadly shaking her hand and bending his head downward to whisper something in her ear. Jennie was one of his best and brightest students, he was sorry to be losing her. Jeromy clapped wildly knowing that soon it would be his turn.

Jennie took her high school diploma, graduating cum laude, shaking hands vigorously with the Principal as her told her what a wonderful student she’d been. As she walked off the stage she stared into the audience locating her mother and father, tears of joy rolling down her mom’s cheeks. She caught her mom’s eye and the sparkle that glowed told her that everything was okay, she was still her mom’s ‘little girl’. Joe stood proudly clapping and waving at his daughter. For a brief moment that had occurred a thousand times over the past week, he wondered where had all the time gone. They smiled at one another and then she was forced off the stage by the girl behind her.

Jeromy walked timidly up the steps still not believing he was there. As he approached the Principal for the final time he thought he saw a snicker behind his false smile. As he was handed his diploma Jeromy gave his principal the most sincere smile they’d ever shared during the three long years of their association. “I’ll bet he’s glad to be getting rid of me,” Jeromy continued to smile as they shook hands. Jeromy held on tightly a moment longer than necessary, his parting shot at antagonizing his beloved Principal. Jeromy had spent many a day “visiting” the Principal in his office. Never again would he have to face the tedious lectures he’d endured as he was taught the lesson of what it takes to become a model student. Once he walked past the Principal he smiled a different type of smile, stopping in the middle of the stage waving to the crowd as if he’d just completed some complex play, he being the main character. He saw his parents and siblings standing and waving back. This completed the play he was in, graduating from high school.

The sky filled with a sea of blackness, the noise level deafening as one hundred and twenty-seven just graduated seniors flooded the football fields, chairs flying every which way. The blackness like a total eclipse of the sun a moment before released itself to fresh sunshine as black now lay scattered all over the football field grounds. A moment later each student reached down to retrieve his/her own cap (otherwise they had to pay for a replacement) as they heard thunderous applause at the multitude of ‘invited guests’ added their own cheers. Quickly the noise level shook the stadium as if the home team had just scored the winning touchdown on the last play of the game to snatch victory from defeat. As quickly as the sounds deafened the anticipating crowds an overbearing calm took over as graduated seniors left their friends and went to join their parents and siblings. Family and friends found the graduates and everywhere you looked hugs and tears replaced all previous sounds.

Jeromy found Jennie before either of them found their family. He came up behind her and lifted her off the ground both of them smiling that smile of newly graduated seniors. As he let her down she turned and threw her arms around him hugging him tightly while whispering in his ear, “We did it, you did it! I’m so proud of you!” Jeromy tilted Jennie’s head to one side facing one another, their eyes interlocked. He leaned forward lifting his hands and placing them softly on either side of her face. He moved his mouth to meet hers giving her a kiss of thanks, of gratitude, of teen-age love.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw the Thurowgood’s approaching so he shyly stepped back, taking Jennie’s hand in his. He wasn’t sure if they’d seen them together the moment before. Reflecting back weeks later Jeromy hoped with all of his heart they did see and understood the love felt between their daughter and himself. They walked towards her folks, Jennie breaking free and running to the open arms that awaited her. Jeromy looked on then saw his own family so he went over and greeted them, lifting the scroll he held in his hands high so everyone could see. He took his father’s hand shaking it like a man. Suddenly his brothers and sisters encompassed him, everyone hugging and kissing at the same time, congratulations expressed in a true family fashion.

A friend was having a huge Graduation party, so Jeromy had picked Jennie up and they driven over. They stood apart from the others, rock and roll music blasting in the background, each holding a cup of non-alcoholic punch. Everyone around them was going crazy screaming and dancing partying that first real post high school bash. Someone had snuck in some beer and this was being shared among the most wild of the crowd.

“Feel any different?” Jeromy asked Jennie as they both watched on.

“I’m not sure. I know I don’t have to go to school in the morning and worry about that next test or surprise quiz. It just hasn’t hit me that I’ll never take bus #301 again,” Jennie looked up at Jeromy to see if he understood. She could tell that he did.

“I uh got you a graduation gift,” Jeromy said. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a long envelope folded in half so it would fit. Jennie couldn’t imagine what it was. She took the envelope presented to her noticing the pink ribbon that tied it together. She untied the ribbon and broke the seal. She pulled out the contents staring in disbelief. She held two $100.00 tickets to see “42 Street” in the city next Saturday. She’d been dying to see this play. In fact they’d discussed it on several occasions but the tickets were so expensive especially for high school students.

“Oh Jeromy you shouldn’t have. How can you afford this?” Jennie reached up and kissed him full on the lips, her joy could not be contained.

“Uh there’s one condition attached, you must take me along,” Jeromy smiled and then bent over and kissed Jennie again. Applause broke out all around them. They looked up blushing as they became aware that all of their friends had surrounded them and were watching.

“Oh Jeromy, the show was just wonderful, I loved it. Thank you so much for taking me,” Jennie repeated herself for the tenth time holding snuggly onto Jeromy’s arm. Jeromy had to agree it was quite a spectacular show. He didn’t get to see plays very often, but even so this one was the best he’d ever seen. He was glad he’d purchased the tickets. Seeing Jennie’s eye’s sparkle with intensity throughout the evening had radiated over towards him once the play was finished. They had a nice dinner before the show and this evening walk through the streets of the city on this first day of summer climaxed his most romantic date ever. They’d been walking for about a half-hour not paying any attention to where they were going. They just were enjoying the pleasure of each other’s company. Unknowingly they entered a broken down sleazy part of the city just not realizing where they were going. Jennie moved away from Jeromy as she thought she heard a child crying. She heard voices and she was pretty sure they were black voices. She checked her surroundings for the first time questioning Jeromy, “Where exactly are we?” He was about to respond with “I’m not sure, we must have turned down a side street by mistake,” when he heard tires screeching as a car made a wild turn around the corner where they were standing.

The Lincoln Continental (Jeromy would never forget that car as long as he lived) tore down the street maybe fifty feet away. A shadow of a face peaked out of the driver’s side passenger window. Something shiny reflected through the open window as well but Jeromy had no cause to understand what it was.

RA-TAT, RA-TAT, RA-TAT – the sounds came but comprehension was still a mystery. Unfamiliar screams from behind him followed that awful sound as the Lincoln Continental, license plate – M95QUE (Jeromy caught sight of this when the car first entered onto the street) flew past him and made a quick right turn and disappeared from sight. All this happened instantaneously, no reaction time available. Instinctively Jeromy had gone to cover Jennie wanting to protect her from whatever craziness was occurring. When he turned to where Jennie was supposed to be, she wasn’t there. After hearing the first RA-TAT Jeromy had thought only of protecting Jennie even though he didn’t know from what.

She lay there crumpled at his feet, blood spilling onto the sidewalk. The first stray bullet had blown her face away when she’d turned to identify the location of the crying child. Jeromy was saved by not turning in that same direction. If Jeromy didn’t know that it was Jennie who’d been walking by his side that evening, recognition of the destroyed body beneath him would have been impossible. When Jennie had fallen to the ground from the impact of the sole bullet that had penetrated her face, her head smashed into the pavement. But Jennie hadn’t felt a thing having died a fraction of a second before.

Jeromy crumpled to the ground in a similar fashion as Jennie had done a moment before only there were no visible wounds to cause this to happen. His wounds were all internal, cut deep to the soul, nonetheless painful only not deadly. His ears opened to the desperate screams and crying of others all around him. He knew they weren’t crying for Jennie. He picked himself off the ground and stared blindly at the house directly behind him. His eyes focused on a black mother cuddling her baby, a child of maybe two years of age. Blood was running down the mother’s shoulder, arms and continuing down her leg. Directly at her feet was another one of her “babies”, only this one was his age, maybe sixteen or seventeen. He lay there with bullet holes torn throughout his upper body. This Negro mother had lost two children that evening, and for what reason?

Violence was not something that Jeromy had been akin to during his first seventeen plus year of life. One awful, eventful evening changed this within him forever.

“Lincoln Continental – NE M95QUE,” he said out loud though no one was listening. This was all he could see, all he wanted to see, everything else blotted out of his memory. Sirens pierced through the deadly calm that had overtaken that dark, dreary street. Lights flashed from every corner as different cars sped through that street. They seemed overpowering and overbearing as car doors slammed and Jeromy collapsed next to the figure he used to know as Jennie Thurowgood, sobbing violently.

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