Life Sucks and Then it Continues to Suck
Summer is leaving
The heat receding
And when it's gone...when it's gone...crap.
The lyrics played through Meredith's head as she hummed the melody she might put to them. Try as she might, she couldn't think of how to end the third line. God, she wasn't even at the chorus yet and she'd been writing this for days. It was usually so easy to come up with songs: she regularly just sat down and pumped one out in a few hours. But this one was different. This one had to be good.
With a sigh, she turned her eyes to Cara. It shouldn't be any wonder that the hardest song of all was one about her. It felt weird, though, weird in a way she couldn't exactly process. They'd been best friends since Pre-K, and she'd written songs about her before, but nothing this personal.
"Hey, Meredith," A low voice murmured. She sighed and turned her head, getting hit in the face immediately with beer fumes. It was Candice Hart, the school whore/leader of drama club and a full-time member of the gang that always gave her crap.
"Here," With a small smile, Candice passed her a note written on blue notebook paper.
She unfolded it and read the hastily scrawled message inside:
Do you have enough crack from your Daddy to sell me some?
Meredith sighed and balled up the note, shoving it in her pocket. Candice smirked at her and winked at Cedric Hall, the guy at school who actually sold crack.
"Yes," She mouthed to him. He gave her a thumbs up under his desk.
Meredith rubbed her temples and tried to turn her attention back to class, but it was impossible. She'd forgotten which class she was in, what time of day it was. She couldn't distract herself from her crisis. She still could hardly believe her friend was leaving for Alaska, of all places, though the news had been broken to her over a month ago. She had made her self laugh earlier trying to imagine Cara, with her hot pink nail polish and borderline obsession with mini skirts hunting down elk or fighting with wolves over buffalo carcasses. For a minute, it had made her feel better.
As though through telepathic connection, Cara turned around and flashed a white grin at her, rolling her eyes at whatever the teacher of whichever class this was had said. Meredith faked a smile back and looked down at her notebook again, which was covered in ink stains and scratched out attempts at lyrics.
How am I supposed to get through high school without you? She thought. Since preschool, they had braved the hell that was the tiny town of Little Fall and people like Candice. All the white trash and religious nuts hadn't seemed so bad when they could just turn to each other and know there was at least one person in the world whom accepted them for who they were. Now, in less than a month, she'd have to figure it out without her.
Tears threatened at the edges of her eyes, and she hurriedly switched her mind back to lyrics and chords and finger positions. How could she finish the third line?
Summer is leaving
The heat receding
And when it's gone
It will leave me bleeding
Oh God, no. She quickly scratched that out with a ferocity that made several nearby students stare.
She thought she was making progress in her mission to distract when she felt the tear. It hit the back of her hand hard, like a raindrop on a window. Luckily, the incessant ringing of the bell meant that she could wipe it and its fellows away discreetly before anyone noticed.
* * * * * * * * *
Outside, the air was crisp with the end of Fall. The smell of the dying year made Meredith feel that much worse. The walk to the bus stop seemed to be taking forever. Cara was oddly silent for most of the walk, chewing on her lip. Meredith was kind of afraid to ask.
The mood seemed to pass though, because when they rounded a corner on the sidewalk Cara grabbed her and and grinned.
"Hey there girlfriend, you look bummed." She was, as always, freakishly cheery.
Meredith smiled and allowed herself to sniff.
"Yeah, I'm just upset that Mom will probably be too drunk to cook tonight."
Cara made a face.
"How many nights in a row is that?"
"Hmm. That sucks. Wanna sleep over? I can probably scrounge up some, ahem, delightful Harry Potter fanfictions if it gets boring." Cara waggled her brows.
Meredith laughed, and it felt amazing.
"Nothing too pornographic, please. We don't need a repeat of what happened after 'Draco and Ginny's Sexy Discoveries' "
Cara huffed and blew a glittering strand of blonde hair out of her face.
"You are sooo boring, Mary Mere. Besides, you didn't scream THAT much."
Meredith cracked up again.
"I can't afford to be all hot and bothered when I show up tomorrow to put Mom to bed. She'll wonder what's up."
Cara cried out in surprise and smacked Meredith with her sequined green purse.
"You dirty girl! I can't believe the Virgin Mary would say such things!"
Meredith shrugged and flushed, grinning. She was actually starting to feel better. At least she wouldn't have to go back to her dank little house tonight.
Sadly, she'd still have to brave the bus. The two of them had finally come to it: it stood fat and yellow on the cracked cement, spewing noxious black smoke. What was worse was that, coming down the walk from the opposite direction, was Margery Banks and her gang of white trash thugs, all reeking of cigarette smoke and filth. Among them were Candice and Cedric. The latter surprised her: he didn't usually hang around the gang, prefering instead dark alleyways and gullible freshmen.
"Hey! St. Claire!" A cheerful voice called.
The two turned in surprise to see a tall, round faced girl smiling at Cara from beside a little tan van. At her side there stood a short boy with glasses and a slightly taller girl with the curliest red hair Meredith had ever seen. Her heart sank. These were members of Cara's soccer team. Kelly Chase, the tall girl, was the only person she actually recognized. She knew that Kelly's Mom had the paperwork that allowed her to pick Cara up from school, and she also knew that that meant Cara was going to ditch her. Because she only got to see her teammates during practice and at school, they were a rung above the ever-present Meredith in the hierarchy.
"See you later? My house as usual?" Cara asked, turning the full force of her acid green eyes on her.
Meredith feigned a smile. We have a month together. You can't act like we have all the time in the world anymore.
"You're the best!" Cara squealed, hugging Meredith close. This act turned her a weird shade of pink, and then her friend darted into the van like the sun behind a cloud. Meredith stared sadly after her before being jostled into the bus.
She walked down the aisle and flopped into the end seat, only glancing at her crush since fourth grade, Carter. He was frowning at his homework, his cherry red lips puckered in concentration. Usually she and Cara would have had a whisper fight over Meredith sitting with him. Today she only stared, and the empty spot beside him was taken by Allison Monroe, the hottest little geek in choir. Yaayyy.
The sudden silence that permeated the bus brought her gaze away from Carter and Allison. With a cold, sinking dread she saw that Margery Banks and her gang had hopped in at the last minute. Margery was stick thin, with waxy, nearly transparent skin and a wave of greasy black hair. The smell of cigarette smoke wafted from her in thick gusts, it's scent seeming to have sunk into her clothes and skin. Though they lived near each other in the same dank, dirty houses that barely escaped being trailers, Margery had turned out completely white trash, while Meredith hoped she was at least faking being normal. She did her best to distance herself from her drunk mom and her runaway, crack-dealing dad, but Margery knew about that stuff and wouldn't let her forget it. Margery and her gang were completely horrible to everyone, but she held a special place in bile-filled heart for Meredith.
As the gang walked by, the other students cowered, even the soccer stars, who were in the top ranks at school. Eyes dropped, heads drooped, faces turned towards the windows. It was like that scene in Matilda, Meredith thought, when Principal Trunchbull had lined everyone up at the beginning of class and freaked them out with her riding crop. Margery may not have had one of those, but she had almost been expelled earlier that year for bringing two different knives to school. And she was infamous for her fighting skills: everyone still remembered what had happened to Becca Cotter in seventh grade. She'd been in a medically induced coma for a week.
And here she was, coming Meredith's way. WHY?! What had Meredith done? Panic made her lungs contract.
"Get out of our seat, faggot." Margery stopped dead in front of her seat, staring her down like a hairless possum. Behind her, Jennifer and Jade West, the twins who were pretty much her Flotsam and Jetsam, both crossed their arms like bouncers.
Meredith turned instinctively to look at where Cara would have sat. The absence of her struck her across the face, and a sudden fury burned in her.
"This is where I've sat since first grade. You sit over there." Her own voice rang out clearly through the bus. All eyes turned on her, flashing like those of frightened animals. Jack Kirby mouthed "OH FUCK." Another girl, a transfer student, covered her eyes and tucked herself against the wall. Worse still, Carter turned and looked at her, eyes shining worriedly behind his glasses.
"Our seat ain't got room for us, bitch." Margery turned and grinned at someone behind her. Cedric Hall walked forward and wrapped a gaunt arm around her waist.
Meredith's insides churned as they gave each other a very tongue-y kiss.
"Git up! 'Less you wanna get fucked up again." Jennifer-Or was it Jade?-muttered.
Margery held up a hand, quieting the twin. Meredith wondered how she wasn't dead yet. The last time she'd done something dumb like this, her finger had been nearly twisted off by now.
"There ain't no point in this shit, Jackson. You're being dumb for no reason. Your girlfriend's gone. I bet that's why you're so bitchy? You two can't suck on each other's tits now." Margery whispered so that the bus driver couldn't hear.
Meredith turned a furious red. Sexual stuff embarrassed the crap out of her, and Margery knew that. To her horror, she saw that people were whispering and snickering to each other, spreading it around the bus until the air hummed like a bee nest.
"Tell me, Jackson," Margery said, enunciating as clearly as she could.
"How do two girls fuck? Like, what goes in what?"
The blush on Meredith's cheeks deepened and she felt her mouth go dry as the hum escalated to a blurred, high pitched chatter. Students were smirking and popping their brows. In her school, being gay was the funniest and most terrible thing you could be. Margery was good. But she'd known that. God, she was so stupid.
"You ain't gonna say anything? I'm reaaallll curious."
"Hey! Settle down and sit down!" The bus driver yelled.
Meredith jumped to her feet and walked past Margery, who bumped her shoulder as she went past. Many of the seats were full, but she saw an empty one near the front of the bus. She kept her head down, chin to her chest, but she didn't miss the students mouthing "Gay" At her. Or the red tinge that colored Carter's cheeks. One kid, a boy whom Margery had dated for a few weeks, opened his backpack and took out two pairs of scissors. As she walked past, her feet nearly on fire from how fast she was going, he opened then and clicked them together, making soft moaning noises.
Thankfully, Meredith reached the seat and slid into it. She buried her face in her notebook immediately.
If Cara had been there, she would have stared Margery down and kept her dignity intact. How was she supposed to put up with this? She'd gotten teased in elementary school and middle school but so far high school was a million times worse. The new semester had been going on for three months, and in that time alone, she'd been shoved down in the parking lot by boys who'd tried to yank up her shirt(they'd been suspended for an ungodly amount of time and were on serious probation, which Cara had furiously insisted wasn't enough), a rumor had been spread that she was a prostitute(someone had actually come to her with money asking for service. AND THEY'D BEEN COMPLETELY SERIOUS), and now all this crap with Margery was going to cling to her until she went to college. High school sucked.
Meredith leaned her head against the window and watched Little Fall whip by. The gas station, the produce stand, the mill. She willed the bus to go faster.
She needed to get to Cara's.