The world may look tolerant of the striding changes that societies have made. But people can still choose to be cruel and not change, not adapt to the new advances. "It's Raining Tonight" talks about hope, hope for those who face prejudice and hate. John and Vanessa are a young modern couple of today's world, passionately in love. But theirs is a relationship not easily accepted. It's troublesome for each of their families to handle and mocked by their friends. Yet, they conquer it all. Their love is larger than life, larger than all the prejudice that could be tossed at them. Love conquers all and wins. "It's Raining Tonight" is that kind of story. It's a story about love, passion and the defeat of evil, a beautiful story.
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It's Raining Tonight
By Eralides E. Cabreraby
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Eralides E. Cabrera
All right reserved.
Chapter OneJohn Russell was almost eighteen. He had spent his entire life living in southern New Jersey, in the town of Forked River. His parents had settled here during the late eighties, when home prices took a dive in the State. They saw the opportunity to get out of busy Hillside, a city in Union County in the central part of the State.
He attended the local high school where, he excelled in Chemistry. He loved the experiments, the formulas and the symbols he used for mathematical equations and after a while, there was no other course that he could take on the subject. So he began to read sophisticated articles about it that made him a wizard in his class. There was only a limited amount of Chemistry courses that a high school could offer, his home room professor told him, and he should be thinking of other things. It was admirable that he had this inner thirst for the field and it probably meant that it would get him someplace someday, but right now, he needed to get a thorough education. Chemistry was okay, but he had to bring his grades up in English, History and some of the other subjects. High school was meant for providing an all-round education and not just to be knowledgeable in one subject. Later on in life, if he was really serious about his passion, he would have the opportunity to concentrate on Chemistry and make a career out of it.
It was now spring and school was gearing up for the final drive when seniors got busy on their work. There was the matter of the SAT's which was enough in itself to keep them busy and the pressure to do well. In addition, for those that planned to go to college, hunting for the right school was a fulltime task where those that thought rationally about their choices, would have to spend hours completing applications to maximize their chances of getting in. Of course, the internet made it easier. But not that much easier, it only meant that there was no paperwork.
Coming from a middleclass family that still struggled to pay their bills at the eve of their retirement, as John did, meant that your resources were limited and that you better have your feet on the ground, his mother said. But John was not a worrier. He was not a sleeper either who didn't take things seriously but to his credit, he weighed the choices rationally in his head. Going into the military was an option that he had thought about. At first, it seemed that it was a low choice in the spectrum, but as the time for graduation got closer it became a higher priority. The national economy was disastrous. His father had been given an ultimatum to retire from his job of thirty years, which meant that there would be little money for college, and the business with school loans had gotten tight too. In all truth, things did not look all that good for a soon-to-be eighteen-year-old graduating high school. John's first choice was Rutgers University in New Brunswick because it had a school of Medicine, and it was close to home. Second choice was Philadelphia University, again, because it had a school of medicine. His third choice was the military, which left him in a sort of void. If he was serious about going into medicine, how would he accomplish it wearing a uniform? You could say that his third choice was a drastic change in goals, where career building would materialize only through a steady focus and the help of a military experience that would later get him into the work force. It seemed like a long shot.
The thoughts flashed through John's head this morning as he got up from his single bed in his bedroom and he realized he had to get ready for school. He had never before thought about his goals so clearly as he had just now, in a flash. He walked barefooted to the draped window of his room and looked outside.
"Man, it looks wet and dark out there," he murmured to himself. "It's raining hard."
"John! John!" There was a knock on his door.
"I know, Mom, I know. I'm getting ready."
It never failed. Joan Silber had never once forgotten to wake him up for school. And just at that moment, as he realized it, he wondered why she had always stuck with her last name of Silber. She had married into a Russell, what the heck? This is what most women did when they married. They adopted their husband's last name. Could it be that she was a feminist after all? His mother, a feminist? No, it wasn't possible. She catered after his father, Dave Russell, as if the man was a baby. In fact, it bordered on ridicule, he thought, and she did what most women would not do today to please their husbands. She ironed his ties, shined his shoes, washed his clothes separately and dried them with scented dryer sheets, not because he ever asked but because she saw it as her job. John had watched in silence all those years how his dad was pampered like a school boy and he always said to himself that if he ever married, he would want a wife like that, one that carried love in her heart. He made it downstairs early enough to get a glimpse of his father as he got ready to leave with his shiny black leather shoes and his brown sports jacket fully prepared for his managing job at a warehouse in Bricktown, New Jersey. He and his mother were kissing when John made it to the dining room.
"John, good morning," he said. "It's wet out there."
"I'll be all right, Dad."
"I know you will, John," his father said affectionately. "That's why I don't worry about you. You know what you're doing. Rain or no rain, you'll make it. Well, be careful anyway, okay?"
Dave kissed his wife and went out through the kitchen door which faced the driveway of the house. Joan watched him through the glass top portion of the door, as if to assure herself that her husband got in the car safely. Then she turned to John.
"It looks like it's going to be a lousy day, weather wise that is," she commented as she made her way around the kitchen, putting things away. "I had to make it in a hurry. Dave was in a rush to leave this morning. They called him from the job early."
"Why do they even call him now, Mom, if they don't need him? They want him to retire but yet they can't do without him."
"They will always need a manager, John, whether it's Dave or the next guy. And they do want him. The reason they're letting him go is this economy. We're living in lousy times."
"I guess," John shrugged his shoulders.
"You can afford not to care, John, because you're young. But give it a couple of years and you'll see."
"I didn't say I didn't care, Mom."
"Well, it's different for you. You're just starting out."
"Can I ask you something, Mom?"
She had turned to the dishwasher and had opened its door then moved to the sink and began gathering the plates and silverware.
"Yes," she responded casually, without turning.
"Why is it that you never changed your last name to Russell? You kept your maiden name."
"What?" she asked surprised as she turned.
"Your last name is Silber and you kept it after you married my father. Any particular reason why?"
"Since when are you the family tracker of last names? What is it? You just suddenly decided to dig into the family tree?"
She was smiling at him, but clearly avoiding the question.
"You mean, like one of those people that do studies on their family background and go back for generations? No, not really. I don't have the interest for that. But I was just curious, that's all. I mean, you're such a devoted mother and wife, Mom. It just seems inconsistent, no?"
She turned back to the dishwasher and began placing her load of plates and silverware inside. It wasn't really that much but she was meticulous about her cleanliness. She finished placing the plates against the grid carefully then the silverware inside the basket as if she had answered her son's question with her previous comment and that's all there was to it. Then brusquely, after she was done, she turned towards him.
"Being devoted to your family is a priority in life, John. But that doesn't mean you have to give up your identity. Everybody needs one no matter what they say. You can be yourself and still blend into the family."
"So, that's why you kept your last name? So you could keep your identity?"
"So I could keep the roots my parents gave me, John."
"What were your parents like, Mom?"
"They were great people, John. They died many years ago, not long after you and your sister were born."
"I know," he said and pushed his empty plate away, implying that he was done.
She immediately picked it up.
"I know you know but you don't know many things about them."
"Like the fact that they were immigrants who came from Europe in the late thirties and started their lives in New York penniless."
"I know about that part. I've seen the pictures of your father wearing those side curls."
"Peyos, that's what they're called, John."
"That's only Chasidic Jews who wear them, right?"
"Mostly, yes, it's part of religion, John, following the holy readings."
She had finished filling the dishwasher and closed the door.
"Sorry, Mom, I don't think you would catch me wearing my sideburns like that."
She laughed but he couldn't see her.
"You don't have sideburns, John. It looks like you're not going to have them after all, not big ones anyway."
He picked up a glass of orange juice that she had placed on the table for him and gulped it down.
"That's okay. I don't want them."
"Yes, young boys have stopped wearing them. But you know, when I was a young girl they were a big thing with guys. Even your father had long sideburns."
"Not curled though, right? That would have been funny to see."
"No, not curled."
"And he still passed the scrutiny of your family, ah?"
She looked at him, somewhat startled.
"There was no scrutiny to pass," she said rather gravely. "Only me, and that's the way it should be."
He walked towards the stairway where he had left his backpack and slid it across his shoulders.
"You didn't care that he was a gentile, Mom?"
"But you still kept your last name. That sounds like you may have craved for someone from your own culture, no?"
"No, John, it doesn't mean that at all. You can marry whoever you want to marry. That's the way it should be but you don't have to give up your identity to do it."
"I guess not, Mom," he said, looking at her curiously and then coming close to kiss her forehead. "I've gotta go, Mom. The bus should be just about here."
"Don't forget your raincoat. Here!"
She had grabbed it from a peg on the wall and tried to fit it on him.
"Mom, it will never fit me now. I've got my backpack."
"You should have put the raincoat on first. At least carry it over your head. You're gonna get all wet out there."
"All right, all right."
He held onto it as she straightened the cap over his head. He opened the door and rushed out towards the other side of the street where some other youngsters had gathered to wait for the school bus.
Chapter TwoJohn Russell had done an amazing fast growth in the past two years, now reaching 6 feet 3 inches in height. When he was 14 his father doubted he could make the basketball team which John craved very badly. He got formally admitted in the high school team but was not considered a favorite. He played hard and seemed to have the moves yet his coach told his father that at 5 feet four inches there was not much to hope for. You either had it or you didn't. Then in what seemed like an overnight hormone reaction, he grew up almost a foot in a year. He became even more devoted to the game seeing his coach gain confidence in him. He was no longer considered a passing fluke.
The students' entrance into school in the early morning was always considered a teachers' nightmare. If there was any chance for vandalism or for any kid to sneak something dangerous into the school grounds, this was the time and place. Throngs of students came in sporadically, sometimes steadily but never predictably. This made it hard for the school administration and security to observe them as closely as they would have liked. One rule of thumb that the school tried to stick to was to maintain the hallway door open, so security could see who was coming even before they entered the building. But of course, that was a rule for summer, and even then, it was dependent on good weather. That's why the guards assigned to Forked River High School referred to it as the "good weather rule." Today was one of those days when it could not be observed. It was drizzling outside and it was windy so the door had to be kept closed.
John came in with his two usual friends from the bus. They were seniors who happened to take the same route every morning, and by chance, happened to have lockers nearby each other. That was the first stop the students made every day. The lockers were built against the wall of the hallway that seemed to stretch a mile long, beginning at a few feet from the front door and all the way down to the end. John and his two friends had their lockers about three quarters of the way in. John got his door open and slid his raincoat inside.
"So, you're going to train with the girls' basketball team today. I hope it stops raining," one of his two friends said from afar.
He said it loud enough so others could hear it. John went on the defensive right away.
"Their team is better than ours!" John hollered back.
"What?" said another kid. "Are you crazy?"
"No, for real. Their team is great."
Some of the other boys who had gathered nearby, whispered amongst each other. One spoke.
"You say that because you're a frustrated player. Maybe if you did better with your team, you wouldn't have to go look for support from the girls."
"I do fine on my watch," John answered him. "I can only speak for myself though."
The other boy seemed to be looking for a quarrel. He was tall and lean like John and now walked over to John's locker. Suddenly, everyone was watching the two as if a signal had gone off that a confrontation was about to begin. That tipped off the security guards who were strolling up and down the hallway, making sure the early morning traffic of students kept moving flawlessly. Such was the state of school security at present, strict and non-wavering, triggered by the tragedy of Columbine High School in the mid-nineties.
"What's up boys?" one of the security guards said. "Get what you need from your lockers and move on to your classroom. You're not in the auditorium. Come on!"
The students dispersed silently. John left with his two friends, carrying two text books and a notebook he had retrieved from his backpack, which now remained inside his locker. The three went into their assigned classroom for their first period. The visit to the girls' basketball headquarters mentioned by the other boy was scheduled for the end of the school day, but it wouldn't happen unless the rain let up. It had been scheduled at the school's football field for unknown reasons to the students.
Chapter ThreeJoan Silber was an attractive woman who wore her dark brown hair in a fun bun hair wrap, held neatly and tightly by a silk bonnet that she probably wore more times than she should. Her son always teased her about it, calling her an antique and definitely not in tune with the times.
"Why, Mom," John asked, "must you try to look like an old maid? Don't you get tired of wearing that? You know, if you let your hair loose, you would probably look ten years younger."
"Never mind, John," she would answer him absent- mindedly. "I don't want to look any younger. I had my chance at it. Now I must look like I truly am."
Then she would wink at her husband who always sat at the kitchen table while these conversations took place. He smiled back, assuring his wife that her looks were fine by him, knowing full well that that was all she needed to hear. She was that type of woman, unusual you might say for today's society because she seemed to focus her entire life and ambition on her husband. It was sort of like, "if it's good for him, it's good for me." It was an attitude that her young son found difficult to comprehend, yet one that he had gotten used to. He probably would not have a mother any other way.
Joan reached the kitchen phone, an old white AT&T model that the family had owned for the past fifteen years. It had one of those old flash rings like the old phones from the sixties letting you know it wanted attention. There was no way you could ignore it. She rushed to get it.
"Hello," she said, picking up.
"Joan, I think they're gonna let me go today," Dave's voice sounded gloomy.
She felt stunned. First, he had called on the house phone which he never did anymore, and second, he was telling her that he was getting laid off today. She worried about him.
"Dave, what are you saying, honey? You just got there. What happened?"
Excerpted from It's Raining Tonight by Eralides E. Cabreraby Copyright © 2012 by Eralides E. Cabrera. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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