From Opposite Sides

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Chapter 18

I knock on Rory’s door exactly three times before his sister answers.

“Oh, hey Jenny. Is Rory here?”

She shakes her head. “He’s gone to get some shopping.” She smiles at me. “You can come in and wait for him though if you want? He should be back any minute.”

I nod and step inside. “Okay. Thanks.”

Martha is staring into space, eyes trained on the TV in front of her. She’s lying in bed, blanket up to her chest.

“Do you want a cup of tea or anything?” Jenny asks me.

“I’d love one thanks.”

Jenny leaves the room for a couple of minutes and returns with two mugs. She sits next to me.

“Do you like my brother Skye?”

I almost spill the tea. “Um... yeah, I guess. He’s been a good friend to me lately.”

“He must like you too. The only time he ever brings a girl home is when he’s drunk.”

I smile at her. “We’re just figuring out how to be friends. There’s nothing else going on between us.”

She grows serious. “I know, but I’m just saying… if there was something going on, you’ve got my blessing anyway.”

I chuckle. “Well, thank you. I appreciate that.”

“No worries.” She sighs. “Can I ask your advice?”

“Sure.”

With eyes squeezed shut, Jenny exhales. “I could never tell Rory this kind of stuff because he’d go insane. But my boyfriend has told everyone we’ve been sleeping together at school and now everyone is calling me a skank. Even my friends have been acting differently. What should I do about it?”

It is like I’m staring back at my teenage self. I used to wish that my mother had given me advice when I was Jenny’s age, but she didn’t and this is my chance to give Jenny the right advice, so she gets the support that she deserves.

“True friends wouldn’t act that way towards you if they really cared,” I explain to Jenny, choosing my words carefully. “When I slept with a boy for the first time, it got around the school quickly and the boy got off easy. I was the one that suffered with the abuse that came afterwards. I made some bad choices and if I could start over, I would do everything differently.”

She looks up at me, listening carefully. “You don’t have to let anyone else’s opinion affect you Jenny. If your friends don’t want anything to do with you, then that’s up to them. You’ll see who is there for you and who isn’t.”

“But, they’re the only friends I’ve got... I don’t want to lose them.”

“Sometimes, losing them can be the best thing. Wouldn’t you rather have friends who look out for you and have your back?”

She nods. “I guess.”

“As for your boyfriend, the only piece of advice I can give you is to stand up to him. Don’t let him make you out to be the bad guy. And break up with him as soon as humanly possible.”

There is a faint crack of a smile warming her face. “I’m so annoyed. I can’t believe he told everyone what we did. I thought that he would have respected me enough to keep those things private.”

“Try talking to him first, explain that you’d rather just clear the air. I’m sure things will blow over eventually. They always do.”

Jenny flings her arms around my neck and I lurch forward. “Thank you, Skye! Thank you so much!”

I hug her back. “You’re welcome.” Although, I’m not really sure what she’s thanking me for.

The door opens in that moment and Rory walks in. His eyes widen when he sees me and widen even more when he realises I’m hugging his sister. I don’t know how much of that conversation he overheard.

Jenny lets me go and jumps to her feet. “You’re back! Did you get me some snacks?” she demands.

Rory continues to stare at me like I’ve done something wrong. Have I surprised him that much? “Um... y - yeah.”

Jenny searches the bags and takes out some crisps. Then she glances between us both and makes a beeline for the stairs. “I’m off to watch some Netflix. Nice seeing you Skye!” She stops halfway. “And thanks for the advice.”

“That’s okay. Anytime.”

We watch as she jumps up the stairs and then the silence engulfs us. “My sister asked you for advice?” he asks, incredulous.

“As a matter of fact, she did. Is that so hard to believe?”

“No, it’s just nice that’s all. That was really cool of you.” Rory glances down at the thin brown envelope peeping out of my bag that keeps diverting my attention. “What’s that?”

I shrug and push it back into the rubble. “Nothing.”

My essay results have been sitting there all week and I haven’t found the courage to open them yet. Grayson gloated about his grade and I know he’s going to give me a hard time if I’ve got a lower mark than him. I shouldn’t care, but I do and that’s the problem.

“I’m not the best at reading people but I’m guessing whatever’s inside that envelope is pretty important to you.”

I twist my fingers together anxiously. “My essay results are in there.”

“Okay... so, what’s the problem?”

“I’ve been holding off from opening them because I’m worried I didn’t get the results I wanted.”

“You’re afraid?”

I lock eyes with him across the table. “A little.”

“Isn’t it just a grade though?”

He obviously doesn’t understand how important grades are to me. “I depend on these results. If I don’t pass, I won’t get into university. I’ve worked hard to get where I am now. That’s why these results are crucial to me.”

“Sorry, you’re obviously really passionate about this. But if you don’t open that envelope now, you never will. Come on, I’ll even open it for you if you want?”

The idea of somebody else seeing my results before I do is kind of personal and terrifying at the same time. But Rory is right, if I don’t take the plunge in this moment, I’ll never do it.

“Alright. You can look,” I tell him. “End my misery please.”

I search around in my bag, until I come across the envelope that seals my fate. I’ve either passed or failed. I’m worried that I’m not going to like what I find.

What if my writing isn’t good enough and Ricky has given me a low mark with a load of critical feedback? I don’t think I could take it. I put everything into this, just as I do for every single assignment and if it comes back unsuccessful then I might just cry.

I hand Rory the envelope and watch as he quickly rips it open. He pulls out a piece of paper inside and his eyes scan over the page. He doesn’t give anything away and it’s putting me on edge.

I’m biting the skin on my lip, my knees are tapping together, I’m blinking so hard that I’m seeing nothing but stars. I need an answer and I need it now. The not knowing part is killing me.

“What did I get?” I ask, unable to keep quiet any longer. “Just tell me. I can take it.”

Except, I can’t. I am not prepared to hear ‘you’ve failed’ come from anyone’s mouth, even if it is Rory’s. I don’t give him a chance to answer me. Instead, I grab the sheet and read it over, taking in the written information.

Skye Clemons results

Feedback:

Skye, I was very impressed with your piece on different music throughout the ages. The way you described each song and how it helped you through an experience was a unique approach.

The blog was humorous and well put together.

Your writing is improving each time. However, I didn’t feel I got to know you, it lacked some personal elements.

Overall, a very well written series of blogs and well done on passing the module.

Grade: B

“Oh my god! I passed! I got a B!” I scream. That’s the highest grade I’ve ever gotten. It might not be an A* like what Grayson had but that doesn’t matter. There’s room for improvement.

Rory gives me a clap. “That’s great! See, there was nothing to be afraid of. You’re talented, start believing it.”

“I’m seriously so happy right now!”

“I think we’re going to need another round of tea to celebrate,” he suggests.

“I second that.”

|||

I get home from Rory’s place quite late. I’m about to head to bed, when my mother shoots past.

My eyes follow her to the door. “Where are you going?” I ask, following her to get a better view of what she’s doing.

She fumbles with her coat, keeping her back to me. “I’m popping out, I won’t be long. We don’t have any tea bags left, so I need to go to the shops.”

“The shops won’t be open at this time of day.”

“I’m picking them up from a friend’s house.”

“I’ll come with you then.”

She waves me away. “No need. I’m more than capable of going alone. I’ll be popping to Maggie’s afterwards anyway.”

I listen to the door click shut and I sit down on the sofa. I switch my phone off and lie down, staring up at the egg white ceiling.

I must fall asleep at some point because when my eyes open, it’s dark outside. It doesn’t look like mum is back yet. Is she still at Maggie’s?

I chuck on my muddy trainers and head to Maggie’s house. Gerald answers the door, his eyes crinkling at the sight of me.

“Hi Mr. Turner. Is Maggie around?” I ask him, trying to peep inside without being too obvious.

I can’t hear movement in there. They are usually pretty loud when they see each other and don’t stop talking. I don’t think my mother is here.

Gerald scratches his head. “She’s gone to stay with her sister for the weekend – won’t be back until Monday.”

“Oh okay, thanks. Have a good night.”

He mumbles something under his breath and slams the door after him. I continue to stand there for a second. I shouldn’t worry. But my mother would have known that Maggie was away this weekend, so why did she lie to me?

I get back to the house and make my way up the stairs.

I spin around when I hear locks being turned. My mother comes flying through the door. I notice how puffy her eyes are. Has she been crying?

I rush over to her. “Mum, you’re shaking. Are you alright?”

I gently remove her hands from the arm holes of her coat and hang it up. She lets me and I instantly feel sick to the stomach. It’s that butterfly sensation, except this is more intense and I fear the worst has happened before she’s even said anything.

I steer her towards the sofa and she slowly sits down, breathing heavily. “Where did you go?” I ask her.

“I already told you where I was going before I left Skye!”

I recognise how defensive she’s being and it’s only sparking my curiosity. Her eyes are telling me a different story – one that I can’t decipher. Before I can ask any more questions, she’s already drifted off to sleep.

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