In 9th grade, Maria was finally allowed to go to a school dance. It wasn’t a formal one. It was one of those that took place on a school night. Still, Maria was excited to finally go to a dance.

Even though he gave his blessing, Maria’s Father, Hector, was still a little leery. He knew the day would eventually come that he was going to have to let his little girl go out at night unchaperoned, but he thought the event would be filled with clergy and maybe even God himself supervising.

Maria’s longtime friend Kim invited to the dance. Kim’s first name and last name were both Kim. Maria met her in elementary school. Kim Kim wasn’t known as Kim Kim then. Back then, she was Mi Na Kim. Mi Na’s parents had immigrated to the states before Mi Na was born. After years of complaining, the Kims decided to let their kids change their names to something “more American-sounding.” Mi Na’s older brother, Sun, picked the name, John. Mi Na picked, Kim. Assuming she would one day be married and that her last name would change, Kim’s mom didn’t see and issue with it. Of course, it never ocurred to her that Kim could marry another Korean with the last name of Kim.

Kim and Maria were schoolmates from kindergarten until the Kims decided that paying for high school was out of the out of the question. So while Maria got dropped off for her first day of high school at Junípero Serra High School, Kim walked several blocks to her first day of school at Gardena High. This is why Hector had a problem with Maria going to the dance; because it was at the public school.

Statistics aside, Hector assumed that everything about public school was sinful. Public school kids did drugs and had sex. Catholic school kids did too, but Hector was blind to this fact. Never mind that he met his wife, Espi, when she was attending a Catholic high school, and they did drugs and had sex then.

Where Hector did have cause for worry was the violence. Gardena High had its share of gang activity and, as a result, there were at least two on duty Gardena PD posted there during school hours.

The plan was for Hector to drop off Maria at the Kims’s. Maria and Kim would walk the few blocks to the dance and return as soon as it ended at ten o’clock. Maria and Kim would then walk back to Kim’s house where Hector would be waiting to take Maria home.

*

It turns out Kim was having the secret relationship with a junior named, Antony. He went by Tony. There were two reasons why this relationship was kept a secret from Kim’s parents. One, he was older and two, he was black. To the Kims, open minded was allowing Kim to date other Asians, not specifically Koreans. But they were heavily partial to her dating other Koreans.

Maria spent most of the dance sitting alone, while Kim and Tony rubbed their groins together rhythmically on the dance floor.  She couldn’t wait for it to be over. She was grateful when the lights came on, and it was time to leave, but Kim was in no hurry to leave.

Outside of the gym Kim told Maria, “Wait here a minute, ok?” Just before she disappeared into a dark corner with Tony.

“Oh my god, Kim, hurry. My dad is gonna be waiting for me.” Maria,  patiently waited for her friend to finish whatever it was she was doing. She stood there in the cool night air watching the gymnasium empty until finally, the last person walked out. This person kicked up the door stop allowing the door to close, and automatically lock itself when it latched shut.

With the parking lot nearly empty and no foot traffic, the ambient noise level dropped enough that Maria could hear the faint sound of moans coming from the dark corner to where Kim. Maria was still unsure of exactly what was going on over there in the darkness, but in the back of her mind, the sounds were familiar. As if she had heard them before one night in bed when she couldn’t sleep, coming down the hall from her parent’s bedroom.

“Kim, let’s go!” It had been 10 minutes since that the doors of the gym were closed. No response. While pacing around a bit to help the time pass by, she got a glimpse of the parking lot. There were only two cars still parked there. One of them must have been Tony’s, she assumed. Maybe he could give us a ride, she thought.

Five more minutes had passed when she heard a woman’s voice shout, “Antony.” Right away, Maria knew it was not Kim who yelled his name. One- it was not Kim’s voice. Two- Kim called him Tony. And three- It was coming from a dark figure walking up from the parking lot towards Maria. “Antony!”

She was a tall, lanky woman. She wore pajama bottoms, house slippers, an oversized t-shirt, and a scarf wrapped around her head. Her breast visibly swung underneath her t-shirt like a grandfather clock that had two pendulums, if one were to exist. She pronounced his name Ant-nee as if there was not an “o” in it at all. Despite the woman’s youthful face, Maria knew the look of a mother. And this one was Tony’s.

“Hello, young lady,” said Tony’s mother. “Have you seen a tall, skinny, light skinned black boy around here?” Before Maria could respond, Tony’ walked out from the dark corner.

“Mama?”

“Boy, what the hell is wrong with you? Got me waiting in the car like a got damn chauffeur?” She didn’t wait for a response. “Let’s go!”

Right then, Tony’s mom was startled by a little Korean girl who appeared from same dark corner Tony had just come out of, still primping herself as not to look like she had just been violated. Without a word, Tony’s mom’s eyes went from Kim to Tony, her jaw dropping in the process.

The change of his name to Tony, the strut in his walk, the shit talking, the bad ass attitude, everything, everything he had done to establish himself as a thug was rendered null and void as Tony got his ass beat by his mama all the way to the car.

*

“There goes our ride,” Maria said.

“Huh?” inquired Kim.

“I thought that one of the cars down there was his and that he could give us a ride. But apparently, that was his mom’s car.”

“Yeah. That’s kind of disappointing,” Kim said. “But now it makes sense that he wanted to do it behind the gym and not in his car.”

“You guys did it,” Maria asked.

“Uhh yeah. We’re freshmen; we’re supposed to be doing it by now. It just…”

“Just what?” Maria asked hoping for to hear some form of regret from her friend for becoming sexually active so early.

“I thought I was doing it with a guy who drove.”

Maria couldn’t understand how her friend was so nonchalant about sex. The church had her believing that it was strictly for her future husband and that only sinners and harlots, had sex before marriage. Eventually, though, Maria would convince herself that sex with someone you love was equally as virtuous.

“We have to go,” Maria said. “I am going to be in so much trouble. My dad is going to be fuming by the time we get to your house.”

“There is still a car in the parking lot. Maybe it’s someone I know. I have a lot of friends here,” Kim said.

Guy friends? Maria thought.

The parking lot was in the direction they had to walk anyway, so Maria saw no harm in seeing if the driver was someone Kim knew. It wasn’t.

*

Thick plumes of smoke and the music of Brenton Wood rolled out from the cracked window of the Caprice Classic. In it were two Cholos sitting in the from seat getting higher with every inhalation. Though not related, they looked like twins. Same shaved head, same khaki Dickies, same black Nikes. Their only differences were their stature and choice in t-shirts. The taller one with the muscles, who was probably called “Little” something (Joe, Shorty, Joker, whatever), wore a white wife beater. The skinny one, probably called “Flaco,” wore a plain, white, crisply pressed t-shirt. Flaco was behind the wheel, and Little Joe was in the passenger seat.

Technically Flaco was a student at Gardena High though he never went. His truancy was why he was on his second attempt at the 12th grade. Little Shorty had dropped out the year before to work and party. He was Flaco’s guest to the dance. They had hopped on picking up some girls but weren’t having any luck. They left the dance for the parking lot to get high and never went back.

For over 90 minutes Flaco had been rambling on about girls, drugs, cars, and money. Not once did he notice that Little Joker hadn’t said a word. As Maria and Kim approached the car Little Whatever finally spoke, “Oye, güey. Mira la Chinita!”

Kim was, of course, Korean, but to cholos, it was just easier to classify all Asians as Chinese.

When Maria got close enough to the Caprice Classic, she knew that they weren’t getting a ride. She didn’t recognize the car in particular but she recognized the type. Thanks to her older brother, she was well educated in the ways of the cholo. “We’re walking home,” She told Kim. “Trust me. You do not want to get in that car.”

“Let’s go, Homes,” Flaco said to Little Joe as he patted him on the side of his leg with the back of his hand while he opened the driver’s side door. “You can have the Chinita. I’ll take the shorty.”

Although she didn’t want to, it was easy to get Kim into the backseat of the Cholo’s car. Maria was resisting but not too much. Flaco had already grabbed her by the wrist when she stared backing away as he approached her and it hurt. She knew not to get in the car but she also knew she didn’t want to resist to harshly. She was afraid of provoking a violent response from the cholo.

Maria realized that she was in a predicament, unaware of how she was going to get out of it. At least she wasn’t in the situation her long time friend was in. For the second time that night Kim found her skirt raised up over her ass. Little Shorty was working on getting an erection. Though Kim had said no repeatedly, he was not convinced. He mistook Tony’s secretions for Kim’s and thought for sure she wanted him. If he had only known what it was that was on his fingers, his attempt to rape Kim Kim would have ended right then and there.

Flaco was now kissing Maria on her neck. He had gone for her mouth but she turned her head in disgust. Tears silently rolled down Maria’s face. She thought herself helpless as she felt Flaco’s hand begin it’s decent into her panties. She tried to push him away but he had her firmly pinned between the car and himself. His fingers were past her waistband and now working their way through her pubic hair. Maria started pounding on him with the side of her fist on her one free hand but it was useless. Flaco’s fingers were now past her clitoris and poised to enter her forcefully. Maria braced herself and closed her eyes. She prepared to feel something, for the first time in her life, enter her vagina. That’s when she heard the thunk of something metal and hollow. When she opened her eyes, Flaco was out cold on the ground, his hand no longer down her panties, and standing there with an aluminum baseball bat in his hand, was Hector.

I am excited to post this. I worked for over a month on this chapter and its continuation. I can usually write a chapter in one sitting but that was not the case for this one. I hope the reason for telling this story of Maria in high school will be understood later in the book.