Copyright is held by the author.
REGINA HAGGARTY was one of the BWOC — Big Women on Campus — at Millard Fillmore High. She had the DNA of a model, with a thin nose, skin translucent as a condom filled with skim milk, hair that floated like the flag on the Fourth of July, and the grace of a lady.
Of course, since she lived three doors down from our house outside Columbus, I knew Regina had another, darker side. One time, Ronnie Storbach walked out and left her at the Tip Top Diner because he was distracted by a guy in a pimped out Chevy Cavalier. Ronnie just drove back to town, leaving Regina to call her folks to come pick her up.
She wasn’t teary-eyed like most chicks would’ve been. I saw her on her front porch next day and asked if she’d gone out on Saturday night.
“I was out, with that whacked-out Muppet Ronnie. He’s a crapulous moron who gives hallucinogenic drugs a bad name. Ronnie Storbach is a My Little Pony version of the Khmer Rouge. Him and a million geeks in airless basements that go to our school, mouth-breathing cretins in backwards baseball caps and pants that fall down. Every piece of mankind is bullshit — excepting you, Tommy.”
“Wow,” I said, awed at the beauty of her curses, “that bad?”
We were caroming through our senior year, and Regina was odds on favourite to be voted Miss Millard Fillmore Homecoming Queen. And the king was — wait for the drum roll — that moron Ronnie Storbach. Yeah, Regina being a forgiving soul, had, well, forgiven him. And she could be forgiven for loving his cherry red Chevy pickup truck. But I don’t think she forgave him for rolling his Chevy on a country road, because he killed her dead.
Oh, you should’ve heard the wailing and weeping in the school hallways. The girls were all devastated. The boys subdued. Ronnie was blamed for being a knucklehead who would either be dead or in prison before his 18th birthday if he made it out of the hospital. The school cancelled the Queen and King thing, but the prom went on.
I took Mary Jane Crutchfield, who’s a nice kid even if she is a little slow and has a terrible giggle. Thing was that halfway through the dance the big picture of Regina and Ronnie they hung over the baskets in the gym began to peel apart. Mary Jane shrieked and pointed. I looked up and there was something — blood it looked like — coming out of Regina’s forehead in the picture. Everybody was shouting and screaming and Mr. Hazlet, the gym coach, got up there and pulled the picture down.
That was the end of the prom and the good times as winter settled in. I saw there’d been an early snow when I went out to get the paper on Sunday. Reaching down onto the snowy sidewalk I saw footprints coming up toward the paper, and then a thing lying next to it in the snow. It was Regina’s green book bag, the one with the stupid Hello Kitty patch everyone thought was so dumb. The footprints ended at my feet.
I took the paper and bag inside. I didn’t eat much breakfast even though Mom had made pancakes. But I thought a lot. That maybe I’d missed some of Regina’s signals, that maybe she thought I wasn’t a dork even though I was only second string on the baseball team. And I remembered the time we were talking about the Beatles. I told her my favourite was when John sang about when “The girl with colitis goes by.” She laughed so hard the Coke came out of her nose, then she kissed me and explained, “It’s the girl with kaleidoscope eyes.”
Standing on the back porch watching the snow come down, I ached over Regina being gone and that little shit Ronnie still walking around. I wanted to shoot the creep or cry or put my fist through something.
But I ended up doing nothing. I went up to my room, opened the window and lit a cigarette. Regina’s book bag was on my bed and Hello Kitty looked just as silly. I opened the bag and found it was empty, but down in the bottom was a piece of paper. Regina had written, “It’s all right, Tommy. There’s no pain now. Nothing but good memories. I saw you at the prom and knew you were the King that night. My King.”
I never told anyone about this after I hid Regina’s book bag in my closet. But now I carry Regina’s note in my wallet, and when nobody’s around I talk to it and kind of think maybe she’s listening.