Nat “King” Cole’s hit Too Young played on the radio in the living room, almost as if he was taunting Natalia and reminding her that she was-after all-too young to be thinking the way she was thinking. It was frustrating. She couldn’t wait to be a grownup. No rules. No one telling her what to think, how to act, or who she could fall in love with.
It just wasn’t fair. She had to do as she was told, no matter how she felt. Every song seemed to speak to her, admonishing her to listen. Or to fall in love. There was no happy medium.
The love songs wooed her. Songs like Tennessee Waltz and On Top Of Old Smoky were hokey. Jezebel made her feel naughty, dirty. Almost ashamed.
But she loved jazz. she also loved the emerging Doo-wop style as well. It was as if they were singing about her life in their songs. Or the lack thereof.
She fantasized about being the one each song was being sung to or about. She pretended to be the starlet, dancing around to each song and acting out the role of the lover or one narrating the song. It was fun. It gave her the feeling that she was empowered.
But it was only make believe. It only lasted as long as the song played. But she wanted it to be real. She wanted to be loved. To be the center of some boy’s attention.
she flirted. She doted. She threw herself at every boy that caught her eye. She even obsessed over her appearance.
Nothing seemed to get her the attention she desired, least of all from Toby. Always Toby. He was the only one she could think about for any length of time. Toby always seemed to end her crushes for her.
She would try to get into a relationship with some boy and succeed. Then they would argue. She would then mention Toby and claim that he would be this way or that, and suddenly it would be all over. And she would be alone.
Her obsession with Tobias French always seemed to get in her way. It wasn’t that she actually knew what Toby would do in certain circumstances, it was just that she assumed that he would do certain things in a certain way. She felt that the reputation that Toby had was ill-gotten. Surely, he couldn’t be all bad. He had to be less than what everyone had said. There was no way he could be so violent. So lawless. It was all meant to keep her away from him.
She only chased the other boys because she wanted to make him jealous. And in her mind, she was doing just that. She was not going to let him get away. She wouldn’t forgive herself if she did.
There were plenty of older girls to assault as far as Tobias was concerned. He was interested in Natalia, but she was too young at the moment. Sure, the younger girls were easier to do things to. But Tobias knew that Natalia was Michael Morrow’s daughter and he was not about to risk being sent away to juvenile hall because he had attacked a Morrow. He was more content with getting away with attacks on older girls, especially those whose parents didn’t have the power, prestige, or money to cause him much worry.
He had gotten away with what he did for so long, he had no idea what it was like to pay for his crimes. He thought that his freedom was unlimited. He was the most powerful. No one could touch him. Well, almost no one.
So he kept Natalia at arm’s length. She would be a safer bet once she reached the actual age of consent. Then, she would be fair game. And he was content in waiting for that time.
At the moment, he was chasing Annette Harmes. She was the most beautiful girl in school. She was also the tallest. He hoped that he would be able to corner her at some point. He wanted something from her. It was the only thing on his mind.
He had taken it from so many that he had no concept of how it was really supposed to be. He didn’t know what love was. He didn’t know what compassion was. He only knew that he wanted what others had and he would take it if they didn’t willingly give it to him.
Shasta felt for her sister. She knew that Natalia didn’t really know what love was. She knew that Nattie believed that it was this great fantastical thing that would whisk her away to paradise. But Shasta knew it was none of those things.
She knew it was something far deeper than just a physical attraction. She had watched her mother and father. They were a picture of love. Even in dark times, they were a team. They shared the load.
Sure, emotions were a part of the equation. But attraction, emotions, and sexual desire did not equal love. That was lust. They all still left a person empty after they were all met.
Love made you think of those around you. How you could hurt them with an action. How you could help them with an action. It was as much about what you could give as it was about what you might receive. It was about sacrifice.
Shasta knew that Natalia knew nothing about sacrifice. her sister knew nothing about giving. She only knew what she wanted to take. What she wanted to obtain.
Natalia never thought about the lasting, just the here-and-now. She only knew what she wanted right now. And what she wanted was to be the center of attention.
Shasta wanted the real thing, in its time. She wanted to know that her beau would be there when she needed him, and him to know the same about her. She wanted to devote herself to one person and one person alone. She didn’t want to spread her affections around to every boy she saw.