Chapter One. Bailey.
This is so stupid.
I don’t understand why
have to leave my home,
and everything I’ve ever known.
I understand that you want
a safer place to live,
but I’m not a child anymore.
I know what I’m doing.
I literally had everything that I wanted,
And I was so happy.
But you’ve taken me from my happiness
And tossing me into rural torture,
and I am so terrified that that is where I’ll have
“Bailey, I really don’t like seeing you upset. Talk to me, sweetheart.”
“Careful, Mum,” I replied dryly, because my mother’s eyes were completely off the road and completely on me, “you just got your license; you wouldn’t want to crash on your first official trip away from home.”
My mother frowned and turned her attention back to the road.
“It’s not home anymore,” she muttered. Then, seeing my face fall, she sighed. “I’m sorry, Bails,” she apologized, using her old nickname for me. “That sounded mean. I didn’t mean it like that.”
I sighed, too, sinking down in my seat, and tucked my pen and poetry notebook away for later. I couldn’t concentrate right now anyway. I was way too nervous and pissed off about moving.
I hadn’t wanted to leave New York City. At all. I had lived there my entire life. My parents had met when my mom was nineteen and waitressing for money for college. They had gotten married less than six months later, but my father was an alcoholic and spent all of my mom’s college fund to support his habit. He started pushing her around more and more after I was born, and one night when I was four, he gave her a black eye, and she’d had enough. The way I remember it, she’d packed up her essentials (including me) and left that very night. Life had been hard at first. My mom kept waitressing, and worked other odd jobs when she could, like a job at the local laundry mat and so on. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we weren’t completely poor, either. We lived in a crappy apartment in Brooklyn until I was ten. My mother got a job at one of the local newspaper companies and started writing an advice column. She’d always loved writing.
For years, my mother had been too busy to do anything for herself. She worked constantly to support me. I knew that when she was younger, her dream was to be an author, but between bills, work, and being a good mom to me, she didn’t have much time to write. It took her years to finish her first book, a fictional romance about a woman who fell in love with a Greek god. My mother loved fiction, and apparently, so did anyone who read what she wrote, because after she finished her first novel and sent it out, it took her less than three months to find a company who wanted to publish it, and four months after that, my mother made it to the New York Times Best Seller list. With that new flow of money, we were able to move to the Upper East Side and into a much nicer apartment, and my mother was able to focus on just her writing.
My mother was a true city girl, born and raised, and was tough enough to raise me on her own in the city, send me to a decent school, and help me with extracurricular activities like drama club, art club, and writing for the school newspaper while balancing that out with her own career as an author.
I couldn’t sing, and I wasn’t great with acting, but I got my mother’s talent for writing. I am just like her, with my short, choppy dark brown hair (she wears hers long, though) and hazel eyes. What I didn’t inherit from her was being gay.
It was in my Journalism Club that I first realized I was attracted to girls. I was in eighth grade, and I was set up on a project with the hottest boy in school, Jeremy Williams. Every girl drooled over his deep tan, bright blue eyes and long black hair. He seriously looked like he’d just stepped off a Hollister ad. There wasn’t a girl I knew who wasn’t interested in him. Except for me. The assignment was to write an article on something at school that no one really knew about. I wanted to write about the fact that the city was wasting space by not rebuilding or refurnishing abandoned buildings that could be used for animal or homeless shelters. Jeremy wanted to write about the soccer team’s latest victory. I shot down his idea and told him what we were going to write about, and he kind of just went along with it. Of course I ended up doing all the work, and when we got an A on the assignment he offered to take me out on a date “as a reward for my hard work”.
I was kind of hoping that going on a date with him might add some interest to my reputation at school, so I said yes. But the date was such a disspointment. All Jeremy did was talk about how toned his arms were, how “epic” his new haircut was, and how I was so lucky to be going on a date with him, because he could’ve had anyone he wanted. Halfway through dinner, I simply got up and left the restaurant, hailed a cab and went straight home, and spent the rest of the night eating red velvet cupcake ice cream and watching Disney movies with my mom.
I didn’t date anyone until my freshman year, when I met Becca, the art club president. I was surprised how shy and nervous I was around her, how self-conscious I felt. Whenever I was around her, I couldn’t help but notice her long white blonde hair (always in a neat bun or ponytail) and her light green eyes. She was so beautiful, and so nice. She was also bisexual. I found that out when she came over to my apartment one night when my mom was out shopping, and kissed me. I was surprised by the kiss and even more surprised that I liked it, but I went with it. That night, over a vegetarian dinner (yes, we were vegetarian, more on that later) of spinach salad and white rice, I told my mother what had happened.
“Oh,” she said, looking surprised. “Well...what do you think?” “What do you mean?” I’d asked.
“Are you gay?”
“I don’t know.”
My mother had laughed. “What I’m asking is, did you enjoy kissing her? Do you find her attractive?”
“Well...yeah, I guess I did, and I do.”
“Then maybe you’re gay.” She’d put her hand over mine and smiled gently at me. “Bailey, what you should know about this, is that this is your life, and no one else’s. You need to do what makes you happy. If you like this girl, and she makes you happy, then maybe you are gay, but that doesn’t make you any less you. Personally, I don’t care if you date a man, a woman, or an alien, as long as they make you happy. I will always support you, no matter what.” She’d leaned over and given me a kiss on the forehead, and then stood up. “Now help me wash these dishes, will you? I made chocolate cupcakes for dessert.”
I am one of the lucky kids who is blessed with a loving, accepting, and supportive mother. It was never really any big deal with us, it just was what it was. Life went on, and I ended up dating Becca for eight months. I have a feeling it would’ve lasted a lot longer than that, if my life didn’t suck.
We were happy. Becca was a sweetheart, and my mother loved her. She was always over to write or bake or watch a movie with me. We’d just hit our eight-month mark when my mother changed everything.
I’d been sitting in the living room, on my laptop, instant-messaging Becca through Facebook and working on a new poem when my mom walked in.
“Bailey...” She began. Something about her voice made me look up.
“What’s up, Mom?”
“I have something to tell you,” she’d responded. “And I’m not sure if you’re going to like it.”
“What is it? What’s going on?” I’d demanded, already feeling nervous.
My mother explained to me that her new book was about upstate New York, and her agent had suggested that maybe moving up there would help make the book more real, for both herself and her audience.
“Besides, I’ve been wanting to get out of here for a long time anyway,” she’d added after she finished, surveying the look of total horror that was frozen on my face. “It stinks. It’s dirty. It’s crowded.”
I had completely freaked out. “You’re just coming up with excuses to take me away from my friends!” I’d shouted at her, jumping up from the couch and glaring at her. “You can’t do this to me now, Mom. Not right before sophomore year. It’s not fair.”
“You’ll go to a new school, make new friends,” she had pointed out. “This isn’t the end of the world, Bailey. Stop making it out to be!”
I had opened my mouth to respond, but before I could even take a breath, she’d sat down on the couch, all the fight suddenly out of her. “Look,” she’d said in a low voice, wringing her hands, refusing to look at me, “things aren’t going so great right now, financially. It’s been a while since my last book, and that’s not going so well either. This move really could help me write the next book and bring in a lot more money. We have a nice place to live out there already, and it’s a nice town. I did my research. And I daresay, if all goes well with this new book, we might have enough money to get you back to the city for NYU in a couple years or so.”
How could I refuse an offer like that? I loved my mother, and NYU was my dream. I didn’t want to move, at all, but sometimes family means sacrifice.
I was really heartbroken about leaving the city, and leaving Becca. I loved everything about the city. I loved Central Park and volunteering at the animal shelter down the street. I loved hailing taxis and eating legit city pizza, the best anywhere. I loved shopping in thrift stores and grabbing lattes with Becca on our way back from Barnes and Noble. I even loved telling off the street vendors who tried to sell me cheap jewelry or umbrellas that lasted about five minutes before falling apart. But what I loved most about the city was my ability to blend in. New York City was such a vast, diverse place to live. If I was gay, no big deal. If I wanted to dress a little differently, no big deal. I could live the way I wanted to live without having to worry about being judged. Everyone was their own person in the city, unless of course you were part of a gang or something. Which I wasn’t. Which brings us right back to my original point.
Now I had to leave my home, my girlfriend, and everything I knew behind, to go live in some small, boring town that would be “good” for us. And I wasn’t looking forward to it. I was hopeful that my mom would take forever to get her license, something she’d never found a point in getting because of where we lived. But no; she got it within four months after getting her permit, and managed to pack up the apartment fairly quickly. A young couple came in one day to check out the apartment, and boom, just like that, someone else was moving into my home.
One of my great aunts had lived in a small town called Peru for most of her life, although I never even remembered visiting her. She had passed away when I was nine, and the funeral I
do remember, but that’s all. She had left her house there to my mother, who rented it out for a while to help pay the bills on our immensely expensive apartment. Living in Manhattan isn’t cheap, whether your newest book is on the best seller’s list or not. About a year ago, the couple renting the house in Peru moved out, and since then, the house had been vacant. Of course my mother saw this as our golden opportunity and we claimed the house as our own so we could live in it. So, before I could even protest, she’d called the landlord to get out of our lease, called a moving company, and set the date to start moving to a month and a half after I’d finished my freshman year. I had so little time that I didn’t get to spend much time alone with Becca before we moved.
Most of the time she was over at my house, helping us pack everything into boxes and planning my going away party. On our last night together we went for a carriage ride through Central Park (very cheesy and tourist-y, but something we both loved to do) and talked about what would happen after I moved.
Becca had snuggled under my arm and was chewing on her lower lip, staring straight ahead, her face blank but her eyes focused, her eyebrows drawn together. She only made that face when we argued or if she had something really important to say.
I’d kissed the top of her head and asked her what was on her mind. “You’re going to be...seven hours away,” she’d began.
She looked up at me, her eyes sad.
“When are we ever going to see each other, babe?” She’d asked, her voice breaking a little.
I looked at her for a long moment, then looked away, tightening my arm around her. “Are you saying we need to break up?’ I asked her softly.
“I don’t want to...but what else are we supposed to do? What if you meet someone new? What if I do?”
That hurt me, but I didn’t let it show. I mean, I was hopefully only going to be gone for a couple years. But if this was what she wanted, I wasn’t going to deny her it. I could never deny her anything, especially not her freedom. Even if her freedom meant moving on. I nodded slowly.
“I get what you’re saying...but I don’t want to lose you. Is that selfish of me?”
“No.” We were both crying now. “I don’t want to lose you either. Maybe we’re both being just a little selfish....but that’s nothing new,” she added, and we both laughed a little bit.
I had really loved Becca. And I always would. I looked up at her, struggling to see her features in the dark, but I didn’t need to really struggle. I knew every curve of her face like the back of my hand. I’d leaned forward and kissed her for a very long minute. When we broke away, we both knew it was over. The rest of the carriage ride was quiet, holding on another in painful, almost desperate silence. I walked her home after, and hugged her for a good ten minutes at the door of her apartment building while her doorman respectfully pretended we weren’t there. When she pulled away, she wiped the tears from her face and gave me a little smile.
“So....’bye,” she’d said softly, but she stood there, refusing to walk away first. I smiled at her.
“See you later, Beck,” I’d responded, because I couldn’t stand to actually say the word goodbye, then turned, heading down the street and looking for a cab to flag down.
That was two days ago. On the way up from the city, my mother insisted on driving slowly through upstate New York, getting to know our surroundings and staying at hotels the past couple nights. The moving truck would meet us at the house tonight to start unloading. I’d been completely depressed on the trip up, and honestly, I thought my mother was about to snap my neck. But really, I was trying to stay positive.
It just wasn’t working out very well so far.
We were driving through the Adirondack Mountains now, and my cell phone had little to no signal. I’d been texting some friends from back home, but I’d lost service about half an hour ago and it didn’t seem to be coming back anytime soon.
“They’re going to think we died in a car accident,” I complained to my mom, pulling out my headphones and iPod Touch. “This sucks, Mom. Do we even have service in Peru?”
“Yes! Bails, I love you, but you need to make an attempt to be positive, or just shut up,” my mother snapped.
I looked at her in surprise. “Them’s fightin’ words!” I remarked, beginning to smile despite my crappy mood. “Jeez, Mom. You need to yell at me more often.”
Mom smiled just the tiniest bit. “Yeah, maybe,” she agreed, turning the car onto exit 33. “But you know that I won’t.”
“Why are we stopping here? This isn’t Peru, is it?” “No, this is Westport. I need gas.”
“Oh, good. I need food.”
“Anyways, Bails, you have to look at the bright side of us moving,” my mother said, navigating the car down the rainy road to the Mobil station up ahead. “This move is opening you up to meeting new people, going to a cool new school....”
“....And getting creeped out by old, toothless pedophiles?” I muttered, perhaps not quietly enough because I saw my mother shoot me The Look.
Yeesh. The Look. That moment when you take it too far, and your parents have no words to express how fed up or annoyed they are with you, so instead they just shoot you The Look. The if-you-don’t-get-out-of-my-sight-right-now-terrible-things-will-happen-to-you Look. Yeah, that one. The one that makes you run, or at least want to run, no matter how old you are.
“Oookay, time to get out of the car!” I quipped, grabbing my wallet and jumping out of the door the minute she pulled up next to the gas pump. “Do you want me to grab anything for you?”
“Some popcorn, and a bottled water? And some duct tape for your mouth?” She responded, getting out of her own side and pulling the nozzle from the pump.
“How about two out of three?” I yelled back, already headed across the parking lot to the store.
“Okay,” she called after me. “I can go without the popcorn.”
I was still grinning as I walked into the store.
The inside of the store was nasty; grimy and dirty, and reeked of cat pee and cigarettes.
“Wheww,” I said under my breath, and hurried to pick out a water and popcorn for my mom, a Coke and sunflower seeds for myself. The cashier was a greasy old man missing most of his teeth, who spent most of his time looking down his lumpy nose at my chest as he scanned my stuff.
“That’ll be $7.50,” he wheezed into my face. I handed him a ten and waited for my change impatiently, glancing away from him and crossing my arms over my chest as he glanced at my boobs again.
He put my stuff in a bag and handed me my change and receipt. “You have a nice night, now,” he said, grinning at me creepily.
It passed through my mind that if I really looked close enough, I could probably squint through the tiny windows of space where his teeth should have been, and see straight through to his tonsils. I shuddered and shook the thought away.
“Sure. You too.” I practically ran from the store, too grossed out to say much more.
My mom had pulled up to the curb and was waiting for me. “Ugh! Ew,” I shuddered as I got into the car and handed my mom her snacks.
“What’s wrong?”she asked, opening the bag of popcorn and pulling out onto the road.
“That old guy was such a creeper. I feel dirty now.”
She snorted, taking a handful of popcorn. “Drama queen.”
“What, you think I’m exaggerating? Go back into that store and talk to him yourself. I dare you.”
My mom smiled. “I think I’ll take a rain check on that one, thanks.”
I smirked at her. “Exactly.” I put my headphones back in and turned on my iPod, drowning out my nerves with some Paramore for the next forty five minutes. In less than an hour I’d be at my new home. And in two weeks, I’d be starting my sophomore year.
And I wasn’t looking forward to any of it.
The house was old, small and gray. Not overly exciting. A faded red barn stood behind it, and behind that, a couple miles of forest. We were right on the outskirts of the town, which was too small for words. We passed the school on our way to our new home, and as I glanced out at the large redbrick building, with the football field and crappy tennis court and nothing else, I felt a new wave of homesickness. What was I even doing here? If I were home right now, I’d be in Central Park drinking iced coffee and resting in the grass while Becca read poetry to me and played with my hair.
I wanted to go home.
On the plus side, my cell had pretty good service again. I’d been texting Becca and a few others for a while now. As we pulled up to the house, though, I shut my phone off and tucked it away so that I could help unpack a bit.
Mom jumped out of the car to observe the yard. “Wow, it’s been forever since I’ve been here,” she murmured, her eyes full of memories. She took a deep, cleansing breath. “Smell that nice, clean country air? You won’t find that in any city.”
I sighed pointedly, not bothering to respond, picked up the bag that held my notebooks and electronics, and followed my mother to the front door. This was going to be a long afternoon.
It was seven thirty by the time we got all our boxes and furniture into the house. Mom had bullied the moving men into setting up the couch, the recliners and the flat screen TV, and after they left we set up our mattresses in our rooms, to have something to sleep on until we could set up our bedframes. Now we were sitting on the front porch together, eating cheese pizza and chocolate for dinner.
We had gone vegetarian together two years ago after one fateful day in the fall. I had gone to school like a good, innocent little girl, gotten to my Health class, and had had to face the horror of sitting through a two hour documentary about the meat industry. After class, I ended up walking home early, walking in through the front door, taking one look at my mom, and bursting into tears. I explained to my mom what had happened, and she’d started laughing.
“So you’re upset because you think eating meat is bad?”
“After what I learned today, yeah.”
She’d shrugged. “So don’t eat it anymore. Your choice.”
I’d been really surprised. “You really wouldn’t mind?” I’d demanded.
“Not at all. I was a vegetarian all through high school. It would’ve lasted, except one day...” She sighed. “My mother made bacon for breakfast.”
I’d laughed. “Please don’t do that to me anytime soon.”
She’d shook her head. “I think I’ll go vegetarian with you so we don’t tempt each other. Sound good?”
That’s the best thing about my mother. She always supported me in my choices, and sometimes she’d even join me in them.
“Sounds great.” We’d shook on it and never looked back since.
“It’s so quiet here,” I observed, tilting my face into the warm late august breeze and gazing up at wide, open sky, at the stars just beginning to peek out of the light dusting of clouds. I had to admit it was beautiful, a view you’d rarely be able to see in a city because of all the smog and skyscraper and lights. But it was too quiet, too lonely; not quite home yet. Hopefully things would improve when I started school next week, but at that thought, my stomach dipped. Heaven forbid a tough New Yorker be scared of some small town kids, but I
was downright terrified when it came to not knowing anyone and having to be around them all day...
“It’s nice, though, isn’t it?” my mother replied. “So peaceful.”
“Yeah, I guess so.” I stood up, gathered our paper plates, and headed inside. She followed me.
“I’d get to bed pretty early tonight if I were you,” she advised, glancing at the clock and then at the many towers of boxes around the kitchen and the living room just beyond. “We have a lot of work to do tomorrow.”
“Okay. I love you, Mom.” I gave her a peck on the cheek, like always. “I love you too. Goodnight, babygirl.”
I changed and brushed my teeth, then ran my hairbrush through my dark hair and washed my face slowly, suddenly feeling like a zombie, too tired to move very quickly. I went back to my room and sank down onto the mattress, plugging my cell phone into the wall next to me. My laptop was still packed away, but I’d unpack everything soon. Hopefully within the next few days, the place might actually kind of look like home.
I shut off the light, put my earbuds in, turned on my iPod Touch and flipped to the sound affects app I had. I shifted through titles like Wandering Stream, Morning Birds, and Rainforest impatiently, until I found the setting I was looking for; Sounds of the City. I laid down and closed my eyes, smiling at the familiar sounds of taxis honking, police sirens wailing, and people talking. Now, I felt more at home.
Chapter two. Bailey.
The alarm on my phone started beeping at 7:30 the next morning, the one I had set when I had started helping Mom pack up a few weeks ago. For days, I had been getting up at this unholy hour for the sake of helping her with all the work, but enough was enough! I moaned and rolled over, nearly falling off the mattress, and shut my cell phone off completely. Then I rolled back over and slept for another hour.
At 8:30 my mother came into my room and woke me up again.
“We need to start unpacking,” she told me, throwing open the curtains that we’d hung over the window the night before. Bright sunlight streamed in through the glass and hit my eyes like bullets. I threw my arm across my eyes, moaning piteously, but she chose to ignore me. “Let’s get started! I’ll make some breakfast and then we’ll get to it.”
Over a breakfast of wheat toast with peanut butter, veggie “sausages” and coffee, my mother and I planned out our unpacking for the next week or so.
“We can start with the living room and make our way into the bedrooms.”
“No,” I argued around a bite of toast. “Let’s start with the bedrooms first. I want to have access to my stuff. And I still haven’t been able to take a shower,” I added grudgingly.
“Okay, fine, we’ll do the bedrooms first. But I don’t know how to set our bedframes up.”
We sat in silence, pondering that problem. How were we going to set up our bed frames? All I could envision was the horrible, grisly accidents that would surely take place if we attempted to do it ourselves.
“Maybe we should start with the living room,” I admitted.
So for the next two hours, we did. We unwrapped pictures and hung them on the walls; we set up pillows and blankets and our laptops. We vacuumed the dusty carpet and washed the windows, then hung the curtains. We set up the Wii Fit pad and the Wii itself and then called Dish Network from Mom’s cellphone so they could send someone over to set up our cable.
After Mom called, we made lunch. I microwaved some soydogs and Mom made french fries with the oven, and we had just sat down to eat when there was a knock on the door. We looked at each other in surprise, and Mom swallowed a mouthful of food hastily.
“The cable guy? Already?” She demanded.
I shrugged and went to the door, fully expecting to see a grown man there. Instead, I swung the door open and looked down in surprise at a girl who looked about my age, with beautiful, strawberry-red hair with long strands of white-blonde in the sides and underneath, all curling in perfect spirals to the middle of her small shoulders and back. She smiled at with me with her entire face; from her perfectly straight teeth to her large, laughing eyes, which, by the way, were stunning. One was a deep, sea-blue; the other, a bright, shocking gold. I’d never seen eyes like those before. She stood there beaming at me eagerly while I gaped in surprise.
“HI!” she trilled, after we’d stood there a few seconds without saying anything. “I’m Jaimey, you’re my new neighbor, I have cookies; let’s be friends.”
I automatically started liking her.
“Uh, hi,” I laughed, opening the door a little more and gestured for her to come in. “I like cookies.”
My mother came around the corner as Jaimey bounced past me into the house.
“Bailey? Is that the cable gu- oh, hello,” she said in surprise, looking at Jaimey.
“Hi! I’m Jaimey!” Jaimey handed her the plate of cookies, beaming, and twirled a strand of her hair around one bright green nail. “I live right next door.”
“Well hi, Jaimey. I’m Andrea Sorough and this is my daughter, Bailey. We just moved here from Manhattan.”
“I can tell!” Jaimey giggled. “I recognize the accent, I have an aunt who lives in Brooklyn. What made you move here?”
“Just looking for something a little quieter, I guess,” my mom replied, smiling at me. I gave a half hearted smile back and turned to Jaimey.
“We were just sitting down to lunch. Soy dogs and french fries. Do you want to eat with us?”
I’m pretty sure anyone else would have hurled at just the phrase “soydog”, but Jaimey beamed.
“Sure! I never turn down an offer for a free snack!” Over lunch, we talked about Peru and it’s high school, and what there was to do in Plattsburgh. As it turned out, she was also fifteen, and going to be a sophomore. I went on to learn that her favorite color was teal, her favorite band was Tonight Alive, and she wanted to be a music artist eventually.
She told me that her boyfriend, Trevor, was a junior at her- well, our- school, and had recently formed a band, named it Falling Inflections, and sometimes she would sing with him. They played at parties and coffee joints all over Plattsburgh- for tips.
“Mostly everyone here is really nice,” Jaimey told me. “You have your bullies and your snobs, of course, but they’re everywhere, really.”
“What about druggies?” I wanted to know. They had been a huge problem at my school in the city.
Jaimey’s nose wrinkled. “Ugh, yeah, those too. You won’t have to worry about that, though; my friends and I only have fun the clean way. Weed, drinking, all that; not really a big thing with us. Grosses us out, actually.”
“That’s awesome to hear. I just used to go to school with a lot of druggies and it was probably the most annoying thing, ever. They all think they’re so cool because they’ve done something illegal but really, they’re just acting like complete idiots and making themselves into scumbags.”
Jaimey nodded vigorously in agreement. “You just kind of learn how to deal with them. Plattsburgh is- and I won’t lie to you- reallllly boring. I mean, there’s a movie theater and a mall, but that’s about it. On the plus side, Burlington is pretty much right across the lake, and Albany is only a few hours down, so we usually find concerts and stuff pretty easily.”
“That sounds like fun. I’d love to hang out with you sometime....if we ever finish all this unpacking.” I took a bite of chocolate chip cookie and gazed sadly at the many boxes still towering around us.
“I’d be glad to help you, if you’d like,” Jaimey offered, putting her paper plate in the garbage can. “I don’t have to be home for hours, and my mother won’t mind as long as I call and let her know what I’m doing. Would you like some help?”
“That would actually be...really, really great,” my mother admitted, smiling gratefully at our new friend.
“Awesome!” Jaimey whipped out a pink Blackberry curve and dialed a number, then darted into the next room and explained to her mother quickly about her plans.
When she emerged from the living room, she was pulling her extravagant hair into a high ponytail, a determined look on her face. “What can I do?”
For the next six hours, we listened to the radio and finished organizing the kitchen, then moved onto the bathroom, then my mother’s room and finally, mine. We still couldn’t figure out the bedframes, but I wasn’t totally opposed to another couple nights on just a mattress.
Together, Jaimey and I set up my keyboard, my laptop, hung posters and pressed glow- in-the-dark stars to the ceiling and walls. I dragged my desk and swivel chair to the far right corner of my room and placed my laptop, poetry notebook, and favorite novels of the moment
(I went through books like water) on its smooth wooden top. Jaimey, who, as it turned out, was a tech junkie, sorted through all the wires and plugs and rigged my massive iHome stereo system neatly in another corner. Meanwhile, my mother directed the cable guy to setting up our tv and wifi, and then went next door to introduce herself to Jaimey’s mother. Finally, my room was finished- minus my bed, of course. I collapsed on the mattress and pushed my layered bangs out of my eyes wearily.
“I’m starving,” I remarked, turning to Jaimey, who was adding a few glow in the dark stars to my closet door.
“Same here. There’s a McDonald’s in town. We could go for a walk, grab dinner, and then I could show you around, if you’re up for it,” Jaimey offered, turning to me and sitting on my desk, her long legs crossed neatly.
“That sounds fun. But my mom-“
“Oh, don’t worry about her. My mother likes to talk forever, and no one ever leaves our house without eating something first. You can meet her later,” she added, retying her simple black Converse All-Stars before jumping back down. “We can leave right now.”
“Alright.” I checked my reflection in the mirror, wiped a smudge of dust off my nose, and followed her out the door.
Before we left, I grabbed a paper napkin and scrawled a quick note on it; Mom, went out around town with Jaimey for an hour or so. Be back soon. Text me. Love, Bails.
I looked up to see Jaimey reading over my shoulder, a strange smile on her face.
“What?” I demanded.
“You seriously have to leave your mom a note before you leave? Does she really worry that much?”
“Well, yeah. Yours doesn’t?”
“Not really.” She shrugged. “Then again, you did live in New York City. This is a really small town.”
“Don’t remind me,” I sighed, and followed her out the front door.
The walk into town only took five minutes. Together we crossed the street and skirted around the perimeter of Peru High School, a big red brick building with big football and soccer fields. The town had few sidewalks, a few people here and there; walking, parents with little kids playing in the tiny park.The McDonald’s was small and simple, and most of the employees were kids about my age. I guess Jaimey knew them from school because she made small talk with them while we ordered our food and waited for it to be made. I mostly just stood there, feeling shy and awkward. Finally, one of the girls behind the counter handed us our meals, and we headed towards the back of the restaurant in search of a booth.
“There’s a pharmacy, a fire station, an Aubuchions car garage; little stuff like that. Most of the entertainment is in Plattsburgh, but that’s only a couple exits away,” Jaimey told me as we settled down into the booth and began unwrapping our food.
I took a bite of French fry and stared at her. “That’s it?” Jaimey shrugged again. “Like I said, it’s a really small town.”
“Wow. I guess so.”
“Yeah. So tell me about The City. Did you like it there?”
“I loved it. I can’t believe we moved.”
I looked up from my milkshake to see Jaimey watching me.
“What?” I asked in my usual, forever- awkward way. Jaimey grinned.
“Nothing. I can just tell that you really miss it already.”
I sigh again. “Like you wouldn’t believe.”
She smiled sympathetically. “I can’t imagine how hard it must be.”
“Yeah, it sucks.” I finished my milkshake noisily, then look around. “On a lighter note,” I said, trying to change the subject, “at least I knew that I’ll never get lost around here.”
Jaimey started laughing. “Which is always a good thing. I wouldn’t want to lose you already!”
I grinned. “We’re going to be really good friends, aren’t we?”
Jaimey flashed me a grin. “Yeah, I think we are.”
We continued our mini tour around town while I recounted my life in New York City with Jaimey. I told her, a little hesitantly, about Becca, not sure how she’d react when she found out I was gay. She batted it away with a flick of her wrist, explaining that she didn’t judge based on sexuality.
“No big deal. My cousin, Brent, is gay,” she’d merely replied, then went on to ask me more about Becca. When I finished describing her, Jaimey was smiling sympathically. “You really loved her, huh? No wonder leaving the city was so hard for you.”
“Yeah, I did. I mean, I think a part of me always will. But long distance relationships aren’t for me. At least, I don’t think they are.” I frowned. “Seeing as I’ve never been in one before.”
town. “Understandable.” By now, we were almost home again. So much for a big tour around
“Do you want to meet my mom now?” Jaimey asked, looking excited.
“I’d love to. Is she anything like you?”
“People think we’re sisters,” she admitted with a laugh. We turned down the driveway of a two story white house with every summer flower imaginable planted in every free space, and fruit trees blooming everywhere in between. A cobblestone path wove it’s way through the lawn, right off the neatly-paved driveway, lacing around the fruit trees and rose bushes and a rainbow of different flowers. It was beautiful.
“Mom likes to garden. Can you tell?” Jaimey joked, and held the door to a huge wooden indoor porch open for me. I laughed and walked past her, then let her lead me into the kitchen, where I could hear my mother’s echoing laugh.
“Hey Bails!” she exclaimed and we walked in. “Hi, Jaimey.”
“Hi, Jaimey, honey,” Jaimey’s mom said, beaming up at us from the kitchen table. “And you, darling, must be Bailey. It’s so nice to meet you. You can just call me Eliza.”
“Nice to meet you, too.” I smiled back at the woman, who looked quite alike to Jaimey, right down to the laughing, sparkling eyes, only twenty-something years older and with long graying hair. Both Eliza and my mom were holding half-full glasses of white wine, gardening magazines spread out before them over the big wooden table.
“Having fun?” Jaimey chuckled as and we sat down with our mothers at the table.
“I was just telling Andrea about the roses we saw at Walmart, dear,” Eliza told Jaimey, smiling at me. “I’m trying to convince her to let me help her start turning that boring old yard of hers into something a bit more tasteful.”
“And I’m all for it!” My mother cried, perhaps a bit too eagerly, but that was probably from the wine. She drained her glass before adding, “it’ll be nice to be able to plant something for a change. It’s not like our super back in the city would really allow it.”
I smiled back and nodded in agreement. I watched my mom, Eliza, and Jaimey laughing and joking together, and for the first time in days, I felt completely relaxed. As much as I hadn’t wanted to move here, I already felt comfortable and happy with Jaimey and Eliza.
Later on, long after the sun had set and the stars had come out, Mom and I said goodnight to Jaimey, Eliza, and Jaimey’s father, George, who had just gotten home from work. He was a cop in Plattsburgh, a friendly, polite man with piercing dark eyes and a couple tattoos on his arms.
Jaimey gave me a big hug and wrote her cell phone number on my hand. “I have to go school shopping tomorrow, but text me and we’ll figure something out.”
“Awesome. Thanks again for your help with unpacking and showing me around and everything.”
“Welcome, doll. See you tomorrow!”
“Well,” my mother sighed happily back at home, sinking into a chair at the kitchen table. “I like them already.”
“Me too.” My head was spinning, but the credit to that went to my lack of sleep. I said goodnight to my mother, went to my room, and got ready for bed slowly. It was only ten o’clock, so I powered up my laptop and checked my email and Facebook for the first time in a couple days. There were a bunch of pokes from friends back home, and a few people had posted on my wall saying things like goodbye, and we’ll miss you, and good luck in your new town. I always hated when people wished me good luck. It made me think that they felt I needed luck to succeed rather than just being myself. Becca and my mother knew that one of my few rules was never say “good luck” to me. However, these people didn’t, so I thanked them for their kind words and then signed out of Facebook.
Becca had emailed me, keeping me up on the latest gossip on the Upper East Side, and told me she missed me. I wrote back, trying to sound positive, telling her about Jaimey and her family, making sure I implied that Jaimey was just a friend and nothing more. May God have
mercy on a girl who moved away and made her ex-girlfriend jealous in such a short amount of time. That would not be pretty.
By the time I finished my email to Becca, it was almost eleven. I let myself fall into bed and fell asleep quickly, the new glowing stars on my ceiling brightening the darkness.
Chapter Three. Jaimey
I liked Bailey straight off. She was witty and sarcastic and fun, not to mention easy to talk to. She was pretty, and sweet, which was a rare combination, if you saw the beautiful witches that I had the misfortune of going to school with. Plus, she accepted my cookies, which was definitely a plus. Everyone loved my cookies.
After I said goodnight to Bailey, I went straight to my bathroom to change into comfortable sweats and brush my teeth.
My mother stopped in to say goodnight. “What do you think of them, Mom?” I asked as she kissed my cheek.
“I think that they are very nice, interesting people. Bailey seems like...” She trailed off, thoughtful.
“Like she’s got a lot on her mind. Like she’s nervous. But very sweet and very fun.”
Mom blinked. “Really? I didn’t see that coming.”
“Yeah. But I mean, it’s no big deal. I just think that she might be worried about how everyone around here will take that. If they’ll accept it about her. I really like her.”
“Well, that’s good.” My mother raised her eyebrows and headed for the door. “I’m sure that everything will work out for her. Now, if only I could figure out how to convince Andrea to let me plant some African violets along their front walk.....Well, goodnight hon.”
“Night, Mom. I love you.”
“I love you too.”
My cell phone vibrated and I checked it immediately. It was Trevor, calling me. I smiled, hit the talk button, and raised it to my ear.
“Hey, baby.” His voice was warm and sweet as honey. “How was your day?”
“It was so good, Trev. I have a new neighbor. A girl my age.” “Really? What’s her name?”
“Bailey. ” Her name felt good in my mouth, the promise of a fantastic friendshi. I began telling Trevor all about her. I had a feeling that this was going to be a very interesting year.
Chapter Four. Bailey.
The next few days were busy, filled with school shopping and finishing up the final unpacking at the house, and my mother enrolled me in the highschool. Jaimey was busy school shopping but we hung out when we could, often walking into town to grab lunch together, or going for a run, or playing Wii at my house. George was kind enough to set up me and my mother’s bedframes for us, and finally I got to sleep in an actual bed again. Each day, the gnawing in my stomach became more apparent as I realized how fast the first day of school was coming up. My mother got a job writing for the Press Republican, the local paper, and kept working on her newest novel when she wasn’t on the phone with her publicist, hanging out with me or drinking wine with Eliza. The days flew by and suddenly, it was the last day of summer vacation.
“I can’t do it.” I was lying on my bed, staring at the glow in the dark stars, now looking faded and small in the daylight.
“What?” Jaimey glanced up at me from the opposite end of the bed, where she was carefully painting her toenails a bright purple.
“I can’t do it. I can’t just walk into that school and be like, ‘hey, look at me, I’m the new kid.’ It’s not possible. I’ll pass out. I’m going to pass out, just wait and see.”
Jaimey started laughing.
“Well, I’m glad you find this so funny,” I huffed, throwing a pillow at her, which of course she caught easily, one-handed, without even looking up. The other hand kept right on calmly painting a toenail.
“Bails, you need to chill. It won’t be that bad, really. I promise.”
that.” “Yes it will! I’m from the city. I’m a city kid. I’m different. And everyone’s going to see
“Bull. And who cares, anyway?” Jaimey sighed, exasperated. “What do you think everyone’s going to do, have a close-minded emotional meltdown just because you’re from somewhere interesting? Be realistic, Bails.”
I sighed. I knew she was right, but that didn’t make me any less scared. “I don’t know. I’m just really nervous, that’s all.”
Jaimey screwed the cap back on the nailpolish and waggled her toenails happily, pleased with her own handiwork, before sitting up to look at me.
“Bailey, don’t be nervous. You get to meet all my friends tomorrow, and you’ll have me to show you around and introduce you. You’re going to be just fine. Pinky promise.” Solemnly, she held out her pinky for me to shake.
I laughed sheepishly and linked pinkies with her. “Thanks, Jaimey.”
“Not a problem, dollface. Now let’s go play some Just Dance. I’m feeling groovy today.”
The afternoon flew by far too quickly, and then Jaimey had to go home early to get ready for school the following day. I sat on the porch by myself for a time, watching the stars come out and trying to figure out what I was going to wear the next day. My mother found me sitting in my closet, sifting through skinny jeans, vests and long sleeved tee shirts.
“I don’t know what to wear,” I wailed unhappily, tugging at my hair in frustration.
She started laughing. “Look at you, acting all girly for once. Here, I’ll help you.” Together we found some dark skinny jeans and a gray cami to wear under a black button-down. I laid the clothes out on my desk, along with my favorite perfume and a pair of ordinary strapped brown sandals, and then some mismatched neon socks to wear with them. That had been the fashion in my old school. Maybe it would catch on here.
“Thanks, Mom,” I finally sighed, giving her a relieved hug, then gathered my towel and other toiletries together, and headed for the bathroom to take my shower. “You’re a life saver.”
“I try,” she called after me, heading back to the kitchen to keep working on her story.
The shower really helped relax me, and by the time I stepped out and dried off, I was really just feeling tired. I blow dried my hair, then straightened it, brushed my teeth and washed my face, and dressed in my most comfy pajamas. Then I went out the kitchen to say goodnight to Mom.
“Will you be up tomorrow morning before I leave?” I asked, sinking into the chair next to her at the kitchen table.
“If you’d like.”
“ Sure thing, sweetheart. I’ll be up pretty late, I think; I’ve almost finished this darn novel.”
I laughed. “Let me know how it turns out.”
“Okay, baby. I love you.” My mother leaned over to give me the usual hug and kiss on the cheek, then pulled away to smile at me. “Don’t be nervous. You’re going to have a lot of fun. Promise.”
I smiled halfheartedly at her. “I love you, Mom. Goodnight.”
I turned the lights off and laid down in bed, but it took me forever to fall asleep, despite feeling so tired. Finally, sleep overtook me and I fell into a nerve-induced dream about being in a taxi, speeding through the streets of New York. The driver couldn’t hear me, and I couldn’t open the door. All I saw was the city lights flashing by as we went faster and faster, weaving through invisible traffic while I pleaded with the deaf driver to slow down.
I woke up in a cold sweat the next morning. The clock on my cellphone said it was 6:30. School began at 7:20, but Jaimey had suggested that I meet her at the end of her driveway by 7 so that we could walk to school together. I dressed quickly, spritzed myself down with perfume, messed my hair into perfection, and at the last minute, grabbed my class schedule before I made my way towards to kitchen.
My mother was up, brewing a pot of coffee. “Morning, babygirl,” she greeted me sleepily, handing me a travel mug full of coffee, and a wrapped honeybun.
“Morning, pretty lady. Thanks.”
“You’re welcome. Now go get them, and show them what you’re made of, hear me?”
I smiled weakly, running my fingers through my hair, and nodded. “I hear you.”
“Good. Have a great day, baby. Love you.”
“I love you too, Mom. See you tonight.” I glanced at the time on my phone as I hurried out the door. 6:58.
Jaimey was waiting for me at the end of her driveway, busily texting away.
“Hey! Good morning!” She beamed, tucking her phone into her pocket and falling into step with me. “Ready to meet everybody?”
“No, not really,” I admitted, and she laughed. “But I’m going to have to at some point.”
“Don’t worry, Bails. They’re going to love you.”
By the time we reached the high school, it was 7:10. The big yellow buses were all lined up in the massive bus loop, and students were milling everywhere. Peru Central School District had about 1500 students all together, kindergarten through twelfth, and our buildings were only grades six to twelve. Jaimey pushed her way through the crowd, towing me behind her, and then we were walking in through the school’s entrance doors and hurrying towards the sophomore hallway.
We stopped at my locker first, locker number 33, so that I could hang up my backpack and stack my binders across the bottom. Then Jaimey led me down the hallway to her locker, number 57, so that she could introduce me to her friends. There was a small crowd waiting for her, and that made my stomach flip.
“MY BABIES!” Jaimey whooped, running towards them. They all exclaimed back hearty greetings and took turns hugging her. Flustered and glowing, she turned to the tall boy with the long dark hair, big green eyes, and gray sweater vest and planted a big, sloppy kiss on his mouth before she turned to me. “Everyone, this is Bailey, the girl I’ve told you about. She’s from Manhattan, she’s my new neighbor, and she’s really friggin’ awesome. Bailey, this is Emma...” She pointed to a girl with long red hair and braces, who waved and smiled shyly- “Summer...” An impossibly beautiful, willowy blonde who nodded and gave me a slight smile- “And my boyfriend, Trevor.”
Trevor leaned forward to shake my hand and smile. “Hey, Bailey. Nice to meet you.”
“Welcome to Peru,” Emma added, blushing a little but smiling nonetheless.
“Hi guys. Nice to meet you. And thanks,” I added awkwardly, glancing down at the floor.
“Love the footwear,” Summer added. Her tone made it hard for me to tell whether or not she was being sarcastic. I blushed.
Jaimey laughed and spun the combination into her locker, glancing back at me as the door popped open and she set her things inside.
“There are more people to meet, by the way,” she called to me over the din of the hallway. “We’re missing a few people....where are Brandon and Joe? And Aashlyn?” She asked her friends.
Summer and Trevor shrugged, but Emma spoke up.
“Brandon’s late, Joe’s with his new girlfriend, and Aashlyn’s talking to Ms. Waters about chorus this year,” she informed Jaimey. “She wants to drop it.”
“What?” Jaimey screeched. “Why?!”
Emma opened her mouth to respond, but the first bell rang.
“Oh, crap-” Trevor leaned down quickly and stamped a kiss on Jaimey’s mouth, waved to me, and he, Emma and Summer scurried off down the hallway to their classes.
“Here,” Jaimey said hurriedly, “let me see your schedule so I can tell you where to go.”
“Okay.” I handed her the paper and she scanned it swiftly.
“Okay. We have gym and study hall together every other day,” she muttered, more to herself than me. “You have Creative Writing first period, so you’re going upstairs, to room 242. Then you have Government, and that’s right down the hall, in 220. Then you have gym with me, and we’ll take it from there.” She gave me directions to the gym, and then threw her arms around me in a quick hug. “Have fun! Smile a lot! And talk to people.” And then she was gone.
I hurried down the hallway towards the stairway that she pointed out to me, praying that I wouldn’t be late for my very first class here. I was up the first flight of stairs when I heard someone behind me.
“Hey! New girl!”
I turned to see a bunch of silky-haired, glossy-lipped, impressively beautiful girls staring at me, Summer among them. The girl who had called to me, a stunning, exotic-looking girl with skin the color of dark chocolate beckoned me closer, tossing her shiny dark brown hair over one shoulder. “I really like your outfit,” she said in a sickly sweet voice, her large, dark eyes wide and blinking innocently. “Where did you get it?”
I shifted uncomfortably, wondering where this was going. “Uh, H&M. In Manhattan.”
The girl narrowed her eyes and smiled in a dangerous way.
“Cool,” she replied casually, then turned to her friends as she continued down the staircase. “And by H&M,” she added to her posse, loudly, so that I could hear her as she descended to the first floor, “she must mean hideous and manly.”
My cheeks heated up as the rest of the girls, Summer included, started laughing loudly. I heard snippets of their responses, particularly “loser” and “ugly”. I stood frozen for a minute, then sighed and started up the second flight of stairs. It was my first day here and there was no way I was going to get involved in drama already. Not going to happen.
I managed to find the Creative Writing classroom right after the second bell rang, and just after the Pledge of Allegiance began. Cheeks flaming, I ducked into the classroom and sank into a seat in the very back row, right next to the door. The class was packed; it was definitely a full class, thirty or more strangers who all looked very comfortable here. As quietly as possible, I put my notebook and schedule in front of me, and waited for the lesson to begin.
“Alright, everybody,” the teacher called out, “I’m going to start by taking attendance. Then I’ll brief you on what we’ll be doing this year.”
The teacher was a middle aged, balding man with tufts of brown hair sticking up, squinty dark eyes, and a kind smile. I started to relax as I glanced around the classroom. None of the girls I had just dealt with were in this class, and the other kids looked friendly enough. I had just started to breathe again when I heard the teacher call my name.
I opened my mouth to say “here” and promptly choked on nothing. I started coughing violently, my eyes tearing up and my face turning red, as the entire class turned to stare.
A super-cool, flawless first impression. Really.
The teacher smiled, half sympathetic, half truly amused. “I’m guessing that you’re Bailey.”
“Yes. Sorry. Hi,” I gasped, wiping my eyes and ducking my head to hide my blush. The teacher laughed.
“I’m Mr. Brown,” he said. “You’re new, aren’t you?”
I nodded, still catching my breath.
“Well, it’s not every day that we are given as interesting and rare a specimen as a new student! Where are you from, Miss Sorough? Mississippi? Florida? Africa? Have you swum with dolphins in the deep blue sea? Were you raised by gorillas in a far-off jungle, like Tarzan? Tell us a bit about yourself.”
I wasn’t sure if this man was a jerk or simply insane. Either way, he was embarrassing me even more than I’d already embarrassed myself by making me talk in front of a class. Instinctively, my eyes narrowed and I began brainstorming some wisecracking responses.
“I’m from Manhattan,” I replied as nicely as I could. “I used to train the pigeons in Central Park to attack people; poop on them, you know, just for my own personal amusement, but one day, my pigeons took it too far and attacked the mayor and he was so enraged that he sent out private eyes to hunt me down. So I moved here for my safety. No big deal.”
The whole class was dead silent and still staring at me, along with Mr. Brown. He looked perplexed and surprised. I kept staring him down, waiting for him to send me to detention or to tell me that sass was not allowed in his class.
Instead, a wide, reckless smile broke across his face, and he started laughing.
“Brilliant! What a colorful person you are, Miss Sorough!” he beamed. “I can already tell you’re going to be an excellent addition to this class.”
The class chuckled, and suddenly, everyone was smiling at me. I smiled back tentatively, suddenly shy again.
“Thanks,” I muttered. Then I sat back in my seat and listened to Mr. Brown continue to take attendance.
“Are you sure you want to drop chorus, Aashlyn?” Ms. Waters frowned at me over the rims of her pointy sexy-librarian-style glasses. (Such a wrong choice for a pudgy, pushy, nosy, stern-looking wannabe-musician.). “This is your sophomore year; you surely can’t be taking many new classes this year. You must have plenty of time. And we could really use you. You’re our best soprano.”
I forced a smile at her pushiness.
“I really wish that I could, Ms. Waters,” I replied politely. “ Unfortunately, I have a lot going on this year- lots of extracurriculars and stuff, and I really can’t fit chorus in this year.”
Ms. Waters sighed and took her time scribbling her signature at the bottom of the sign- out sheet.
“Well, what class are you replacing with this one?” She asked before she let me leave. “Just out of curiosity.”
I hesitated, wondering if I should tell her the truth. If I lied to her, would she check up on me? I decided to go with honesty.
“Creative writing,” I finally answered.
Ms. Waters scoffed.
“That class? You’re replacing chorus with a creative writing class?” She demanded. All right, I decided, enough of this. I let my gaze meet hers, icy and challenging.
“Yes,” I replied coolly. “Of course, it will never be as....fulfilling as being part of the chorus with a ten-year streak of coming in last place at Sectionals, but then again, I’m sure you’ll be just fine without me.”
Ms. Waters’s eyes narrowed. There was a long, loud silence. I probably could’ve reached out and felt the tension, so thick in the air between us, but I chose to ignore it as I waited for her to speak.
“Very well,” she finally said, still glaring. “I hope you enjoy your new class, Aashlyn.” Her voice was full of mock sincerity. I had to smile.
“Thanks. I’m sure I will.” With a smirk, I turned on my heel and hurried up the aisle. I needed to get out of this auditorium before she bit my head off. Besides, the first bell had rung, like, ten minutes ago. I needed to get up to Mr. Brown’s classroom.
In the professional world, if you wanted to leave your job, you would have to be very polite about it. Out of respect, people of higher power aren’t supposed to give you a hard time about it. You want to leave your job, then you do it. No questions asked, no hassle. Not to each other’s faces, anyway.
But this wasn’t the professional world, not yet. This was high school. And I was going to stand up for myself. It made the prospect of Creative Writing that much sweeter to me.
I stopped in the girls’ bathroom to check my hair. I had teased it out this morning, adding my new black extensions to contrast with the white-blonde part of my actual hair. The amount of hairspray in it was nearly sickening, but it was a small price to pay for scene hair. I ran my fingers through the extensions, untangling them, applied a new pink coat of my Beauty Rush lip gloss from Victoria’s Secret, and wiped a smudge of black eyeliner from the corner of my eye. There. I left the bathroom and continued up the stairs to room 242. I had a class to attend.
Chapter Six. Bailey.
So far, I really liked Mr. Brown, and I really liked this class. I shifted in my hard plastic seat, the only downside so far, and took notes on the importance of imagery.
“See, if you were to say, ‘I went to the store’, well, that’s just boring and ordinary, right? But if you were to say, ‘I put on my bright orange blouse and skipped merrily to the store whilst screaming about party invitations’, it gives you a better picture. Am I right or am I right?” he added, smirking at us. We were all laughing by then. He had our attention now, and he knew it.
“Adam,” He called to one dark haired boy in the fourth row, “I am going to give you a sentence, and I want you to spruce it up with imagery for me.”
“Alright. Hmmm.” Mr. Brown stopped to think about it. “Here’s the sentence: ‘I went sailing on the ocean today’.” He smiled at the boy, lifting his chin in his direction. “Give it a try, Mr. Ackles.”
Adam thought for a minute, then smiled. “I painted my tugboat purple, and went sailing on the bright blue ocean to hunt for angry mermaids.”
The class burst out laughing and applauded.
“Perfect!” Mr. Brown shouted. “All right, someone else. Alexis! You- oh, hello,” he added, redirecting his gaze to the back of the room. “Can I help you?”
Everyone turned to look at the door.
And there she was.
This pretty little scene girl, with black and blonde hair, huge light blue eyes, and a gorgeous smile.
I might’ve drooled a bit.
“Yeah- hi, I’m Aashlyn O’Connor,” she said, stepping into the classroom and closing the door behind her.
So. An Irish scene chick. Sexy.
“I’m switching into this class...that is, if there’s room,” she added, gazing around at us,
her eyes wide.
“Well, we’ve got a full house, but I’m sure we could fit you in,” Mr. Brown said kindly, walking towards the girl. She handed him a slip of paper, which he signed and handed back to
her. “Here, I’ll just pull you up a seat...” He grabbed a plastic chair from the back of the room and placed it in the one available spot, which just so happened to be right next to me. “You can sit with Miss Sorough. She’s new this year, and I’m sure she’d love to make a new friend. Get to know each other...just not while I’m teaching,” he said with a wink.
Aashlyn smiled as she sat down next to me. “Cool.”
I honestly felt like I couldn’t breathe. This girl was beautiful. She was tiny, too. Her small, dainty frame seemed so frail, but she dressed with an attitude. Bright red skinny jeans, and a dark gray, off the shoulder top. Lots of colorful hemp and beaded bracelets covered her pale arms, and around her neck hung a brass-colored robot necklace with a small white clock for its stomach. She sat down and instantly began fiddling with the little robot, then turned to smile at me.
“Hi,” she whispered as Mr. Brown continued talking. “I’m Aashlyn.” She reached over with her free hand and shook mine.
“Bailey,” I managed to respond without choking again. She flashed me a brilliant smile.
“I love your socks and sandals,” she said, checking out my feet. “That’s so cool.” Unlike with Summer, I could tell that this girl was being sincere.
“Thanks,” I replied, feeling that I should compliment her in return. “Uh, your necklace is probably the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. Like, in my entire life.”
She giggled, a light, sweet sound. “His name is Terrance. I got him for my fourteenth birthday.”
“Fourteenth? So how old are you now?”
from?” “Fifteen. Going to be sixteen in January.” She flashed me another smile. “Where are you
“New York City.”
“Oh my God, you’re so lucky. I want to move down there after college.”
“I want to go down there for college. NYU.” Oh, God. Did I sound like I was bragging? I seriously hoped not.
Aashlyn nodded. “My chorus teacher-well, ex-chorus teacher, mentioned that school. She went there and loved it.”
Ex-chorus teacher? I was about to ask her about that when suddenly it hit me.
“Oh! You’re the Aashlyn Jaimey had asked about earlier.”
Her eyes lit up. “You know Jaimey?”
I nodded. “She’s my new neighbor. She introduced me to everyone this morning. Well, almost everyone. She couldn’t find you.”
“Jaimey’s the best,” Aashlyn nodded. “I’ve known her since like, third grade. She’s a good girl.”
“She definitely is.” We both smiled at each other awkwardly and then turned our attention back to Mr. Brown, who had moved on from imagery and was now talking about metaphors.
About a minute before the bell rang, Aashlyn turned to me.
“Oh, by the way, can I see your schedule? I’m curious to see if we have any classes together.”
“Yeah, sure.” I pulled the schedule out of my notebook and handed it to her.
She scanned it quickly, and those big, beautiful eyes lit up. “Oooh, we have Gym, Lunch, and Study Hall together, too,” she said happily. “Here, let me just give you my cell number in case you need anything, okay?” She pulled a pen out of her pocket and scribbled the ten numbers on the top right hand corner of my schedule.
“Cool,” I managed. “Thanks.”
The bell rang.
“Well, it was really nice meeting you. I’ll see you later, okay?” With another big smile, Aashlyn gathered up her books and scurried out of the room, down the hallway. I smiled back at her and stood up myself, heading out to the hallway and reading my schedule. Jaimey had told me that Government was just down the hall. I walked past a few classrooms until I came to the room 220, and slipped inside.
The room was nearly empty, since the bell had only rung about a minute and a half ago, so I sat in the second desk to the front. It was a good place to sit; close enough to pay attention to the teacher and far away enough to pass notes, if necessary.
The room filled up slowly, filling up completely only after the bell rang, bringing the last few late students scurrying in, looking sheepish. I looked down at my desk, suddenly shy again, and began rereading my schedule.
“Well, hey there, cutie,” an unfamiliar, deep voice said from over my shoulder. I looked up, in surprise, and saw a tall boy with deep brown eyes and dirty blonde hair smiling down at me. He sat down at the desk across from me. I liked the charming smile he was giving me, but his eyes roamed over me in a way that both irritated and embarrassed me. “I don’t recognize you,” he continued. “Are you new?”
“Yeah. I’m Bailey Sorough.”
“Well, it’s nice to meet you, Bailey Sorough,” he said in a loud, overly confident voice. “I’m Chad Fallsburg.” He was still checking me out, almost leering at me. This was the kind of boy who looked like he could work at American Eagle, or Hollister. The kind who always had a date to the homecoming dance, played football in the fall, and was headed to an Ivy League school like Harvard or Yale.
In short, the kind of boy that pissed me off. But I would play nice.
“Hello,” I replied awkwardly, and turned my attention to the teacher, a little blonde woman in her late forties. Mrs. Wineberg.
He kept looking at me. Jeez, I thought, shifting uncomfortable in my seat. What was I - a statue in a museum? I was so tempted to say something like, “Take a picture- it’ll last longer,” but that sounded so cheesy, so I just did my best to pay attention to Mrs. Wineberg as she went
over the basics of American History and told us what the classroom rules were. When the bell finally rang, I got up and left as quickly as I could, pretending I didn’t hear Chad calling after me as I walked into the hallway.
Jaimey was waiting in the hallway for me, an expectant smile on her face.
“So?” she prompted. “How do you like it here so far?”
nice.” “It’s alright,” I replied, as we turned down the staircase. “I met Aashlyn. She’s really
“Yeah, she is, isn’t she? I think we have gym with her,” Jaimey mused, shoving through a kissing couple. She grabbed my hand and yanked me through them, jostling them apart. They yelled and complained as we continued down the hallway. Jaimey ignored them. “You have to just kind of shove through the kids here, or you’ll never get to class on time,” she explained.
“We could’ve just walked around the kissing ones, though,” I pointed out.
Jaimey smiled. “We could’ve, but that was just amusing.”
We reached the gym and Jaimey swung the door open for the locker room. I stepped inside and witnessed more pandemonium that I ever thought possible.
Girls were laughing, shrieking, talking loudly. Hairbrushes, lipsticks and shorts flew through the air, nearly beaning me in the face. I almost tripped over a pair of running sneakers and swore loudly, causing more laughter, especially from Jaimey.
“You’ve gotta be careful in here,” she warned me. “It gets pretty hectic. Did you bring any gym clothes for today?” I shook my head, embarrassed. I hadn’t even thought to pack another set of clothes.
“Well, that’s okay. I came last week to put some stuff in my lockers and memorize the combinations. I think I have some extra shorts for you.”
She lead me down a row of lockers. There were three sets of mini lockers, one on top of the other, in each row. Jaimey squatted down in front of one the bottom ones and spun in a set of numbers. The locker door swung open easily, and she pulls out a couple pairs of shorts and a handful of t-shirts. She threw a couple pieces of clothing to me. “You can change in the bathroom stall, if you want. It’s what I usually do. Come on.”
“Okay.” I followed her into the bathroom part of the locker room, a room completely made up of unusually pink tile. Standing at the sink, tying her extensions into a high ponytail, was Aashlyn.
“Ash!!” Jaimey squealed, rushing to hug her friend. “I haven’t seen you in so long! I love those extensions! Almost as much as I love your face!”
Aashlyn burst out laughing.
“I missed you, Jaimey! It’s good to see you. And thanks. I got them a few days ago.”
“Well, they look fantastic.” Jaimey released Aashlyn and dove into a free stall, banging the door shut behind her. “I guess you’ve already met Bailey, huh?”
Aashlyn smiled at me, and I felt myself blushing again.
“Yeah, we have first period together. What do you think of Mr. Brown?” She asked me.
funny.”“I think he’s awesome!” I replied, and went into another free stall to change. “He’s
“He’s a ham,” Jaimey commented from her stall. I could hear her hopping into her gym shorts. But he’s a good man.”
I changed as quickly as I could, listening to the other two chatter, then unlocked the stall door and swept out of it, nearly running into Jaimey in the process.
fast.” “Oops, sorry!” I grabbed her to steady her, laughing. “Guess I charged out of there too
“I’d say so, bro.” Jaimey play-punched my shoulder, then spun around and headed out to the gym. “Come on, ladies!”
Aashlyn and I followed with less enthusiasm.
“What are we even doing today?” Aashlyn called after her.
“I dunno...HEY! MR. JONES!” Jaimey yelled to what appeared to be the gym teacher, an old, tall man with a stern face but kind eyes, and a full white beard. “What are we doing today?”
“Volleyball!” he shouted back across the gym. “So everyone get into four teams of six!”
Inwardly, I groaned. I hated volleyball. Come to think of it, I hated all sports. This was going to be a long period.
Chapter Seven. Trevor.
Babe had been texting me all through Trig, which was a damn good thing; I couldn’t stand math. More than once, Mr. Peet had to yell to get my attention.
“Trevor! It’s only the first day of school! Don’t tell me you’re zoning already?”
“Sorry! I’m sorry!” I kept saying, and then I’d have to shove my cellphone back into my pocket so that I wouldn’t get it taken away. This was my junior year, so I really should’ve been at least trying to focus, what with state tests and all coming up, but to be honest, I really just wanted to escape to the music room with my guitar and Jaimey, and bang out a couple new songs. I had a couple good ideas for what I wanted to do for the talent show, and I was so sick of doing covers. Sure, I loved giving tribute to good bands like A Day To Remember and Paramore, The Story So Far, Pierce The Veil, Sleeping With Sirens (I could keep going for hours), but there was just something that I got from performing original songs; a feeling that I couldn’t experience when I was singing someone else’s emotions.
My cell phone vibrated again, and I pretended to yawn and stretch, and adjust my sweater vest, as I checked the message.
Babe: I love gym! Almost just spiked some girl in the face...OOPS xD
Me: Lol, bby, b careful. Dnt send any1 2 the hsptl on the 1st day of school. Also, car should be fixed tomorrow, want to go for a drive after school? Xoxo.
Babe: FINALLY, DRIVING ADVENTURES RETURN!!!!!!!!!!! And no promises. Xoxo!
I laughed to myself at that one. My 1998 Pontiac Bonneville had been in my Uncle Rob’s shop for the past month, while he sorted through all the things that were wrong with it. I’d bought it used, and there were a lot of hidden problems. My uncle had been cool enough to fix it up for me for free. I’d grown up close to my uncle since I didn’t have a dad. My dad died in a car accident when I was three, and even though I turned seventeen on October thirteenth, my mom was really freaked out about me driving. I was a great driver. Uncle Robert had been teaching me to drive since I was fourteen, not that Mom needed to know that.
I kept taking notes and checking my cell phone at regular intervals, trying not to laugh at Jaimey’s sarcastic text messages. That girl made my life worth living. Our one year anniversary was only a few months away. It was in January, just two days after Aashlyn’s birthday. Aashlyn was my cousin, and last year when she turned fifteen, she had invited both me and Jaimey to her big birthday bash. I’d been playing guitar with my band, singing a loud and obnixous, rock n’ roll rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’, and Jaimey had come up to the front of the crowd of kids and began dancing wildly by herself. She was so graceful and beautiful that I nearly forgot to keep playing. At the end of the night, only Jaimey stuck around to help Aashlyn clean up after the party. Me and my boys were picking up our equipment and loading up the van, when Jaimey had approached me.
“I love that you play guitar,” she had said sweetly, smiling at me. “Maybe you could teach me to play a song or two.”
“Uh, I’d love to,” I had managed to say. “When and where?”
She’d written her number down on my arm in sparkly black eyeliner, and two days later, we went on our first date. I took her to the park in Peru and we sat in the gazebo for hours, singing together while I played guitar. At the end of the night, I’d kissed her, and the next day, we became an official couple. I’d never wanted anyone else since.
Something weird had happened the night that I met Jaimey, though, that I’d never told her about.
I had just finished setting up with the rest of the band and I really needed to go take a piss before we started playing anything. I put my guitar down and was heading down the stairs of my aunt’s house to the hallway bathroom when someone stumbled into me, none too gently, from behind. I jumped, swore, and spun around to find myself inches from Summer’s face. It was obvious to see that she was completely plastered and the party hadn’t even started yet.
vodka. “Heyyy, youuuu,” she’d slurred in my general direction, leaning into me. She’d reeked of
“Hey, Summ.” I’d tried to hold her up, because she looked like she was about to pass out. “A little drunk?”
She let out a loud, obnoxious giggle. “What’reyoutalkingggbout?” She’d asked, her voice muffled because her face was pressed against my chest. Before I could respond, she’d lifted her face and pressed her mouth against mine without any warning.
Jesus! Not something I’d expected, and Summer was one of my best friends, nothing more, but hey, a pretty girl was kissing me, so I let her. When she pulled away, I waited for an
explanation or some sort of comment, anything. But all Summer did was giggle again, heave herself off me, and stagger back up the stairs. I let her go, but I’d always wondered about that. Only a few hours later, I met Jaimey, and the next day I was officially a taken man. Summer and I continued to be friends, but we never again talked about the strange, drunken kiss.
What bothered me the most that night, though, was that Aashlyn didn’t drink, and this had been an alcohol-free party. Summer had shown up drunk.
That was when I had begun to wonder about Summer’s home life.
Finally, the bell rang. I got up and shoved my way through the halls, heading to Gym to meet Jaimey, Aashlyn, and Bailey, and then go on to Lunch. I liked Bailey so far. She seemed like she had a lot to say and not enough time to say it. I was curious to see when it would all finally come out whatever it was.
Chapter Eight. Jaimey.
“Oh my God, ew,” I muttered, picking at my food hesitantly. As usual, the school lunch was less than impressive. Today, I was glaring down at what the school menu had advertised as a ‘spicy southwest chicken wrap’; meaning, a stale pita, with a few pieces of shredded lettuce here and there, two greasy, overcooked chunks of breaded chicken, and way too much spicy dressing. “Does anyone else want this? I’m pretty sure I just lost my appetite.”
“I’ll have it,” Trevor volunteered, reaching across the table for my tray. I handed it to him. “Thanks, babe,” he added, and shoved about half of the thing into his mouth.
“Ewww,” Bailey, Aashlyn and I all said together. We were sitting at the quiet end of one of the back tables, right next to the big, sunny windows. I both hated and loved this cafeteria. It was clean, and there was lots of room to sit anywhere, but it always smelled like a mixture of disinfectant and bacon.
And here we sat, all trying to eat our lunches; except me, who had just given mine up to my constantly hungry boyfriend, who could eat anything he wanted to and never gain a single pound. It was something I was constantly jealous of. Sure, I was in decent shape, but that was only because I went running and worked out every day. Trevor was the type of boy who laid around all day, playing guitar, eating potato chips, and playing Xbox, and still manage to stay skinny and sturdily muscled. I loved how he looked, hated that he could manage to always look so good while putting in so little effort to do so. But I wasn’t about to argue with the ways of nature. Either way, I had a beautiful, very sexy boyfriend- and I wasn’t one to complain about a good thing.
We all watched in amusement and disgust as Trevor devored my “spicy southwest chicken wrap” in about two bites. Finally, I shook my head and watched him amble up to the tray drop off with his, mine and Bailey’s trays. Aashlyn was the smart one who decided to pack her own lunch- a cup of Ramen noodles, a Coke, and a pack of Starburst, and was facing Bailey, sharing the candy and soda as they talked and laughed quietly. I studied them until Trevor reached us again, and sat down carefully, this time with his hands full of chocolate chip cookies he had scored from another table.
“Anyone want some?” He asked around a mouthful of food. Bailey and Aashlyn declined, but turned back to us, ready to be social again. I took a cookie and began nibbling on it.
“Bailey,” I said, “let me see your schedule again.” “Sure.”
I read over it carefully, then compared it to my own.
“Well, you’ve already had Creative Writing, Government, Gym and now Lunch... next you have Applied Math, then Study Hall, then English, then Forensics. We have Forensics together. Then we’re free! Does anyone want to do anything after school?” I added, glancing around.
Trevor frowned. “I have a dentist appointment. I’ve gotta get a couple cavities filled. I hate cavities.”
Bailey looked pointedly down at the handful of cookies he was still holding. “Well....”
“Shut up!” he laughed when he noticed. “I will never give up my junk food. NEVER!”
Bailey grinned. “To answer your question, yes,” she added to me. “But I need to get home and see if Mom needs help with the rest of the unpacking.”
I frowned. “Didn’t we finish unpacking, like, a week ago?”
“Yeah, but my grandparents just sent a bunch of stuff that we were storing at their place in New Hampshire, because we didn’t have enough room for it in our old apartment,” she explained. “There’s probably about twenty boxes stacked in our living room now. It sucks.”
“Well, what if we came with you? Aashlyn and I? That way, she could meet your mom and stuff, and with more people helping, we’ll get the job done sooner. Is that okay, though? If we come over?”
Bailey beamed. “That’d be perfect. My mom won’t mind.”
“Awesome!” The bell rang, and we all jumped up and hurried out before the stampede of students got there first.
I really liked Bailey right away. She was super nice, and friendly, but shy, like me. She definitely didn’t seem to think like a lot of the girls I went to school with. She saw the way I dressed and didn’t make any negative comments about it, unlike most of the people at my school. I’d been getting dirty looks for my big, teased-out hair and skinny jeans all day. Only Trev, Bailey and Jaimey seemed to see past it. But that was alright with me. That was all I needed.
Government passed in a blur, and then I was on my way to Study Hall with Bailey. I found her easily, in the back of the classroom, with her notebook and schedule in front of her, texting under the desk.
“Hey there.” I sat down next to her, and she looked up to smile at me. “Oh, hey. How’s it going?”
“Pretty good. How was last period for you?”
“Super boring, but I’ll survive. Hey, do you know a Chad Fallsburg?” Yeah, I knew him. I couldn’t stand that kid.
“Ew, yes. Why do you ask?”
out...” Bailey shrugged, looking embarrassed.“I have a couple classes with him.He creeps me out.”
“Yeah, he’s known as a big player around here. Attractive, but absolutely disgusting.” I laughed. “If that makes any sense.”
She started laughing too, a throaty chuckle that worked for her.
“Yeah, it does. It definitely does.”
“Oh, look, it’s Scene Freak and her new best friend, Hideous and Manly,” a snide voice came from behind me. We both looked around to see Summer and Keisha, another one of The Preps (as Jaimey and I had long-since nicknamed their little clique of all-American perfection), standing in front of my desk.
“Where’d you get your fake hair, Scene Freak?” Keisha continued, as Summer stood behind her, smirking broadly. “Did you steal it from Locks Of Love?”
“Screw you, Keisha,” I snapped impatiently. “What do you want?”
“Oh, I just felt like coming over and getting to know our new girl, here,” Keisha replied, sweet as sugar, perching her bony butt on the top of the desk in front of us. The whole study hall was quiet, watching us. Bailey just blinked, looking irritated and embarrassed, but didn’t say anything.
“So tell me, Hideous and Manly,” Keisha continued, “according to Jaimey, you’re from Manhattan. Did you live in a cardboard box? Were you one of those crazy bag ladies? I could definitely picture you getting into that.”
Bailey’s eyes narrowed. “Nah, actually, I lived in an apartment,” she shot back quickly. “You know, apartments. Like a house, but for crowded areas like cities...? But from the look of you guys, you’ve spent your whole lives in Daddy’s mansion, coddled and having everything handed to you. You’re too ignorant to know what the rest of the world is like.”
Summer’s jaw dropped and Keisha’s smile faded.
“Wow, I can see we’ve got a feisty one on our hands, Summer,” she hissed, standing up and stepping forward until she was only inches from Bailey’s face. “At least Scene Freak knows her place, H&M. It’s only your first day here, and you’re already working on my last nerve.”
Bailey shoved her face right back up in Keisha’s. “Well, I guess that’s what happens when trash gets in my face,” she replied. “I suggest you walk away before this gets a lot worse.”
Summer snorted from behind Keisha. “Wow, really? I’d watch your mouth if I were you, new girl. You clearly don’t understand the way things are run around here. But I guess you’ll just have to...live and learn, huh?”
That, along with Keisha’s statement about me knowing my place, was enough to piss me off.
“What’s your problem, Summer?!” I exploded. “You’re so two-faced. You go and hang out with me and Trev and Jaimey and Emma and everyone else and then hang out with people like Keisha and run your mouth like-”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, Scene Freak,” Summer interrupted, eyes blazing. “Not true. I hang out with Trevor because he’s cool. I tolerate Jaimey. I can’t stand you, or Emma, or H&M, for that matter,” she added, throwing a dirty look at Bailey, who smirked grimly back around Keisha’s unfaltering glare. “So watch yourself.”
I opened my mouth, preparing to call her a few unprintable words, but just then, Mr. Sandelle, the high school principal, walked into the room. We all shut up quickly, even Bailey, who had no idea who Mr. Sandelle was, had enough sense to know that unless she wanted detention or worse, when an adult stepped into the room, the fighting was put to an end.
At least temporarily.
“Hi guys,” he said cheerfully. “Just popping in to say hi...hey, where’s your study hall supervisor? I could’ve sworn that Mrs. Dean signed up for this period...” He looked over, trailing off as he noticed Keisha and Bailey still glaring at each other, Keisha having backed Bailey into the corner of the classroom, just beyond her desk. “Is there a problem, ladies?”
Slowly, Keisha tore her gaze from Bailey to turn and smile at Mr. Sandelle. “Not at all, Mr. S.,” she replied easily. “We’re just talking. Getting to know Bailey, she’s new here.” She turned back to Bailey and smirked a crocodile smile. “We’re practically already best friends.”
“Well, it’s very nice to meet you, Bailey. ” The ever-naïve Mr. Sandelle nodded at her, then smiled easily and turned to leave. “Everyone behave until I get a supervisor in here for the period. It might take a few minutes.” With another cheerful wave, he left.
“Nice to meet you, too,” Bailey called back as Mr. Sandelle left the room.
Keisha eased up from Bailey and nodded to Summer. “Well, girls, we’d love to stay and chat, but we have other study halls to visit,” she announced, still smirking. “Take care. We’ll be seeing you very soon.”
“Whatever.” I turned back to Bailey as the room, now with no drama to watch, began to buzz again. “Well, you handled that better than I did.”
Bailey shrugged. “I learned how to deal with bullies a long time ago. Growing up in the city will do that to you, I guess. They’re just stupid girls who think they own the world. Once high school’s over, they’ll learn just how wrong they were. So who cares?”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.” I sighed and took out a book I’d borrowed from the school library a couple periods ago.
“Poetry, huh?” I looked up to see Bailey smiling at me. “Very nice. I love reading poetry.”
“Me too!” I replied excitedly, then blushed, wondering if I’d sounded a little too enthusiastic. She laughed. “Maybe you can read some to us later, after school,” she suggested. “At my house?”
Okay.” “Oh, yeah!” I face-palmed myself, embarrassed. “I forgot that we had plans later! HAHA!
“Do you write poetry, too?” She asked.
I sat back and smiled. I already loved this girl.
Chapter Ten. Summer.
From the second I saw her walking down the hallway with Jaimey, I knew that she had to go.
She was pretty, and thin, and new, and pretty. A deadly mixture, and one that could quite possibly take some attention from the power that we had at this school. There was no way in hell that Keisha was going to let some new girl come in and take over, especially during sophomore year. We couldn’t lose power now, not with three more years of high school left. I felt like telling Trevor that he had to get rid of Jaimey. No Jaimey meant no new girl. But that would never happen. They were, like, practically engaged. So, I had waited until we found her alone, running up the staircase right after first period had started. I waited for Keisha to say something, and of course she did, just to insinuate our power. But I think that it might have had the opposite effect. Unlike most of the weaklings in this school, this new girl had a mouth on her. Watching her and Keisha tear into each other in that study hall was enough for me to see that this year was going to be very edgy. Not that that was necessarily a bad thing- it wasn’t like sophomores had a lot of super important classes this year, anyway- that was junior year- so we had plenty of time for drama, but it did make things uncertain for us. We’d never had to deal with girls talking back. Mostly, they just sat there and took the abuse, and we’d move on with our life, each time feeling a little more powerful than we had before. But this new girl, Bailey or whatever, seemed to be having a good time in challenging us. So did that little Aashlyn girl, who, come to think of it, has always been super quiet and scared up until this year. She’d always dressed and acted like a total nerd; what was up with her new style? It was so loud and daring and hot, as much as I wanted to deny it. No one would ever know that, though. I’d lose my position as Keisha’s favorite girl if I gave anyone compliments but her. It wasn’t an easy way to live, but it was rewarding. We always had the best boys, the best style, and the best nerds to do our homework for us and let us cheat off their tests. In a few years I’d be headed off to UVM, and in six years I’d have a good job as a brilliant psychologist, talking to the same kind of teenage girls that I’d spent my entire high school career pushing around. It would be an ironic career, but I’d be making an insane amount of money for it, so who cared? Daddy would be so pleased, and even Mother, who was always putting me down, would have to admit that I’d made her proud. I was well on my way to all that victory, and I wasn’t about to let some new girl and her Scene Freak friend ruin me.
It just wasn’t going to happen.
Chapter Eleven. Bailey.
My first day at this school had been long, and somewhat dramatic, but it wasn’t entirely bad. I had made new friends, and, unfortunately, a couple new enemies, but that was okay too. No one ever said that life was perfect.
Aashlyn, however, was.
She was so beautiful and sweet. I had a crush already, and I had only broken up with Becca a couple weeks ago. I felt kind of dumb, but love was crazy like that. Okay, maybe not love, not yet, if at all, but I had a feeling that things were about to get insanely interesting.
“Bailey! I will stab you in the eye with this!” Jaimey threatened me, holding the bright blue eyeliner pencil up in a dangerous way. I immediately stopped struggling and let her finish applying it to my eyelids before she stood up from my lap. She had forced me into the chair, and tied my hands with one of her shoelaces- which now she pulled loose and began weaving it back into her shoe. Aashlyn watched us from her spot on my bed, grinning. “Now,with just a little blush...” Jaimey poofed at my face with an unfamiliar makeup brush, making me cough as pink powder flew everywhere- “And a little lipstick...” She rubbed the tube across my mouth before turning me in my swivel chair to face the mirror. “You look just like Barbie!”
Okay, no. I stared at my reflection in horror. Barbie looked way better in any random moment than I did right now, and she was made of plastic. My lipstick was too bright; the blush was too thick and pink for my liking. I looked like Lady Gaga had gotten hit in the face by a truck carrying MAC cosmetics. I did, however, kind of like the blue eyeliner; it made my eyes look bigger and brighter.
“Well?” Jaimey bounced on her toes and beamed, waiting for my reaction.
“I....like the blue,” I managed weakly. Aashlyn covered her mouth with one pale hand, trying not to giggle.
“What?” Jaimey demanded defensively. “You look so colorful. A little color never hurt anyone.”
“Oh, shush. You look great.” Jaimey turned and yelled out my bedroom door in the general direction of the kitchen. “Andrea! Come here and look at your daughter and all of her newfound beauty!”
“Newfound?” I snapped. Aashlyn giggled again.
“Oh, shut up.” Jaimey batted my offended expression away with a flick of her wrist.
“You know what I mean.”
I sighed and shook my head just as my mom appeared in the doorway.
“What’s up...? Oh, my,” she faltered, when she saw my face. I grimaced, Jaimey beamed, and Aashlyn literally fell off my bed laughing.
I stood and hurried over to help her up off the floor. “Oh man, are you okay?”
“Okay? This is the best afternoon I’ve had in months,” she replied, still laughing. “Oh, here...you smudged a bit.”
She reached forward and carefully wiped a smear of blue eyeliner out of the corner of my eye.
I almost stopped breathing.
“Uh, thanks,” I stuttered. I could feel myself blushing again, and to avoid having Aashlyn notice, I turned back to where Jaimey and Mom were standing. Jaimey was trying to convince my mom that the makeup was a good look for me.
“I don’t know, Jaimey,” Mom said doubtfully. “She’s always been so...fresh-faced. This makeup thing will take some getting used to.”
“Trust me, Mom, you won’t have to get used to it,” I jumped in, “because I’m never letting Jaimey do this to me ever again.”
suck.” “But it was so much fun!”Jaimey pouted and stamped her foot.“Whatever. You guys suck.”
I grinned. “So, are we going to move the boxes now?” I prompted Mom.
“Yeah, if you guys are ready. Come on.” We followed my mom into the living room, where the boxes were still towering ominously. Okay, so I’d exaggerated earlier. There really weren’t too many, but they looked heavy.
An hour later, we’d unpacked three boxes worth of framed pictures and other small decorations, set them up around the house, and moved the other six boxes down to the musty basement for storage. Mom ordered pizza for us, and made herself a salad. We all sat down to dinner around five thirty, but then Mom’s publicist called and she excused herself to her bedroom so they could talk privately.
Aashlyn nibbled her pizza delicately. “It’s so cool that your mom’s an author,” she said after she swallowed a bite. “I love writing so much, but I don’t think I’ll ever be that good.”
“Well, you never know. If you work really hard at it, I bet you’ll go far,” I said, then blushed again. How lame did I sound? Shut up, before you weird her out, I scolded myself.
But Aashlyn smiled at me. “Maybe you’re right,” she amended.
“Of course she’s right!” Jaimey boomed through a mouthful of pizza, clapping me on the shoulder. “This girl is a genius, I tell you! A genius!”
And of course, I turned about a million shades of deeper red. I wouldn’t have been surprised if I was a very dark shade of purple right then. Aashlyn smiled sympathetically at my obvious embarrassment, then looked down as her cell phone started vibrating in her lap.
“Oh, hold on,” she said, sliding the screen up and pushing a few buttons. Her big eyes skimmed the screen. “My mom’s picking me up in a few minutes,” she announced, taking a big bite of pizza. “I guess I’d better hurry up if I’m going to help you guys with the dishes.”
“Don’t worry about that,” I replied, glancing at the sink. It didn’t have many dishes in it, and I sure as hell wasn’t about to make this super gorgeous girl do my chores for me. “I’ve got it covered.”
She hesitated. “Are you sure?”
“Of course she’s sure! You don’t argue with Bailey when she’s trying to get you out of work!” Jaimey winked, then jumped up, dumped her dishes in the sink, and ran back to my room, emerging a minute or so later with her and Aashlyn’s backpacks.
“I guess I’ll leave after Ash’s Ma picks her up,” She explained, handing Aashlyn her bag. “I’ve got a buttload of homework already, and it’s only the first day back. Honestly, I’ll be glad when it’s time to graduate.”
“Same,” Me and Aashlyn said together, and then laughed. Regardless of the fact that we still had years before graduation, it would appear that we thought a lot alike.
We talked together for a few more minutes, sharing schedules and opinions on teachers, stopping when the shiny black 1967 Ford Mustang pulled into my driveway. I looked out the kitchen window at the car, and felt my jaw drop. It occurred to me then that Aashlyn must come from a lot of money. Rich and gorgeous.
Chapter Twelve. Aashlyn.
I watched Bailey’s jaw drop as she saw Mom’s car pull into the driveway. To be honest, I was a little nervous about introducing her to Mom, because I wasn’t sure how that’d go over. She was very careful when it came to meeting my friends. She was the type of mother who gave me my freedom, mostly because she was too busy in her career as a lawyer to baby me. She let me go out whenever I wanted, not that I did much anyways, but it was always nice to have that freedom. She came off as very strict and professional because of how she dressed and acted, which I guess was a fair enough first impression, because she truly was like that. She expected straight A’s from me, which is why I was a high honor roll student, she detested dating, and relationships in general, ever since she and my father had gotten divorced when I was three. My dad, Arnold, lived in Florida, and I would go and visit him for a week or two every summer. It was always nice to see him, but my dad definitely babied me, and it made me uncomfortable. My mother had never treated me like a child and that was just fine with me. The only thing I didn’t like about her was that she was very quick to judge my friends. If they dressed in unusually bright clothes, they must just be looking for attention; if they were gay, they were looking for attention. If they were in a relationship, they were foolish....you get the picture. Which is why I wasn’t sure about what she would think of Bailey, this new city girl with boy-short hair and a quiet, sarcastic attitude. I was afraid that my mom would see her as obnoxious, rebellious...something like that. But I sucked it up, said goodnight to Andrea, and walked outside to the car with Jaimey and Bailey trailing behind me.
I walked around to the passenger’s side of Mom’s Mustang and swung the door open, setting my backpack on the floor.
“Mom, there’s someone I want you to meet,” I said, nodding to Bailey. Without a word to me, my mom rolled her window down and peered out at Bailey, who gazed back shyly. “This is Bailey Sorough,” I continued. “She just moved here from Manhattan and we have a couple classes together.”
My mother, to my complete surprise, smiled.
“How lovely,” she murmured in her usual calm, quiet voice, reaching forward to shake Bailey’s hand. “It’s very nice to meet you, Bailey. Hello, Jaimey,” she added. Jaimey, who was still standing by the porch, waved and smiled.
“It’s nice to meet you, too, Mrs...uh, Ms...” Bailey trailed off, and her eyes met mine in a panicked way that was actually really cute. I had mentioned earlier that my mother was divorced, and it was clear that Bailey thought she had just put her foot in her mouth.
“Ms.” My mom helped her, smiling slightly. “Ms. Capers.”
“Sorry, Ms. Capers,” Bailey apologized, shoving her hair out of her face. “Anyways, it’s nice to meet you. I hope you’ll let Aashlyn stop by again soon.”
“So long as she behaves herself,” my mother replied, smiling sternly at me. “Well, get in, Aashlyn, I’ve got a lot of paperwork to get through tonight, and it’s almost six thirty,” she stressed, glancing at the clock in the dashboard. I waved to Bailey and Jaimey.
“’Bye, guys. See you tomorrow.”
“See you tomorrow,” they chorused as I slid into the car and shut the door.
“Goodbye, girls,” my mom said, then rolled up her window. They waved until we pulled away and drove down the long road, out of sight.
“Well,” my mom said, stopping at the stop sign and glancing both ways before inching forward. “Bailey seems like a nice girl.”
“She is,” I agreed, sliding down against the cool leather interior and closing my eyes. “She’s very nice.”
“My question is, why did she move from a place as wonderful as Manhattan to a small town like this?” She wondered aloud.
“Dunno. Maybe they just wanted a change.”
“Maybe. By the way, when we get home, you’re going to have to make your own dinner. I’ve got a lot of work tonight...”
“I know. You told me. Don’t worry though, I already ate. We had pizza.”
“Oh. Well, that’s good.”
“ Yeah.” A long silence filled the car, just as it usually did after our bland conversations. My mother and I didn’t have much in common, and there was never anything really interesting to talk about. We spent most of our time together at home, but in our own little worlds, both of us kind of blocking the other one out. It wasn’t out of hostility or anything; it was just that there was almost nothing to talk about.
We sat in that silence for the rest of the drive home.
as bad. Okay, so if today wasn’t super sucky enough, this was making it twice...no, three times
If you ask a teenage girl, any teenage girl, what she wants most- she’ll most likely answer, I want to be rich. I want to be famous. I want to be a model. I want to be an actress. Something along those lines. All I wanted was exactly the opposite.
I came from a family who had it all, at least from the outside looking in. My father was the owner of several Ford Dealerships around the north country as well as an additional one down in Albany. My mother had been a model for years, but had made enough money in her youth for all of us to live off comfortably now- and still have money to spare. She was perfectly beautiful; tall, with long, shiny black hair, dark eyes, full red lips, straight, blindingly white teeth, and a total of about 120 pounds. So of course, I was expected to be perfect, which I was all too aware that I wasn’t because my mother was always pointing out my flaws so that I’d know how to be more like her. My father was sturdy, and handsome, and kind, but he wouldn’t go against Mother, even when she was being particularly awful to me. Tonight, the level of verbal sniping was at its highest peak. I was sitting at the huge, solid oak table in our spacious dining room, picking at a meal that our cook had set out for us. Roasted beef, Italian bread and French butter, and so on and so forth. So far, my mother had taken a single bite of bread and nibbled at her meat, staring at me with sharp eyes, waiting to criticize me. Daddy, completely unaware, or at least pretending to be, prattled on about work.
As if either of us were listening. Cautiously, I took a bite of bread. Mother seized her moment.
“You know, Summer, darling,” she said coolly, taking a sip of wine from her fancy glass, “bread and butter is very...fattening. We wouldn’t want you to gain any more weight, now would we? You’ve been looking rather chunky lately.”
I raised my head to look at her, trying to think up a good comeback.
And as usual, I was coming up blank.
“Now, dear,” Daddy stepped in, trying to sound cheerful and good natured. “I think Summer looks just fine.”
“Yeah, Mother,” I said, staring my mother down. “I think I do, too.”
My mother smiled back coldly. “Whatever you say. But don’t come crying to me if you can’t fit into your homecoming dress next month.”
I could’ve yelled; I could’ve thrown something at her head. God knows I wanted to. Instead, I pushed my chair away from the table, stood, stormed out, and headed straight upstairs to my bedroom.
My mother was a cold-hearted, bitter, conceited, pathetic exuse of a woman.
I slammed my bedroom door and locked it, and promptly began pacing across the floor. I wanted to be able to hear myself stomp, but the thick, deep carpeting would not allow it. Frustrated, I threw myself back against my bed, promptly sliding across the silk bedspread and slamming my head against the wall.
“Ugh!!” Nothing was going right today. Today sucked. I hated my fear of my mother; I hated the new girl at school; I hated that Trevor, one of my closest friends, and certainly my closest guy friend, the only one that had never tried to take advantage of me, was dating Jaimey Anderson, that annoyingly confident, rat-faced little snot- who probably didn’t deserve
him anyway. I hated that I was in love with him. I hated that I loved him more than anything else in this whole world. I hated that I had to keep it a secret.
But mostly, I just hated myself.
And that is why I turned right then, and marched my supposedly fat self into my bathroom, and locked that door too, although my bedroom door was already locked, so no one would’ve been able to get in anyway. I knelt in front of the toilet, and stuck my finger down my throat, promptly throwing up the small amount of food that I’d managed to eat before my mother tore into me. When nothing else came up, I removed my finger from my mouth and sat there for another thirty seconds or so, head pounding and stomach aching, to catch my breath. Then I stood, flushed the toilet, and opened the new bottle of Listerine that the maid had dropped off earlier in the afternoon. I began to swish some around my mouth, dying for some vodka or Jack Daniels. My parents could never know I drank, or I’d be dead. Whether they cared about me or not-which they didn’t- we had a reputation to uphold. My family, the Woodkins, had a reputation to uphold. We were one of the richest families in the entire north country, which is why we were all so beautiful and successful and rich. Because even if things were crap at home, or in our personal lives, we never cried or lost our tempers in front of anyone; never showed any emotion, really. It was why I got straight A’s, why I wore the best clothes, why I never slept around like some of the other girls in Keisha’s little clique; because my reputation was always at stake. I felt like I was always being watched by everyone, waiting for me to fail at something. It was never easy being perfect, but it was an art that I had perfected. No pun intended. I always looked good, I always got good grades, I always had made the right friends in the right cliques. I always went to the best parties in the best outfits with the best dates and the best friends from those right cliques. I was perfect, or pretty freaking close.
At least, that was what everyone else was led to believe.
No one knew anything about what I went through.
I remember the first day it happened. It had been in July two years ago. My family had been invited to a pool party at the home of one of Daddy’s coworkers. I had just turned thirteen and been given permission by my father to wear a two-piece bathing suit, which was kind of a huge thing since none of my friends had had to wait for permission, and it was pretty humiliating. I went out shopping with the girls the day before the pool party and got five different suits because I couldn’t pick out a favorite. After Keisha’s driver had dropped me off at the house, I ran straight up to my room to try them on. I felt like each one looked better than the last. I was so happy, until I heard my mother’s voice behind me.
“Darling, I hadn’t noticed you’d gained weight.”
I’d turned quickly, startled and confused. “Huh?”
She’d been leaning in the doorway, her eyebrows knit together in the perfect display of affectionate concern. She crossed the room and sat on my bed in front of me, sinking gracefully down on the silk covers.
“Come and sit with me, sweetheart.”
I remember how suddenly naked I felt in that bikini as I went to her and sat down. Gained weight?
She had smiled at me, the smile of a crocodile who’s prey isn’t even aware that it’s about to meet it’s untimely, grisly death.
“I know that Daddy told you it’s finally okay to wear a bikini- that’s exciting, isn’t it? I remember when my parents told me I could wear my own...I was younger than you were at the time...eleven maybe... Mind you, I had been modeling since the age of ten, so I was quite thin by the time I was allowed to wear a bikini. Honestly, darling, Daddy and I waited so long to let you because we thought you were going to lose your baby fat at some point....but that doesn’t seem to be the case. It actually seems like you’ve gained even more.” Her eyebrows knit as she scanned my body as though it was a book written in a different language. Every time her eyes stopped somewhere, her eyebrows would contract even more, her frown growing more pronounced.
I should have told her to shut up. I should’ve told her that I thought I looked fine.
But I didn’t. I followed her gaze, noticing the way my stomach stuck out when I sat slumped like this. How my thighs looked so thick pressed against the mattress the way they were. And as I noticed these things, she began critizing out loud.
“I didn’t know backs could be pudgy... or that thighs could overlap... Sweetie, what are we going to do with you?” She’d tsked.
them. The words had spilled out of my mouth before I got the chance to consider stopping
“I don’t want to be fat.”
Mother’s eyes had bored into mine.
“I know what can help you. But you have to keep it our little secret, just between us. Sound fair?”
I’d nodded vigorously, thinking workout sessions at the gym or a strict new diet. I should’ve known it wouldn’t be quite that simple.
She’d squeezed my hand and smiled that crocodile smile again. “Just throw up.” “What?”
“Oh, dearest, calm down. It’s not that big of a deal, you know. I did it to stay on top when I was a model.”
“Mom, people can’t just....make themselves throw up.”
“Really?” My mother, my hand still between the two of hers, pushed down all my fingers except for my index. “You just...stick it down your throat, and your body will do the rest.” The smile widened. “And in no time at all, you’ll be a Skinny Minny again. Just like your mother.”
I should have known better, but I didn’t.
That very day I had started making myself throw up, starting once every couple of weeks, more and more, until it got to the point I was at now; if I even took two bites of whatever the meal was, it was coming back up. I couldn’t gain weight. I couldn’t be fat. I refused to be.
My mother had never warned me about side effects, so I never took time to consider if this was a bad thing for me or not. I pushed harder and harder to get skinnier and skinnier until
I was only 105 pounds and proud of it. Lately though, meaning roughly these past six months, bad things had been happening to me. Scary things. Some days were better than others, in the sense that I wouldn’t get the dizzy spells or the headaches. But sometimes they both came at once and I’d feel so weak I couldn’t even stand on my own. I’d even passed out a couple times- in the shower, and in my bedroom, just picking out clothes for school the next day.
I’m sure I would’ve asked my mother about the bad parts if I didn’t absolutely hate her so much at this point. I felt cheated, deceived. I had worked so hard to get skinny for her, waiting for her to accept me and be proud of how I looked, but all I’d gotten was more criticism; more back-handed compliments; more rejection. According to everyone else, I was so thin and pretty. According to my mother, I was a fat slob who didn’t deserve to even look at food the way anyone else might.
I really did hate my life.
I spit the mouthwash into the sink and began to brush my teeth. When my mouth felt good and clean again, I rinsed with water and went back into my bedroom to change into sweatpants and a tank top for bed. Then I powered my laptop up and logged into my favorite instant messenger to see if any of my “friends” were on. Sometimes talking to them helped me feel better.
KeishaXBrightEyes: So. wht do you think of New Girl and Scene Freak? SummerLynnnnnx3: I think we might have a problem. KeishaXBrightEyes: No way. We were there 1st.
SummerLynnnnnx3: U think tht’s gonna mttr?
KeishaXBrightEyes: Wht r u tlking abt?
SummerLynnnnx3: We hve pushed every1 else around 4ever. We rn’t loved, we’re feared. If these 2 step in and suddenly gain popularity bc they r NICE to ppl, we r done 4. Just sayin’.
KeishaXBrightEyes: ....But tht wnt hppn. SummerLynnnnnx3: Ok SummerLynnnnnx3:G2g
SummerLynnnnnx3 has logged off at 8:38 pm. KeishaXBrightEyes: Unless.....
KeishaXBrightEyes has logged off at 8:39 pm.
Alright, first of all, Summer was freaking out over nothing. I had practically run this school since kindergarten; did she seriously expect me to lose power now? Less than two years before graduation? Hell, no.
I slammed my laptop closed and sprawled out across the luxurious silk sheets of my cherrywood four-poster bed, and gazed up at my ceiling, frustrated. Summer was such a drama queen, it was ridiculous. Obviously she had so little faith in me that even a simple-minded new girl at school (who had a bit of a mouth on her) was enough to scare her into thinking we were going to be tossed down a few links on the high school food chain.
But no. I mean, it just wasn’t possible. Scene Freak and New Girl were mediocre at best. At sixteen, I was already designing my own clothing line(with a little help from Daddy’s checkbook), driving a white 2011 Ferrari 599 HGTE, and modeling for Hollister over summer breaks. My life was perfect. I didn’t have time for stupid school clubs like Drama or Cheerleading- leave those to the wanna-be’s, the girls who struggled to be in charge of something because they wanted to be more like me.
Daddy was the CEO of a company called Looking Forward, an up-and-coming wind turbine manufacturer that was slowly building it’s way up through upstate New York. Daddy hoped to expand country-wide within the next few years. He’d built this company from the ground up for as long as I could remember, thanks to coming from a wealthy family himself. In the last couple of years, though, he had earned more than his father had ever dreamed possible. The company was his life, more valuable to him than even myself and my mother, or so it seemed sometimes. But he always made up for his near-constant absence by buying us nice things; my brand new iPhone, and my Ferrari, just to name a couple. I was always given what I wanted whenever I wanted it. I had never been told no; I had never been denied anything in my life. And I had certainly never lost anything important to me.
Which is why if New Girl and Scene Freak think they could just waltz into my school with some new I-own-everything attitude, I was going to have to show them differently.
Chapter Fifteen. Trevor.
Even though it was the second week of school already, I seriously wasn’t used to this whole getting-up-at-five-again thing yet.
Today when my alarm clock went off, I didn’t sleep through it like I had every day of the last week; no no, this time I managed to roll out of bed while trying to hit snooze. I banged my head off the corner of my bedstand and swore loudly as I staggered to my feet. My mom stuck her nose through the door.
“Trevor Johnson!” she hissed. “Do you really have to use such vulgar language so early in the morning?”
“Sorry, Ma,” I muttered, rubbing the newly formed bump on my head. “I didn’t mean to.”
She sighed. “Well, what’s done is done. Better hurry up and jump in the shower before your brother wakes up and takes it for himself.”
So I showered, and then pulled on a wrinkled pair of jeans I found at the bottom of my closet, and a dark gray tee shirt and black sweater vest because I knew Babe liked them on me. Then I ate Cocoa Puffs (my favorite) in front of The Simpsons (best show ever), the way I always did on school days. By the time I glanced at the clock again it was 6:45, and I was supposed to pick Babe and Bailey up at 6:55 to be at school by 7:05. Swearing again, though not so loudly this time, I grabbed my backpack and guitar case, tugged on my shoes, dumped my cereal bowl in the sink, and ran out the door to the car.
Chapter Sixteen. Jaimey.
This school year was seriously dragging.
And it was only the second week of school.
The first week of school hadn’t been so bad. I spent most of my time getting comfortable with my new teachers and classes, working on the immense amount of homework I was given, and spending as much time with my friends as possible. The Preps hadn’t given them much trouble; only the occasional dirty look in the hallway, but honestly, what normal high school girl doesn’t do that from time to time? As for Trevor and myself, they didn’t say or do anything. Probably because Summer and Trevor were pretty good friends, and even though they didn’t particularly like me, I was still under some unbreakable protection from their drama because I was dating Trevor.
High school is such a twisted and amusing place.
Despite all of the homework we had, Aashlyn, Trev, Bailey and I had managed to hang out four times outside of school last week, which was a major accomplishment because we all had a lot on our plates. Bailey and Aashlyn had been given the first Creative Writing assignment of the year; to write a ten page short story, in the genre of their choice- mystery, romance, action, etc- but it had to end in death. Sounds like Brown wanted to set the year off with an edge. They had both been working on that frantically, trying to keep up with all their other classes as well. Besides that, Trevor had band practice every other day, and I had chorus, school work, and a song that I was writing to sing to Trevor on our one year anniversary. I wanted to start on it early to make it perfect by the time January rolled around. So far I only had two verses, and I was super frustrated. On the plus side, after Monday night, we were determined to hang out again, so Wednesday, Aashlyn and Bailey had come to Trevor’s house after school to watch me sing with the band, and they were both impressed, which made me feel great.
Friday night we had a movie night at my house, watching The Boondock Saints and The Boondock Saints ll: All Saints Day, Bailey’s favorite movies. She claimed that Troy Duffy was her hero, and I could see why. The movies were amazing. Then, Saturday afternoon, we had all gone to the mall together and just spent a few hours wandering and window shopping before Aashlyn, Bailey and I forced Trevor to try on a corset in Spencer’s....which was probably the best memory of my life thus far.
I knew that Bailey was gay, and I had noticed that she had eyes for Aashlyn. I wasn’t surprised, because Aashlyn was a very sweet, very beautiful girl. But what really surprised me
was that Aashlyn seemed to be returning those feelings to Bailey. Whenever I turned around, it seemed, Aashlyn was staring at her. And when she got caught, she always blushed a super bright pink and quickly began talking about something random. The first time it was ducks. Then spiders. Then grass.
The list went on and on.
I caught them together in gym and study hall and in the hallways, talking quietly together, smiling into each other’s eyes like there was no tomorrow. It was actually really cute, but whenever Aashlyn and I were texting and I brought Bailey up, she would suddenly become too busy to text me back.
As far as I knew, Aashlyn was straight. She’d dated a couple guys in the past, simple relationships that never lasted more than a month or so. She’d had her first kiss, first date, and many others, with really good looking guys. She had good taste, and before Bailey, I had never seen her act like this with a girl. But I wasn’t the only one who had noticed. Trevor had mentioned it to me before, too, at my house Sunday night. We were sitting on the couch- well, I was sitting; he was lying across the couch with his head in my lap while I read poetry out loud. As I turned a page, he reached up and touched my wrist, lightly, and I stopped to look down at him.
“Babe,” he began. “Something about that poem just reminded me of this; I wanted to mention it to you earlier in the week but we haven’t had any time alone...” He trailed off, looking strangely unsure of what he wanted to say.
“What’s on your mind?” I’d prompted him, reaching down to brush his dark hair off his forehead.
He closed his eyes briefly as I stroked his hair, but kept talking.
“Well, it’s just....Do you think Aashlyn and Bailey have a, like...thing?”
My hand froze in his hair. He opened his eyes to look up at me.
“You know,” I said slowly, “I’ve been wondering the same thing. They certainly seem to like each other.”
“Yeah. But last time I checked, Aashlyn was straight.”
I resumed the stroking of his hair. “Well, not everyone comes out at an early age,” I reasoned. “Sometimes it just takes a special person to make you realize that things aren’t as they seem.”
He was quiet for a moment. “Well, in that case, I think there’s something I ought to tell you about John...” he said, referring to the drummer in Falling Inflections.
I looked down at him, panicking, and then noticed the wide grin that had crept across his face, which prompted a huge pillow fight, and the discussion was quickly forgotten.
But now, as I got dressed for school, I couldn’t help musing over it. If Aashlyn and Bailey really did like each other, I wanted them to be together. I knew that I should probably just stay out of it and let things happen naturally, but that wasn’t in my nature. No, I was most definitely going to get involved in this.
I met Bailey at the bottom of my driveway, and Trevor came tearing up the road only about thirty seconds later, squealing to a stop right in front of us.
I jumped into the passenger’s side while Bailey climbed dutifully into the back.
“You’re late,” I said, trying to sound stern and angry, but grinned anyway. He leaned over and gave me a sweet little kiss.
“I’m sorry, babe. Hey, Bailey. ”
She gave a little wave from the backseat. “Hi, Trev.”
He waited for us to put our seatbelts on- safety first, kids- and then took off again, glancing at the clock. It read 7:02.
“Ah, crap,” he muttered, hitting the gas a little harder than necessary. Bailey squeaked in the backseat. I started laughing again.
“Calm down, Trev. We can be a little late, you know.”
“Nooo, we can’t! No way am I getting you in trouble already. It’s only the second week of sophomore year.” We were almost to the school now, and when we reached the student parking lot, he blared the horn loudly, making kids jump out of his path so that he could park quickly. I waited patiently as he got out and ran around to my side of the car to hold the door open for me. It was something he insisted on doing, because it made him feel like a gentleman, he claimed. He held the door open for Bailey, too, then shut our doors behind us as we started walking towards the entrance doors.
Because of his unnecessary speeding, we were right on time. The first bell rang as we reached my locker, signaling that we had four minutes before homeroom. Bailey thanked Trevor for the ride, waved goodbye, and hurried off to her own locker.
I spun my combination in quickly and swung the door open, grabbing the books I needed before I shut the door again and turned back to Trevor, who was leaning against the locker next to mine, watching me.
“What are you doing this weekend?” He asked, watching me with sleepy eyes as he ran his fingers through my hair. It sent chills down my spine. Even after almost a year, I would look at him and suddenly not be able to breathe. He was so beautiful.
“Uhm, I’m not sure yet.” Actually, I had planned to ask Aashlyn and Bailey if they wanted to have a movie weekend at my house, but it had occurred to me that I hadn’t had any alone time with Trevor lately. It was depressing to think about. “Did you have something in mind?”
He smiled. “Well, there’s been rumor that Adam and Grace Ackles, are throwing a rager at their house Saturday night. You interested in going?”
I paused. I loved parties with a passion. I loved getting all dressed up and dancing for hours on end, so of course my answer was a yes. But I was also brainstorming. Aside from what I would wear and what playlists I would make on my iPod, I was realizing that this could be Aashlyn and Bailey’s first date. How romantic, too! The first official party of sophmore year. It would be easy and sweet, something that they would probably appreciate me inviting them to.
Meanwhile, Trevor was watching my facial expressions change rapidly while I thought.
“You’re definitely thinking hard about something,” he observed, twirling one of my unstraightened curls around his finger. “We don’t have to go....”
“No, I want to,” I replied quickly. “But I want Aashlyn and Bailey there, too, if I can manage that.”
He groaned suddenly, and I looked up at him, bewildered.
“Oh, no,” he sighed. “You’re going to get involved in this potential romance thing of theirs, aren’t you? I knew you would.”
I gave him a sweet, innocent smile. “Well, of course,” I chirped, taking his hand and pulling him down the hallway towards his homeroom. “Did you honestly expect me not to?”
“I guess not.” He sighed again as we stopped outside his English classroom and buried his face in my hair before kissing my forehead. “I’ll pick you up after class. I love you.”
“I love you too.” I gave him another smile before hurrying off down the hallway to my own class.
Jaimey Anne Anderson never left a romance uncertain. Ready or not, Aashlyn and Bailey were about to get the full Jaimey-involvement experience.
Chapter Seventeen. Aashlyn.
“.....One Nation, under God, Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” our Creative Writing class chanted, our hands over our hearts, and then we all dropped back into our computer lab chairs, the room that we’d been sentenced to as of Friday so that we could finish our short stories.
I was comfortably seated in a secluded corner of the room, with Bailey sitting at the computer on my right. I loved sitting away from the rest of the class, because it gave us the opportunity to talk, or rather, flirt privately, without everyone else being able to listen in and gossip about it later.
“So,” I said quietly, logging onto my computer and waiting for it to power up. “How was the rest of your weekend?”
“It was good,” Bailey yawned, taking another sip of coffee from the Styrofoam cup next to her. “I mostly just helped Mom plan out the end to her new book, watched some movies, and caught up on homework. Oh, and slept. I slept a lot,” she added, but that didn’t keep her from yawning again.
“Yeah, it definitely seems like you had a restful weekend,” I remarked, giving her a playful smile, which she returned.
“Yeah, well, my homework required a lot of...catching up,” she chuckled, typing away rapidly on her already almost-finished story.
Jealous, I was hardly past chapter four on mine. “I’ll bet,” I agreed, and then the announcements began over the loud speaker. Mr. Brown shushed us so we could hear, and we all listened in uninterested silence as the ninth grader with a severe lisp read the morning news.
“Congratulationth to our Tomohawkth for beating Tharanac at the firth thoccer game of the year,” the kid announced happily. “Lunch will conthith of grilled cheeth thandwicheth, pearth, chocolate or plain milk, and tomato thoup. The gay/thraight allianth will have their firth offithial meeting of the year in room twenty four-b, at 3 p.m. today, if anyone ith interethed....”
I perked up. Gay/Straight Alliance was something I’d always wanted to join in high school, but I’d always been too meek and shy to join, scared that if I did, people would start calling me a lesbian and push me around for it. So, out of pure, rational fear, I’d never stepped foot into a single meeting. But I had a feeling that this year was going to be different. For one thing, my style had changed, and I loved it because it gave me a huge confidence boost. For another, I had Bailey, and so far, she made me feel comfortable no matter where I was.
And then there was another thing.
I wasn’t sure what my sexuality was anymore.
Not since I’d met Bailey. She was really, really cute. And really sweet. And really fun. And no matter how long we were together, I always wanted to spend more time with her. To be honest, I think I had had a crush on her from the start, and that was extremely nerve- wracking, considering that up until last week, I had always thought of myself as straight.
Well, apparently not...
I sat there, throwing glances as Bailey as she sat there typing, not noticing that I kept staring at her. How would I begin this conversation? It made me feel awkward just thinking about it.
“So,” I began nervously, coughing a bit. “There’s a Gay/Straight Alliance meeting tonight.”
She barely glanced at me and continued typing.
“Really? I didn’t hear that. I guess I just wasn’t paying attention.”
I coughed again. Maybe it was her short hair or something, but all week I’d been getting that gay vibe from Bailey. What was it called? Gaydar? Maybe I had that.
Maybe I had it because I was gay, too.
Anyway, I wasn’t sure if Bailey was gay. It was just a feeling I got from the way she acted, her style, her attitude around girls. I was pretty sure I’d caught her checking out girls around school a few times since the beginning of the school year. I was even more surprised that it made me jealous. I wasn’t sure how she would react to me talking about the Gay/Straight Alliance. Would she think I was calling her gay? Would she think I was calling her straight? Would she be offended, amused? Would she take me seriously? Would she laugh at me? I could feel myself blushing and I’d barely even said anything yet.
Bailey was looking at me with a look of concern. “Are you okay, Ash?” She asked me seriously. “You’re turning about ten shades of pink right now.”
I coughed again, feeling my face get even hotter. “Yeah, yeah, Im fine. So the Gay/Straight Alliance meeting,” I blurted out. My face probably got even more pink, if that was even possible at this point. “Wanna go with me?” I sucked in a breath and waited, practically trembling, through the long moment of silence for Bailey to reply.
To my relief, Bailey smiled.
“Yeah, I’d love to,” she replied. “Have you ever been before? Do you like it?”
I shook my head, so relieved and happy that I could barely speak. “No,” I said. “I’ve never gone, that is. But I’ve heard it’s pretty cool.”
“Well, we’ll go check it out. My old school in the city had a GSA, too, but I never went either. So I guess it’ll be a first for both of us.” She smiled again, that sweet, irresistible, warm smile that I loved to see. I smiled back; a genuine, happy smile.
Chapter Eighteen. Bailey.
The rest of my classes went super slowly in my anticipation to get to the end of the day. I wanted it to be 2:08 so that school could be over and I could have some alone time with Aashlyn. Well, not exactly alone time, since we were going to a meeting that would more than likely have a big bunch of kids there. It was cute how nervous Aashlyn had been when she asked me, but I was curious as to why she’d asked me. Did she like me? Did she know I was gay? Did Jaimey tell her I was gay? I didn’t think Jaimey was one to go throwing around my secrets like that, but I decided to ask her anyways. I texted her in study hall when Aashlyn went to the library to study for an Algebra quiz.
Bailey: Hey (:
Jaimey: Yoooo (:
Jaimey: Ugh, class. You?
Bailey: Study hall. So, quick question for you. Jaimey: Shoot bro.<3
Bailey: Did you tell Aashlyn I’m gay?
Jaimey: Nah. Why do you ask?
Bailey: She asked me to go to the GSA meeting tonight, I’m just wondering how she knew to ask ME, you know?
Jaimey: Knew....or hoped? (; Bailey: xD
Chapter Nineteen. Aashlyn.
When the last bell finally rang, I was nearly sick to my stomach with nerves. I jumped up from my seat and ran from the classroom, tripped up the stairs-twice- messed up opening my locker three times, and when I finally opened it, I dropped a binder- which just so happened to be the one binder I had whose papers were not all locked down. Needless to say, papers scattered all over the hallway. Groaning loudly, I dropped my other books in my locker and, ignoring the giggles and stares of passerby, began darting all over the hallway, gathering papers.
I was just about to pick up the last of them when a pair of smooth, pale hands lifted the papers for me, straightened them out, and handed them to me, then helped pull me gently to my feet. Of course, the hands belonged to Bailey.
“Hi,” she grinned, as we walked back to my locker so I could finish putting the rest of my stuff away.
“Hey,” I said breathlessly, trying to appear casual. I nodded to the stack of papers in my hands. “Thanks.”
“Anytime. How was the rest of your day?”
I threw a couple binders into my knapsack and banged my locker shut.
“Long,” I said without thinking, and immediately regretted it. Would she think that meant I couldn’t wait to spend more time with her, therefore making me into an obsessive loser? “How about yours?”
“Long for me, as well,” she replied easily, looking around the hallway. “So, where’s the meeting?”
I was so busy staring at her that I forgot what she was talking about.
“Uh, sorry,” I stuttered. “What?” I added, feeling incredibly stupid.
She raised her eyebrows at me and laughed. “The GSA meeting?” She prompted. “Do you remember what classroom it’s being held in? We should probably get there before it starts.”
“Agreed. It was....” I paused, trying to remember. “Oh, room 24-B. That’s downstairs, near the cafeteria. Come on.”
I led her downstairs and down a couple of hallways. We walked in shy silence, but even so, I was floating with happiness at the prospect of being able to spend this time with her, in a sort-of-alone way; at least away from the knowing, watchful eyes of our friends.
And by friends, I mean Jaimey, who was, without a doubt, planning something for Bailey and I. She wanted us together, and I was pretty sure we both knew it.
We got to room 24-B, and I knocked hesitantly, not sure if it was okay to just enter. But what was I expecting, really? For somebody to slide open a wooden peep hole and demand a password?
“Come in,” someone called gaily.
No pun intended.
Slowly, I swung the door open and stepped inside, with Bailey at my heels. A bunch of plastic chairs were arranged in a small semi-circle in the middle of the room, and there were a handful of students sitting in them. A boy with a thin face and shaggy, dark hair, and his girlfriend, sitting hand in hand beside each other; a couple girls who had been cheerleaders last year, one braiding the other’s hair- but I knew for a fact that they weren’t a couple because they were cousins; a tall, strong-looking boy with a friendly smile, who I recognized as a junior; and the school’s cool gym teacher, Ms. Connery- a young woman in her late twenties with a bunch of tattoos hidden under her long sleeves (which she’d rolled up because the classroom was hot as all hell) and a thick black faux hawk.
“Welcome, friends,” Ms. Connery said in a smooth, mellow voice. “Join us in our half- circle-thing of trust.”
I smiled tentatively. “Hi. Okay.” I sat down in a chair at the edge of the half-circle, and Bailey sat down next to me. I was perched nervously on the edge of my seat, with my arms wrapped around my knees, whereas Bailey was slouched comfortably, with her hands in her faux leather jacket.
“Well, it would appear that we have a couple new members,” Ms. Connery said, giving us a calm, friendly smile. “So let’s do up some proper introductions.”
The boy leaned forward to shake hands with Bailey, then me. “What’s up,” he said, in a surprisingly high, sweet voice. “I’m Willow. But you can call me Will.”
Bailey didn’t even blink, only withdrew her hand from her jacket to lock it with Will’s.
“Hey, I’m Bailey.” She tilted her head in my direction. “This is Aashlyn.”
I smiled at Will as I shook his hand. “Ash is fine.”
“Nice to meet you both,” Will replied, nodding. “This,” he added, lifting the hand of the girl next to her and kissing the back of it twice, “is my girl, Victoria.”
Victoria was very beautiful, with classic blue eyes and long, dark brown curls. She smiled shyly. “Hi,” she said softly. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you too,” we said in unison, then laughed together.
Ms. Connery chuckled. “That’s Steven,” she added, pointing to the tall junior across the half-circle. Steven smiled and nodded his hello, and we smiled back. “He doesn’t say much, at least until you get to know him,” Ms. Connery added, shooting a teasing grin in Steven’s direction. Steven responded with a rueful smile and a shrug.
“And these two,” she added, nodding to the ex-cheerleaders, “are Sarah and Chantelle. They’re....you know, the straight part of the GSA,” she said, laughing a bit harder. We all joined in.
“Hello,” the ex-cheerleaders chirped in unison.
“Hi!” I replied, smiling. Bailey smiled wordlessly and gave them both a cheerful wave.
“And you already know me, I’m Ms. Connery,” our teacher introduced herself, flashing us another sizzling smile. “Well, at least, I know Aashlyn knows me. I don’t think we’ve met yet, Bailey.”
Bailey cleared her throat, suddenly looking very shy. “I moved here from Manhattan a few weeks ago,” she said simply.
“Oh, cool stuff, bro,” Will chimed in. “I love the city.”
Bailey smiled back at him. “Me too.”
Ms. Connery sat back in her seat, locking her hands behind her head. “So, as you guys know, GSA is just a way for kids to come together and openly express themselves without having to worry about other people judging them,” she told us, smiling at me. I blushed. Did she know how I was feeling about myself? Was it that obvious? “This is a judgment-free classroom,” she continued. “So, let’s talk about the first week back. How did it go, guys?”
“Good, so far,” Victoria said softly- so softly that we all had to lean forward a bit to hear her. “No one’s said anything to me or Will yet.”
Ms. Connery nodded her approval. “Good. Very good. And you know to come to me if they ever do, and I’ll take care of it,” she said, with a voice full of authority.
Steven chimed in for the first time since we’d walked into the room. “My year’s been great so far,” he announced, grinning broadly.
“Oh yeah?” Will elbowed him in a gentle, friendly way. “Why’s that?”
“Well first of all, look at my hair.” Steven whipped off his black fedora, displaying short, clean brown hair. “Neatly chopped off, guys. Second of all, I got a job. Do you have any idea how much shopping I’ve been doing?”
“Oh, God,” Ms. Connery groaned. “I can’t even imagine....”
I smiled, listening to the playful banter, and I began to relax a bit. I was in a room full of strangers, but the funny thing was, they didn’t seem like strangers anymore. Bailey was only inches away. I felt free. Regardless of what my sexuality actually was, I was comfortable here.
I was happy here.
Chapter Twenty.. Summer.
“....But then, I found out that Agnes had already bought the purple dress, and obviously we couldn’t have the same one...that’d be so lame. So I bought the hot pink one instead!” Molly finished, giving us a wide, bright, white smile that nearly made me flinch. Molly Evans was most definitely the ditz of our group, with her long, blue-black hair, big blue eyes, sexy smile and lack of intelligent vocabulary.
“That’s so cool, Molly,” Keisha gushed sweetly, then turned to whisper in my ear. “A hot pink Barbie dress for our ditzy Barbie girl. How convenient.”
I honestly thought that was a really nasty thing for her to say, but I couldn’t say that out loud. It would most likely get me banned from this clique, therefore making me a social refugee. So I giggled more than necessary and nodded. Across the table, Molly watched us.
“Like, what are you guys talking about?” She asked us in her usual peppy voice, but she seemed nervous.
“Nothing,” we responded in unison, and shared a secret smile. Everyone in our group got talked about, especially Molly, because she was just so completely stupid. It was harsh and unnecessary, but everyone had to go through it. I knew that Keisha ran her mouth about me with Molly and Katrina, but I just let it slide off my back. In this group, if you showed any weakness, everyone else would circle like hungry sharks and take advantage of you. That’s why I always kept a poker face, even when I felt like crap on the inside. These girls were my life. They invited me to exclusive parties and shopping trips. We copied off each other’s tests and essays (after we copied off of the nerds’ tests and essays). We bashed every other girl in this school to nothing and stole their boyfriends at regular intervals.
What else were friends for?
Katrina left the lunch line with a tray full of food, which we all stared at as she made her way across the cafeteria to our corner table.
“Ew,” Keisha muttered. “Is she seriously going to eat all that?”
“I seriously hope not,” I replied, pushing away what was left of my banana and reaching for my vitamin water.
“She isn’t going to fit into her new dress!” Molly giggled. “What a fatty.”
Katrina reached the table and sat down, shamelessly putting her tray down before pulling up a chair. “Hey, girls.”
“Heyyyy,” we all responded back, sweet as sugar.
“How are you?” Keisha asked.
Katrina picked up a blueberry muffin and took a big bite, causing me to wrinkle my nose in disgust. A blueberry muffin? Molly was right; what a fat pig.
Katrina chewed and swallowed, taking her time to answer.
Keisha raised her eyebrows as she waited.
Bad move. Don’t ever make the queen bee wait.
Finally, Katrina could talk. “I’m good, really good. How about you guys? All psyched out for the first party of the year?”
“Absolutely,” Molly giggled, chipping away at her bright blue nail polish. “I got a manicure last night and since I found out about the party during second period, I’ve been trying to get this stuff off my nails.”
Keisha redirected her raised eyebrows to Molly. “And why is that?”
Molly looked at her like she was stupid. “So I can repaint them. To go with my dress?” She responded in her best ‘duh’ voice.
Keisha rolled her eyes in response and flicked their direction back to Katrina’s tray. “Hungry?” She asked nastily, widening her eyes at the immense amount of food that Katrina had brought to the table. “Or are you trying to steal enough food to feed a third world country? I think you could end world hunger just with that massive muffin.”
Katrina blushed and immediately set the muffin down. “I’m just hungry,” she said slowly. “I went for a really long run last night.”
Keisha pulled her long dark hair into a ponytail. “Oh,” she said, losing interest. “Well, just make sure you can fit into your dress Saturday night, okay? The last thing we need is for one of us to look fat at the first official party of sophomore year.” She nodded disgustedly at the tray full of food.
And just like that, without a word, Katrina got up, took her tray to the garbage, dumped it, and came back to sit meekly at the table again.
Keisha smiled smugly. Molly looked at me. I looked down at my binder and pretended to be looking for some important piece of homework.
Keisha. This was how things were run around here. We all knew our place. And it was under
Chapter Twenty One. Bailey.
“I know you’re hiding something from me.”
I glanced up from my place on the cool wooden floor of my bedroom, where I was sitting on the floor finishing my Creative Writing story, to look up at Jaimey.
“Beg your pardon?”
Jaimey was laying upside down on her back, half-off my bed, squinting an upside-down dirty look in my direction. “You know.”
“Yes, you do.”
I raised my eyebrows, saved the document I was working on, and closed my laptop so I could talk without getting distracted. My mom had gone over to Jaimey’s house, where Jaimey’s mother was holding her weekly book club meeting. We had been left here to work on our homework and study together, but apparently Jaimey had other things in mind.
“Let me get this straight. You think that I’m hiding something from you.”
“Not think. Know. And it’s funny, how you worded that. ‘Let me get this straight.’ Straight. Which you are not.”
“You.....” Jaimey flipped over and landed easily on her butt on the floor. She sat up, flicked her curls out of her face, and smiled at me triumphantly. “Like Aashlyn.”
I felt myself start to blush. “Well, yeah,” I said uneasily. “She’s a good friend.”
“Don’t lie! You like her as more than a good friend, don’t you?” Jaimey accused, pointing one bright purple fingernail at me.
I ducked my head, pretending to be insanely interested at the tiny ant passing by my left foot. “Uhm...”
“Just admit it,”’ Jaimey wheedled. “It’ll make things a whole lot easier for me.”
This ant was on a mission. I picked up a cookie from the plastic container a few feet away, broke off a tiny piece, and put it a few inches away from the ant. The ant immediately went to it and began picking at it with its little feet...or whatever it was that ants have.
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about getting you two together.”
My head shot up. “What! No way. You don’t even know if she’s gay.”
Jaimey snorted. “I’ve seen the way she looks at you. Trust me, she’s gay. Or at least questioning her sexuality since she’s met you. Which is more than enough for me.”
My heart began to beat a little bit faster. Aashlyn liked me? Of course, this hadn’t been confirmed yet. It was all just by Jaimey’s word. But Jaimey was a trustworthy person, and she did know Aashlyn better than pretty much anyone else.
“Didn’t you two go to the GSA meeting last night?” Jaimey pushed. “I mean, come on, Bails. Open your eyes. Her asking you to go must have some significance.”
I watched the ant scurry away towards my windowsill, triumphantly toting a small piece of cookie.
“Yeah, maybe. But what if she just wanted to go to check it out?”
“Then she could’ve gone to any other club meeting. But she hasn’t. She went to the GSA meeting. With you. This tells us two very important things. One; she knows that you’re gay and two; she thinks she might be, too.”
Jaimey’s way of thinking was completely irrational, risky, and a little insane. But I liked it. I started to smile a bit, and I looked up at her.
“Okay. Fine. I like her. So, what do you think I should do?”
Jaimey was positively glowing. “I think you should ask her to the party this Saturday.”
“Party? What party?” I definitely wasn’t much of a partier, but maybe Aashlyn was. My idea of romancing someone was going on a walk, or taking them out somewhere private, or making them dinner and then spending half the night sitting out under the stars, reading poetry. At least, that was what I had done with Becca. But maybe Aashlyn wasn’t that type.
Jaimey frowned. “You haven’t heard yet? Adam and Grace Ackles, those twins from school, are throwing a rager at their place Saturday night. All the classes- well, tenth and up,
and invited. No freshman, though.” Jaimey chuckled. “Adam told Trevor the other day that if any freshman show up, he’s got a wooden paddle just for them. Dazed and Confused style.”
“Jeez. That sounds like a lot of people. How are they going to pull that off?”
Jaimey smirked. “They live in the richy-rich part of town. You know- massive house, lots of private land. I guess their parents are pretty famous artists or something like that. They’re on an art tour in Europe, at least that’s what I’ve heard, and the twins have the house to themselves.”
“Ugh, that’s incredible.. I’d kill for an opportunity like that.”
“What kid wouldn’t? But look; I know that Aashlyn likes to dance and have a good time. Why don’t you ask her to go with you? Then you, Aashlyn, Trevor and I can all go together?”
I pursed my lips for a minute, considering. “I don’t know. Maybe.”
Jaimey sat up, indignant. “Maybe? Maybe!?” she screeched. “I’m trying to get you two together and all you can say is maybe?”
I started laughing at her expression. “Okay, alright. I’ll ask her, alright? Jeez.”
Jaimey smiled, taking a cookie from the carton and sliding back up to the top of my mattress. “That’s better.”
Chapter Twenty. Aashlyn.
I finished clipping in my extensions, checked to make sure that my liquid eyeliner had dried properly, and grabbed my bookbag just as my mother called for me again.
“Aashlyn! I’m leaving right now, so if you want a ride to school....”
“Coming, Mom!” I called, shutting my bedroom lights off and racing out of the house. My mom was sitting in the Mustang, and as I slid into the passenger’s side, it roared to life.
“Thanks again for the ride,” I said, buckling my seatbelt as we backed out of the driveway.
“No problem.” My mom looked extremely tired and worn out. She was pale, paler than usual, and there were deep bags under her eyes.
“Mom, are you okay?” I leaned forward, scrutinizing her. “You look absolutely awful.”
My mother sighed. “Oh, thanks very much,” she replied mildly. “And to answer your question, no. I think I’m getting a cold. I might have to leave work early today. I just don’t know if I have the energy to get through the whole day.”
“You should’ve stayed home to begin with,” I scolded her sternly. Sometimes I felt like I was the mother here.
She sighed again in response. “Well, I have to try.” She pulled the car over to the curb in front of school, and I undid my seatbelt and grabbed my book bag.
“Thanks for the ride, Mom. Feel better.”
“Thanks. I’ll text you and let you know how the rest of the day goes.”
“Okay. ’Bye.” I shut the door and joined the massive crowd of kids that were all pushing into the main entrance. Somehow, I let the crowd carry me to my locker. When you’re as small as I am, you don’t try to go against big crowds. You kind of have to just go with the flow.
I made it to first period just before the second bell rang, and slid into my seat next to Bailey. She was writing something down in her notebook, but closed it to look up and smile at me.
“Good morning,” she greeted me as I sat down.
“Morning. How was your night?”
“It went well. Jaimey came over and did some homework with me, and then I made dinner with Mom and went to sleep early.”
“That’s good. I wish I could’ve gone to sleep early.” I sighed. “I was up until about eleven last night, finishing this stupid short story.”
“Well, better on time and rushed than late and slow, right? Here, I’ll hand it in with mine if you want.” She pulled a small pile of papers, neatly stapled together, out of her binder and held her hand out for mine.
“Thanks.” I handed it to her and watched her walk up to the front of the classroom to deposit our stories into the homework basket. When she got back, she looked nervous.
“So, you asked me somewhere yesterday, and I went willingly, so I guess you kind of owe me,” she teased, with a playful smile.
I smiled back, feeling butterflies erupt in my tummy. “And what do I owe you?”
“A date.” She paused. “To that party this Saturday. That is, if you want to go,” she added quickly, blushing a little as she toyed with her binder.
A date? To a party? With Bailey? Holy crap!
“I-I’d love to,” I stammered, feeling myself turning pink as well. “Mom won’t care. When do you want to pick me up? Or do you want to meet somewhere? I could give you my address...or...or Jaimey could just show you, she’s been to my house a thousand times....” I was babbling. Shoot. “Sorry,” I said, and my face felt really hot. “Uhm. Yes. I would love to.”
She was grinning now. “Awesome. Uh, well I can’t drive yet. Maybe Trevor and Jaimey could pick us up.”
I smiled back at her. “I’ve got transportation covered, don’t worry. I’ll pick you up at your house at...well, what time does the party start?”
“Uhm, nine, I think.”
“So I’ll pick you up at your house around 8:30 and we’ll go from there.”
She smiled at me. “That sounds awesome. I can’t wait.”
I smiled back. The butterflies in my tummy were whirling around as though they were on a caffeine high. “Me, either.”
Chapter Twenty Two. Summer.
The room was spinning.
I lifted my head from the toilet bowl and gagged at the stench of my own vomit as I reached over to flush it away. My eyes were watering, my throat was raw, but, to my relief, my stomach was empty, and my size zero Hollister jeans felt perfectly loose on my hips.
I wiped my mouth and paused for a minute, listening carefully to make sure no one else was in the school bathroom. All I heard was dead silence, so I unlocked the stall door and went to the sink to wash my hands.
To be honest, I felt ashamed. I had never made myself throw up anywhere but home before today. But I had just had a piece of pizza for lunch and I felt completely disgusting after eating it, especially from the looks that Keisha, Katrina and Molly gave me while I was eating. Why did I always have to feel so guilty for being hungry? I dried my hands off on a paper towel, tossed it in the trash, and let my hair out of its ponytail. It cascaded down my shoulders and back, shining under the dull florescent lighting. From a distance, I knew that I looked like any other teenage girl. But up close, I realized, as I examined myself closely in the mirror, I looked awful. My face was too thin; there were dark shadows under my eyes, which were watering; and I looked exhausted, which I was.
myself.I really wasn’t sure how much more of this I could take, but I didn’t know how to stop
I opened the bathroom door, preparing to head back to the cafeteria, and ran straight into someone. Painfully. Our heads collided, and we both shrieked in pain.
“Ow!” I yelled. “Watch it, you jackass!”
“Sorry! I’m sorry!” The guy yelped, and his voice sounded so familiar. ”Are you okay?”
I looked up, rubbing my head gently.
And started laughing.
“Trev!” I giggled, reaching to hug him. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize it was you I was yelling at.”
He returned the hug, chuckling apologetically. “I’m sorry, Summ. How’s your head?”
“It’s fine. How’s yours?”
“It hurts, but then again, it always does.” He grinned. “I call it Teenage Boy Syndrome.”
I giggled again. “How do you like junior year so far?”
“It’s fine. A little boring. I really hate having to wake up so early, though.”
“Mmm,” I agreed. “10 more months and we’ll have a nice, long, two-month break.” I sighed. “Although I wish it were longer than that.” I could talk to him so easily. And be myself. Why couldn’t I do that around Molly, Keisha and Katrina?
Because they’re dumb snobs that you’re using just to survive high school. Duh.
“Yeah, I can’t wait.” Trevor ran a hand through his dark hair and glanced over his shoulder, suddenly remembering something. “So, uh, look, I’d better go. Text me later, alright?”
“Okay. Bye, Trev.” I watched him start to jog down the hallway. “Hey, wait,” I called after him, paying no attention to the multiple classes I must’ve been disturbing. “Are you going to the party Saturday?”
gone. “Yeah!” He called back. “With Jaimey. Maybe we’ll see you there.” With a wave, he was
Jaimey. Freaking Jaimey.
Feeling dejected, I turned and slunk down the hallway myself, back to the cafeteria to sit with the girls again and pretend that I was an overly confident mean girl like the rest of them. But it wasn’t pretending, really. It was what I had to be.
One thing I knew for sure; date or not to the party Saturday, I was going to look hot.
I was going to show Trevor what he could have, if only he ditched that stupid little rat of his.
Chapter Twenty Three.. Jaimey.
This week seriously could not be going by any slower. I wanted it to be Saturday, already, so that Aashlyn and Bailey could go on their date, realize that they were perfect for each other and live happily ever after. I mentioned this to Trevor Thursday after school, as we sat in his sunny living room together, going over math homework and watching his little brother, Drake, play Xbox.
“Give it time, babe,” he replied in a monotone voice, distracted by his homework. “Everything will work out as it’s supposed to. You can’t force them into love.”
“Oh, yes I can!” I replied, a bit louder than I’d intended. We both laughed a little. “I just want them both to be happy,” I continued. “They would be so cute together.”
“Says you,” Trevor replied, closing his books and setting them to the side. “You don’t know what the rest of the school....and town, for that matter, will have to say about another gay couple. Remember the crap everyone put Willow and Tori through last year?”
I shook my head, refusing to think anything negative. “Exactly. They had to go through all that nonsense last year and then everyone just kind of got over it. Maybe a new gay couple wouldn’t be that big of a deal if they’re all so used to it now.”
Trevor gave me a look that I ignored, and then sighed. “Just be careful,” he said. “Don’t rush anyone into anything uncertain.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I muttered impatiently, then reached forward, plucked the two extra cordless controllers from the coffee table and tossed him one. “Now let’s kill some zombies!”
“You’re on!” Trevor laughed. With the blood and guts and chainsaws that followed, I forgot all about worrying over small town prejudices.
Chapter Twenty Four. Bailey.
On Saturday, I woke at one in the afternoon, with nerves so bad that I laughed at myself. I was getting so excited about this stupid party date that I was shaking. I got out of bed, pushed my hair out of my eyes, and went out to the kitchen.
Mom was sitting at the kitchen table, typing away on her laptop.
“Morning, baby,” she greeted me, barely glancing up at me. Her lipstick-stained coffee mug, the white one with the little rainbow fish printed all over it, sat next to her laptop. Her eyes were bloodshot and tired. “How’d you sleep?”
“Apparently not as well as you did,” I quipped, putting new coffee and water into the coffee maker and starting it up. “Seriously, Mom, this whole writing thing is great- but not if it’s keeping you from sleeping. That’s really not healthy.”
“I know,” she responded in a monotone voice, not even taking her eyes off the screen, “I really should take better care of myself.”
“But you won’t.” I put a couple pieces of bread into the toaster and sat down at the table with her. “What’s this one about, again?”
“A teenage girl who is pregnant, and the father died only about a month after she got pregnant, and her mother hates her now,” my mom replied absently, still typing away, her eyes glued to the screen.
“My fans aren’t looking for happiness, hon, they’re looking for drama and angst.”
“Good point.” My toast popped, and I got up to put the pieces on a paper plate. I added peanut butter to them, filled a large mug with coffee, creamer and sugar, and turned back to my mom. “Well, I’m going to go pick out clothes for tonight. So...”
“For the party, right? Okay. What time will you be leaving and what time will you be back?” Even while distracted, my mother was a good mother.
I smiled and took a bite of my toast. “Aashlyn is picking me up at 8:30...ish. I’m not sure when the party is going to be over, though.”
She glanced up at me. “I want you home by one thirty at the latest.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Extending my curfew, huh?”
“Well, you’re in high school now. Besides, it’s not like anything bad could happen to you here. This is such a small town.”
I snorted. She was right. As far as I was concerned, the most dangerous thing I had to fear in such a small town was a rabid cat.
“Okay. Well, thanks, Mom.” I started to leave.
“Oh, and one more thing, while I’m thinking about it,” she added, finally pausing to look up at me. “I’m going out tonight around seven with Eliza and the girls from the book club.” She smiled. “Apparently, I have a fan club now.”
I started laughing. “That’s convenient. Well, have fun. And behave.”
“I could say the same to you!”
Chuckling, my mother went back to her story. I knew she’d probably be there, typing away, for the rest of the afternoon.
I went back to my room with my breakfast, setting it down on the desk as I powered up my laptop and logged in. While I waited for it to load, I dug through my closet for something to wear tonight.
There was a sharp knocking on my window.
I must’ve jumped about ten feet into the air before I whirled around to face my window. Jaimey was standing outside, grinning devilishly. I went to the window and opened it.
“And what in God’s name are you doing, exactly?” I asked, moving aside so that she could climb in.
“James Bond-ing my way into your house,” she replied, sounding surprised that I’d even asked her.
“Oh, of course. Why didn’t I think of that?” I asked sarcastically. “Mom,” I added, calling into the kitchen. “Jaimey just climbed in through my window. So, she’s here now.”
There was a long beat of silence from the kitchen. And then, “Are you serious?” “Hi, Andrea!” Jaimey called, answering for me.
The only reply we got was laughter.
“Okay! So!” Jaimey grinned and turned towards me, her hands clasped together as though she were on a mission. “We need to find you a sexy outfit to wear tonight so that Aashlyn will simply melt at the sight of you. What do you have for me to work with?” Without asking, she dove into my closet and began riffling through things busily.
“Uhmm....” I shook my head and decided to just trust Jaimey with whatever she wanted to do. I sat down at my desk to finish eating and check my Facebook.
I had a couple new notifications from friends; both from school and from back home in Manhattan. I had a new message in my Facebook from Becca, asking how things were going
and telling me, again, that she missed me. Guilt washed over me. I hadn’t really talked to Becca much since school had started, not because I was trying to avoid her but because things had been so busy for me, and I’d just assumed that they were for her as well. I wrote back in a light, cheerful tone, telling her about my new friends, funny teachers, and my favorite and least favorite classes, while Jaimey continued to dig around in my closet. After about fifteen minutes, just as I had finished up the reply and was hitting send, Jaimey emerged from my closet with her arms full of clothes.
“Bails,” she said to me, her voice full of authority, “take off your pants.” I choked on my coffee.
“Uh- what?” I spluttered between gasps. Jaimey hurried over to pound on my back.
“Take off your pants,” she said once I’d caught my breath, as if the answer were obvious. “You need to model these clothes for me.”
I shrugged and stood up, shedding my sweatpants and tank top. In front of anyone else, I’d feel uncomfortable in just boxers and a sports bra, but it was Jaimey, so I wasn’t bothered. She tossed me a pair of dark skinny jeans first, which I slipped into and buttoned, and then she handed me a black pullover. I yanked it on, mussing my hair as I went, and looked at her. She frowned, as if something was wrong.
“What?” I asked.
She shook her head. “Too much black. Here...”
She yanked the black pullover back over my head, and replaced it with an olive green one. “That’s a bit better....” She went back to my closet, digging around a bit, and returned once more with a dark gray beanie, which she tugged on over my hair, my black faux leather jacket, which I had to put on, and my dark gray Converse.
“There,” she said when I was completely dressed. She sounded very satisfied with her work. “Perfection. You look good, Bails - really good.”
I smiled self-consciously and turned to the mirror, checking myself out. She was right, I did look pretty good. My hazel eyes were bright against the green and the grays of my clothes, and I wasn’t even wearing any makeup. I wondered if Aashlyn would like what I looked like.
“Aashlyn is going to attack you when she sees you dressed like that,” Jaimey observed, looking at me with a happy smile. “You look fantastic.”
“Thanks, Jaimey. You’re a genius.”
“I know,” she said, beaming, then glanced around. “I’m bored. Wanna come over and help me pick out what to wear?”
I shrugged. “Sure.” I glanced at the clock. It was only 1:45. “We have a lot of time to kill.”
We spent the next two hours next door, locked up in Jaimey’s room, dancing around to music from her iPod Touch and picking out about fifty different outfits. I hadn’t dressed girlishly in years, and I was really out of practice. I made her try on long, tie-dyed skirts and blouses and tank tops and jeans, and the amount of makeup I tested on her face was truly ridiculous. Finally, after two hours of hysterical laughter and bickering, we settled on a short, glittery,
strapless blue dress that stopped mid-thigh and hugged her thin body in all the right places. She decided to straighten her hair and wear it in a messy updo, and added black stiletto ankle boots. She dug through her makeup for another half an hour before settling for silver glitter mascara and black liquid eyeliner, and by then it was nearly 4 p.m.
“Go home, take a shower and get dressed,” she instructed me, shoving all of her clothes from the floor back into her closet and forcing the double doors shut. “You might want to eat an early dinner, too, because I doubt they’ll be serving any food. I’ll call you when Trevor picks me up, alright?” I nodded. “Do you know how Aashlyn’s picking you up yet?”
“Nah. She said it was going to be a surprise.” Thinking about Aashlyn picking me up to go on a date made me begin to shake again. I brushed the thoughts away with a shake of my head, and headed for the door. “Have fun getting ready. I’ll see you there.”
“Bye, Bails!” she called, already heading into the adjoining bathroom, loaded down with hair products and towels. “See you later!”
I said goodbye to Eliza and headed out the front door, back to my house. I needed to shower, fix my hair, and eat, and then I was going to sit down and try to get some homework down with whatever time I had left before 8:30. I was nervous beyond all reason, and then only thing I could think of that would keep me distracted was homework. So as soon as I was ready, I was going to crack open my history book and read a couple chapters. Hopefully that would do the trick.
Chapter Twenty Four. Keisha.
I turned off the water, wrapped my hair up in a towel, then wrapped a second towel around my body, and stepped out of the shower. Music blasted through my steamy bathroom and I wiped the mirror clean so I could see myself clearly. My outfit- a Marc by Marc Jacobs Polka Dot Dress, and Calvin Klein Pretty Pumps heels- were waiting on the counter for me. I turned on my hair dryer and began to comb out my long, dark hair. My hair curler was plugged in and warming up. I was ready to look fabulous, as always.
After I finished blow-drying my hair, I picked up my new iPhone 5- courteousy of Mama and Daddy- and checked my text messages. I had asked Molly to do some hunting around and find out who was going to the party tonight, and to text me the guest list.
First rule of being in charge- always know what you’re about to walk into.
The list was long, mostly names of unimportant people. I rolled my eyes and tossed my phone on my bed, then turned to my makeup stand and looked over my Urban Decay collection. Mama had bought me nearly the entire line. Katrina had once commented that my makeup stand resembled the cosmetics aisle at Kinney.
She was right.
I had just started applying some of my Urban Decay Heavy Metal glitter eyeliner in Metal Head when my phone vibrated again.
I huffed and slammed the tube of eyeliner down. What now? Molly: Scene Freak and her crowd r going.
Keisha: Who would even invite them??
Molly: Idk. So dumb.
Keisha: We’ll find a way to have some fun, don’t worry. Molly: (:
Chapter Twenty Five. Trevor.
I jumped out of the shower and shook my hair dry like a dog. Then I pulled on my usual dark jeans, and a black short sleeved tee. I was looking a little scruffy but I was too lazy to shave, so I crammed my feet into socks and my black and white checkered Vans (the ones that Jaimey had gotten me for my sixteenth birthday, so that we’d match), and checked the time. It was already 8:27, and I still had to pick Babe up from her house, and then go and get John and his girl, Erin, from John’s house. As always, I was running late. I groaned, grabbed my wallet and my keys, and left the house.
Chapter Twenty Six. Summer.
I slipped into my bright green tube dress and pink high heels, then changed my mind and switched to a pair of black pumps. My hair looked more blonde than ever, since I had just spent two hours at the salon getting crazy expensive highlights put in. It was straight and shiny and soft as silk, falling just between my shoulder blades. My makeup was simple and sophisticated; black eyeliner and thick, fake eyelashes. My legs were freshly waxed, my eyebrows were neatly plucked, my stomach was emptier than ever, and I was ready to get boozed out of my mind.
I was sitting on my bed, gazing at my reflection and trying to find something to hate about my outfit, as any other insecure teenage girl would do. But I looked great. And that made me feel pretty great.
My cell phone buzzed next to me, and I flipped it open. Keisha: R u rdy? We r here.
I got up, grabbed my purse, and click-clacked out of my room, down the hall, and down the winding staircase towards the front door. I was almost out safely, but then-
I turned slowly to face my mother, who was drinking a tall glass of bloodred wine and watching me leave.
She gave my outfit a skeptical look. “You’re wearing that out to your little...party?”
“Yes, Mother,” I replied through gritted teeth. Outside, Keisha beeped the horn of her Ferrari impatiently.
Mother smirked. “You look a little.....chunky. But, to each her own, eh? Have a wonderful evening.” She flashed me a nasty smile and drifted away.
I slammed the front door shut behind me. Confidence: terminated.
Chapter Twenty Seven. Jaimey.
At 8:45, I slipped into the passenger’s seat of Trevor’s car.
“You look so fine, Babe,” he told me, then shut my door and ran back around to his side of the car.
“You really think so?” I smoothed the bottom of the dress against my thighs and smiled at my reflection in the rearview mirror as we began to back out. “Bailey helped me pick this out. It took us quite a while, but...” I shrugged and looked at my reflection again. “It was definitely worth it.”
Trevor lifted my hand to his lips and kissed the knuckles gently. “It definitely was,” he agreed.
I smiled at him, and then leaned back in my seat, closing my eyes as we flew over the winding back roads. I looked great, Trevor looked great, we were headed to the first official party of the year, and Aashlyn and Bailey would be joining us soon, as a couple.
A date, my mind warning my imagination to not go into overdrive. Not a couple, not yet, at least.
Well, whatever. I had a feeling that something big was going to happen tonight. Something exciting.
Definitely something to talk about.
Chapter Twenty Eight.
Well, for one thing, I had read Chapter Three; The Bill of Rights four times in a row without once catching even a single word.
So much for that homework theory.
For another, Aashlyn was late. A good fifteen minutes late. It was 8:45, and I was pacing around my room nervously. Mom had left to go see her friends over an hour ago, and I was alone. What if she had forgotten? What if she’d stood me up? What if...?
For the second time that day, a sharp rapping on my window made me jump. I whirled toward my window, but by now it was too dark to see who was standing outside. Cautiously, I walked to the window, cupped my hands around my eyes, and peered out.
Aashlyn stood grinning as widely as a Cheshire cat below me.
I slid the window up and helped her inside. “Jeez, what is it with people climbing in through my window today?!” I demanded. Aashlyn started laughing.
“I felt like being sneaky,” she said, giving me another wide grin as she crawled in through the window and then glanced around my room.
“Well, you did a good job, then,” I replied, then wondered if that sounded super lame or if I was just being insecure.
Aashlyn flashed me a grin, then frowned, tilting her head to the side. “Wait, I wasn’t the only one to try that? Then who...”
I raised an eyebrow and just looked at her, letting her figure it out.
She stood there looking confused for just a split second, then nodded to herself. “Jaimey.”
Aashlyn shook her head, laughing. “She would. Of course she would. Hi, Andrea,” she added, calling towards the kitchen.
I slid my window shut.
“My mom’s not here. She went out drinking with Jaimey’s mom and the rest of her book club. As it turns out, they’ve all read, like, twenty of her books. She’s got her own little fanclub right next door now.”
She started laughing again. “I wish I had people who adored me like that!” She grinned.
I adore you like that, I wanted to shout, but rationality stopped me.
Cheesy, I know.
Now, now, Bailey- don’t start acting weird on the very first date. You don’t want to chase this one away.
“Me, too,” I replied. There was a brief pause as we both smiled shyly at each other. “So!” Aashlyn said suddenly. “How do I look?” She twirled a bit to show me her outfit.
For the first time since she’d climbed in through my window, I got a good look at her. She looked fantastic. Her real hair, the white blonde hair, had been teased out into enormous layers, even bigger than usual. Her black extensions were sleekly straightened and shining, falling against her black corset top. A least ten multicolored glow bracelets were stacked over each tiny forearm. Over her bare legs hung a skimpy bright tutu. Knee high, black leather boots completed the outfit.
She looked sexy. Even more so than usual.
“Wow,” was all I could manage to say.
She blushed. “Wow in a good way, or wow in a bad way?”
“In a good way,” I assured her.
She beamed. “Thanks. You look awesome, yourself,” she added, gazing at what I was wearing.
I smiled, too. “Thanks. So are you going to show me what you meant about getting to the party with a surprise? ’Cause I’m not gonna lie, it’s been making me nervous.”
She laughed and grabbed my hand.
“Come on, then. I’ll show you.” She pulled me through the house and out the front door, into the chilly darkness.
I turned to shut and lock the door behind me as she skipped down the steps. Then I turned around and looked to see what she was hiding.
My jaw dropped.
Ms. Capers’s beloved 1967 Mustang was gleaming in my driveway.
And standing next to it was a smirking Aashlyn, twirling the keys around one finger. “Surprise,” she sang in her sweet, clear, soprano voice.
I made my way slowly to the car. “Your mom,” I choked out, “is going to kill you.” Aashlyn tossed the concern away with a shake of her head.
“Nah,” she replied easily. “My mom has a really bad cold. She’s taking Nyquil, and every other sleep-inducing cold medication known to man. She hasn’t left her room in three days. I doubt she even knows where I am right now.”
I opened the passenger’s side door, and slipped in, onto the cool leather interior. She got into the driver’s seat smoothly, looking confident and excited as she revved the car to life.
“I didn’t know you were allowed to drive at fifteen, here,” I commented, buckling my seatbelt.
She grinned as she adjusted the rearview mirror and began backing out. “I never said I was allowed to.”
Chapter Twenty Nine.
“Come on, Summer!” Molly shouted over the music, and grabbed my hand in attempt to make me dance with her, Katrina and Keisha, who were all shaking booty and grinding beside me, their drinks sloshing over the edges of their red plastic cups and spilling all over my shoes.
I had come here for only two reasons; to make Trevor want me, and to get trashed. I hadn’t come here to dance with my girls or flirt with boys.
Well, not just any boy, anyway. Just Trevor.
So I downed the rest of my blue raspberry Four Loco in one gulp, shaking myself free of Molly, and headed back to the bar.
The main party was being held in the Ackles house’s huge basement. Mr. Ackles, Grace and Adam’s father, had had a huge, cherry wood bar installed in the right hand corner of the basement when they’d bought the house earlier this year. It had beer advertisements and light signs, just like an actual bar, and had pretty much every drink known to man behind it. Besides that were all the bottles of alcohol that everyone had brought in case there wasn’t enough to begin with.
It was Booze Heaven.
I sat down on one of the cushioned stools in front of the bar, and watched Adam Ackles get his twin sister and her friends their drinks. Grace Ackles, with her dyed, bright red pixie cut and laughing hazel eyes, smiled at me and waved, dancing her way over.
“Heyyyy, thanks for coming!” She shouted over the music, leaning over to hug me. A Twisted Tea sat full and open in one hand, and with her free hand she grabbed my chin and planted a kiss on either side of my face. Grace had studied abroad in France last year, then returned to Peru High School, and she still used some of the customs that she’d picked up over there. It was both irritating and absolutely irresistible.
“Heyyyy,” I replied. “Thanks for having me.”
She nodded and smiled, even though I knew she couldn’t hear a single thing that I was saying over the guttural beats that were blasting from the speakers across the room.
“Well, see you later! Have fun!” She called, and danced away with all of her friends, mostly juniors that I didn’t waste my time socializing with. Grace was cool, but she was always so nice to everyone. It would’ve cramped my style.
I watched them leave, then turned and faced Adam, who was walking towards me, a friendly smile on his face. He leaned over so that he was so close to my face, I thought he was going to kiss me and froze, unsure of what to expect, but then he turned his head to the side of mine and spoke in my ear so that I could hear him.
“What’s your poison?” he asked in a playful tone.
I handed him my cup and turned to speak in his ear. “Rum and Coke,” I replied. “And did you really have to use that tired old line?”
He pulled away, grinning sheepishly, and took my cup. “Sorry,” he called. “I guess it just makes me feel cool.”
On any other day, I would’ve seen that he was flirting with me, and I would’ve flirted back. But right now I just wanted to get really drunk. I felt fat and insecure in my skimpy outfit, thanks to my mother, I felt sick because I hadn’t eaten in over twelve hours, and Trevor wasn’t around yet. I really just wanted to drink until my feel-good buzz returned, and then go try to make out with Trevor.
Adam kept trying to talk to me, but I kept my eyes on my drink, which was now full and in his hand. He saw where I was staring and handed me the cup, and I nodded my thanks to him and hopped down from the stool to leave. I could hear him calling me but pretended not to hear, and began to head back into the crowd. Unfortunately, he came from around the bar and ran to catch up with me, tapping me on the shoulder. Hiding a grimace, I turned back around.
He spoke in my ear again. “Sorry to bother you, but I’m pretty sure my sister’s friend is going to take over the bartending in about an hour,” he told me. “So, save me a dance?”
I briefly considered saying yes. Adam had a lot of potential. He was cute, with thick dark curls, blue eyes and full red lips, and he was clad from head to toe in pricey Hollister. I could always say screw the plan, and instead help him bartend until his shift was over, then drink and dance the night away with him.
But the only boy I wanted to dance with was Trevor. And I just as I turned to glance around the room, I saw him walk in, looking mysterious and scruffy and sexy...with one arm firmly wrapped around her waist.
And that, above all else, made me angry.
So, instead, I gave Adam my sweetest smile, and then leaned in to talk in his ear.
“Sorry, I can’t,” I replied apologetically. “I’m pretty sure that I’m going to be heading out soon anyway. But listen; let me give you my cell number.”
“Sure thing.” He dashed back to the bar, found a pen, and hurried it back to me. I smiled sweetly again, uncapped the pen, and scribbled a fake phone number onto his deeply tanned forearm. To top off my performance, before I handed the pen back to him, I gave him a kiss on the cheek, then glided away delicately, leaving him speechless.
When in doubt, be fake. It’s uncommonly rewarding.
Chapter Thirty. Aashlyn.
I honestly thought that driving to the party in my mother’s “borrowed” 1967 Mustang would cause me to have a severe panic attack. But strangely enough, I didn’t. I drove carefully, got to the party safely, and all the while managed to talk and joke and laugh with Bailey, who was sitting only inches from me, looking better than ever.
When we got to the house, I parked in the driveway, because I didn’t have enough practice to try parallel parking yet. I cut the engine and sat there for a minute, collecting myself, because I was about to do something very risky and I wasn’t sure if I could handle it. I looked up to see Bailey watching me, a smile curling her lips.
“Ready to go party?” She inquired.
I smiled back at her. “You bet.”
We opened our doors and stepped out onto the dark pavement, gazing at the huge house in front of us. Every light in the house was on and music was pumping loudly from every floor. There were kids in the garage, kids on the porch, and kids on the lawn. One kid was throwing up noisily in the bushes on the right side of the house.
I shut my door, and then Bailey shut hers, and began walking toward the house.
“Wait,” I told her, and she paused, looking back at me expectantly. Without thinking, I took a deep breath and hurried up to her, then stood on my tiptoes and very gently, very cautiously, kissed her.
She tasted warm and familiar, like chocolate chip cookies or especially sweet coffee. Surprised, she returned the kiss, putting both hands on either side of my waist and pressing me against her. After about twenty seconds I broke away and took in a deep breath, then smiled up at her. “I’ve kinda been wanting to do that for a couple weeks,” I whispered, reaching up to touch her smiling lips.
She kissed me once more, a gentle, sweet kiss.
“I’m glad you did,” she replied. We smiled at each other for a few more seconds, and then I took her hand.
“Let’s go party!” I cheered.
Chapter Thirty One. Jaimey.
I was so busy dancing with Trevor that I forgot to check my phone. Or rather, I was dancing, and trying to make him dance, but he was too shy to. So he stood there, mostly with his hands in his pockets, smiling and laughing as he watched me twirl and skip and boogey around to the beat. When the song finally ended, and the hired DJ was picking out a new track, I stopped to catch my breath and check my cell phone. Trevor kissed the top of my head. “I’m going to go get us some drinks,” he said. “What do you want?”
“Just Pepsi,” I replied immediately. I wasn’t a big fan of drinking. Besides, Trevor was driving home, and if he had to stay sober, I certainly wasn’t going to make him sit there and watch while I drank.
Trevor nodded, smiling at me, and disappeared into the crowd. I pulled my cell phone out, flipped it open, and checked my texts. Bailey had texted me. So had Aashlyn. I checked Bailey’s first.
Bailey: We r here!
Jaimey: Ok! We r downstairs by the bar. Come dance!!
Then I opened Aashlyn’s text.
Aashlyn: Wow. Best night ever so far. WE KISSED!!!!!! <3
Jaimey: NO WAY?!?!?! Get down here and dance with me, girl!!! Xoxo!
A new song came on then and I began to dance wildly be myself. They had kissed! So they did really like each other! I had succeeded in putting them together. And it was about darn time, too.
By the time Trevor found me again, I was sweating like crazy, twirling and shimmying to the end of the song. He laughed and handed me my drink, then looked up and smiled at someone over the top of my head. I followed his gaze.
It was Summer.
She was standing off to the edge of the crowd across the room, smiling shyly and waving to Trevor. She looked really good. When I turned and waved to her, though, her face hardened and she glared at me before disappearing back into the crowd. I shrugged and began to dance again, and then someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned and found myself face to face with Aashlyn and Bailey, who were both smiling happily and holding their own cups of soda (neither of them were fans of drinking, either). I gave them both one-armed hugs, and we all began to goof around and dance as Trevor stood there and laughed at us.
I was in full party-mode on a dance floor at some rich family’s estate, twirling madly on some makeshift dance floor with my friends, while my boyfriend watched proudly.
Aashlyn was right. Tonight was the best night ever.
Chapter Thirty Two. Summer.
Screw Jaimey, I thought miserably, as I slipped out the front door and went to sit alone at a corner of the wraparound porch, wrapping my arms around my knees. Who did she think she was, anyway? Waving and smiling at me like that. Conceited little brat. I took a bigger gulp of my Rum & Coke, and felt it go straight to my head. I felt a little dizzy and foolish, but my buzz was getting stronger, pushing the more self-focused negative feelings off to the side and leaving more room for my Jaimey-hatred. The fact that she was dating the boy of my dreams was really starting to get to me, but it wasn’t like I could sabotage her. It would put my friendship with Trevor on the line, and as angry as I was that he wasn’t mine, I wasn’t willing to risk losing him completely just to hurt Jaimey.
A few kids were talking loudly just a couple feet away, and their conversation pulled me out of my sulking. I heard Aashlyn’s name and listened intently.
“You can’t be serious...”
“Swear to God. My cousin Greg just seen them do it.” “No way...”
“Okay, the new girl, I could see that. But Aashlyn?”
“They really did! Ask anyone! Half the kids here saw it!” I heard a very drunk Keisha howl. I got up and hurried around the corner, and saw Molly, Katrina, and Keisha, all completely plastered, sitting with a bunch of kids, laughing wildly.
“What’s going on?” I demanded, sitting down beside Molly.
“Girl, you will never guess,” Keisha cried out to me, gulping some more Jack Daniels straight from the bottle. “Bailey and Aashlyn are dykes!”
“No way!” I exclaimed in disbelief. “Says who?!”
“Ask anyone. They showed up in that fine black Mustang over there and had a make-out session in the driveway before they walked in,” insisted one boy with a shaved head. The moonlight glinted off his nearly-bare scalp and his face twisted into a scowl. “It was digusting.”
“Wow,” I muttered, finishing up my drink. I was most definitely drunk now. “More lesbians at our school. Unbelievable.”
“This crap needs to end,” another girl with long red hair agreed. “It’s getting out of hand!”
“I don’t know about ya’ll, ladies and gentlemen,” the skinhead boy announced, “but I say we teach those dykes a lesson.”
“What kind of lesson?” Tittered Katrina, wiggling into the lap of a football player.
The skinhead boy grinned in response. “I think I saw some spray paint in a closet,” he said. “And I know for a fact that Adam’s got a real nice baseball bat up in his bedroom closet....”
Finally, I had found the outlet for my Jaimey-rage. I took the bottle of Jack Daniels from Keisha and took a good solid swig, and then leaned forward towards the rest of the kids I was with, and began to plan.
Chapter Thirty Three. Jaimey.
We had been down in the basement for more than an hour, having a great time, laughing and dancing, when suddenly, some random girl with short blonde hair, purple eye contacts, and a worried expression came running downstairs and shoved past us, to the DJ, and made him stop playing the music. The room was quiet, and then conversation buzzed quietly throughout the room.
“Did someone call the cops?” I heard someone ask.
“Are their parents home?” Someone else demanded.
“Maybe someone has alcohol poisoning,” one girl standing a few feet behind me said in a worried tone. I looked up at Trevor for reassurance, but he was looking over at the girl at the DJ booth, his expression furrowed as he tried to read their lips.
“Anything?” I asked him, but he shook his head and shrugged.
“No clue,” he replied. “But no one’s yelling for us to run, so I’m guessing that means this doesn’t involve the cops or their parents.”
I nodded and glanced at Aashlyn and Bailey, who were standing hand in hand together. Both only drinking soda; We were really into the idea of good, clean fun. Aashlyn was always saying that if you need alcohol to have a good time, you must be pathetic. Just then, then DJ picked up the microphone, looking a little awkward.
“Uh, sorry to interrupt, guys, but....the owner of the black Mustang was asked to come upstairs....there seems to have been an accident.”
My heart dropped into my stomach. The black 1967 Mustang....was Aashlyn’s mom’s car.
I looked over to see Bailey and Aashlyn already running up the basement steps, their expressions frantic.
“Oh, no,” I muttered, and tugged on Trevor’s hand. We followed them up the stairs, through the kitchen, out the front door, off the porch, and into the driveway.
The first thing we heard was Aashlyn’s shriek of horror.
The headlights had been smashed in. The windows were spray-painted and broken. Someone had carved the word “dyke” into the hood of the car with deep, angry key scratches.
Aashlyn started to sob. “Oh no oh no oh no oh no. My mom, my mom....” She babbled. Bailey reached to comfort her, looking back at us with an expression of shock, anger, and complete disbelief.
There was no one else standing around the car. Only kids on the lawn, the porch, peering through the windows and the front door. Some people looked horrified; some people were laughing and pointing.
“Dykes!” someone shouted from a second floor window.
I knew that they weren’t addressing me, but anger pounded through me when I heard that word.
I swear I saw red.
I spun around to face the porch, the house, the driveway, all of them.
“Who did this?” I shouted. “You cowards! Step forward, right now! Fight me! Come on, do it!”
No one came forward. Everyone was still and silent now, staring at us.
Aashlyn was crying harder. Bailey was shielding her. Suddenly, Trevor was gently pulling me towards them, and pulling us all into his car.
“Come on,” he muttered. “We need to get you guys out of here.” “But the car...” Bailey started.
“Leave it. I’ll come back for it later.”
“But her mom...”
“Bailey. Now.” Trevor nodded towards Aashlyn and jerked his head toward the truck. “ We’ll take care of it after we get her out of here.”
Bailey pressed her lips together and nodded, then helped Aashlyn, who was still bawling, into the backseat of Trevor’s car. I wasn’t sure when I’d stopped screaming, but I wrenched my door open and turned to gaze defiantly at all the kids watching us. I gave the crowd the dirtiest, most warning look that I could and dropped into the car, slamming the door behind me so hard that I’m surprised the glass didn’t shatter.
“Everyone’s got their seatbelts on?” Trevor asked hoarsely.
Bailey put hers and Aashlyn’s on, and I had mine on, and I nodded.
“Let’s just go.”
Chapter Thirty Four. Bailey.
Prejudice is inexplicable.
Rage is tangible.
This was so wrong, so unbelievable. I had nothing to say.
Chapter Thirty Five. Trevor.
I lay in bed, staring at the ceiling. I couldn’t sleep. There was too much to think about, too much to consider. I hated to say it, but I should have seen something like this coming. I had been so freaking dumb to even entertain the thought that maybe things would be okay if Aash and Bailey got together. I should have at least given them some warning, some heads-up that being together publicly could be risky for them. After everything that had happened to Will and Tori last year, I should have known better. Guilt ripped through me. I hadn’t warned them. Bailey was my friend. Aash was my cousin. I was supposed to protect them.
I had failed.
And there was no way that Jaimey was going to let this go.
She wasn’t angry with me, oh no; but I had seen her face tonight. I knew that look, and I knew that Jaimey took her friendships with Aash and Bailey very seriously. They were family in her eyes, just as they were in mine. But so far as temper went, Jaimey had a very short one. She had always reacted to things, good or bad, impulsively. And tonight, someone had really hurt our friends. I knew my girlfriend. I knew that she was going to hold on to the anger that I had seen on her face tonight, and I knew that she was going to try to find out who had done this and make them pay, no matter what the cost. Even if it was at her own expense. I didn’t blame her for that, but at the same time, I didn’t want to see anything bad happen to her. Enough pain had been caused to our group tonight to last what felt like a lifetime.
I’m a dude, so it was hard to admit this, even to myself, but I was scared. For Jaimey, for Bailey, for Aash. I was pissed, because I felt helpless. I hadn’t helped my friends tonight. I hadn’t prevented this.
at us? This was only the first few weeks of sophomore year. What else was going to be thrown
Chapter Thirty Six. Jaimey.
Sweat dripped from my face, poured like a river down my stomach and between my shoulder blades. My entire body burned; my muscles burned from my exertion; but the inside of my body felt like it was literally on fire. I kept swinging at the punching bag, as I had been for the past forty-five minutes, but the fire kept building. All I could see was Aashlyn’s tear- streaked face; Bailey’s desolate expression when we had dropped Aashlyn off. Aashlyn’s mother had held it together until we turned to leave and then front door had shut behind us, and then the screaming started. Words like “worthless” and “stupid” had passed, muffled, through the door, and Aashlyn’s sobbing had been loud, guilt-ridden.
Bailey had tried to turn back, open the front door up, her eyes desperate, but Trevor had grabbed her arm gently and tugged her towards his car. “It will only make things worse for her,” he had said. “Trust me, I know my aunt.”
I couldn’t remember a time where I’d ever felt so angry. I turned, lifted my leg, and executed a side-kick to the punching bag that sent it careening, swinging wildly on it’s chain.
Whoever did this was going to pay dearly.
Chapter Thirty Seven.
I can’t remember who drove us home.
All I knew was that I had left my car at the Ackles’ house, but- unlike the dyke’s car- mine was safe.
Summer helped me stumble up the stairs to my bedroom, both of us giggling hysterically. Molly and Katrina hurried after us, glancing anxiously behind them for any sign of my parents. I considered telling them that even if my parents caught us right now, it wouldn’t be a big deal because they didn’t care if I drank. But it was kind of more fun to watch them get all nervous just walking up the stairs to my house. I giggled again and flopped down on my bed. Summer landed face-first next to me, and Katrina and Molly locked my bedroom door and settled down on the floor at our feet, like royal subjects.
Somehow, I found a way to sit up. The room was spinning and my head felt foggy. I realized Summer was grinning at me.
“Why’reyousmilingliketha?” I slurred, pushing her shoulder playfully. “Whassofunny?”
A laugh was bubbling up inside Summer. I could tell because she was making that face she made when she was trying really hard not to laugh, the face that made her look constipated.
We all waited, as Summer’s constipation face grew more and more pronounced on her face. Finally, laughter burst free from her mouth, and she buried her face in my covers. When she came up for air, she crowed, “They’re dykes!”
We all burst out laughing then. I was still so drunk that I couldn’t see straight; I was pretty sure that my girls were right up there with me. The room was spinning; I laid back again and laughed and laughed, gripping my stomach, rolling into Summer as she laughed just as hard beside me. They all probably thought I was laughing solely for the fact that we had probably just pulled off the best prank ever; but a big part of it was really- and this I would never admit to anyone- relief that we had brought those girls down a notch. I had to admit, the first few weeks of school had been pretty stressful because Scene Freak and her little group of friends had been getting pretty cocky. Well, not anymore. Not in my school.
I had warned them not to mess with me, but they had continued to. Bad things happened when I didn’t get my way.
I was just wondering how long it would take for everyone to realize that. Hopefully, this was a good start.
Chapter Thirty Eight. Aashlyn.
My mother took a swig of wine. Then another. Then another.
I sat, too afraid to move.
“Let me get this straight.” Her voice was shaking with barely-contained rage. “You went to a part where there was no supervision and underage drinking. You stole my car to get to this party. At this party, you left my car unattended, and then you let your very drunk, underage, very foolish peers trash my car.”
Slowly, I nodded. I wanted to argue. I did. I wanted to say that I had been very careful with the car. I wanted to say I had driven carefully, and refused to drink. I wanted to cry, and tell my mother I didn’t know what I had done wrong to make them hate me so much that they had destroyed my mother’s prized possession, and that I was afraid of the feelings I had for Bailey, because now I was forced to see that with those feelings came severe consequences.
How stupid of me to have actually though that it would be okay to fall in love with a girl...and not regret it.
“Okay. Okay.” My mother set her head down heavily in her hands for a long moment. All I could do was sit there and shake with fear and guilt. When she lifted her face again, she looked older, more haggard.
“You are grounded for six months. You will get a job to pay me back for what has been done for the car. You are not to come into contact with Bailey. I don’t know whether you are or aren’t...the...word that was carved into the hood of my Mustang, but at either rate, you are not to talk to this girl anymore. Obviously, she is a trouble maker.”
It was Sunday morning. I had been up all night, sobbing and explaining and apologizing to my mother frantically while she yelled and ranted. Bailey, Jaimey and Trevor had only stayed long enough to make sure I explained what happened, and Trevor had gone back to Adam and Grace’s after dropping the girls off to return my mother’s ruined car. She hadn’t said a single word to any of them.
Before my mother took my cell phone away, I got a text from Jaimey explaining that neither her nor Bailey’s moms were punishing them because they had had permission to be out at the party, but that Bailey was frantic to see if I was okay. I had sent a text asking Jaimey to tell Bailey everything would be fine and that I’d explain everything on Monday.
Now, my mother downed her third glass of wine and stared at me morosely. “What happened to you,” she said softly. “What happened to my little girl who never got in any trouble?”
I stared at her in horror. “Mom...” I began, as my eyes filled up again. She held up a tired hand and shook her head. “Go to your room.” The tears began to spill over. “But, Mom-!”
“Go. To. Your. Room.”
So I obeyed. I got up and ran to my room, trying not to sob. I shut and locked my door and threw myself across my bed, stuffing a corner of the blanket in my mouth so that my crying would be muffled.
I wanted to hug my mother and tell her how sorry I was.
I wanted to find the people who had done this to my mother’s car and punish them.
I wanted to thank Trevor and Jaimey for taking good care of me last night.
I wanted to hold Bailey and tell her that everything was going to be fine, that I cared about her and wanted to be with her no matter what.
But now, after last night, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to do any of those things. I guess I’d just have to wait and see.
To be continued in Colors, Book Two; Orange.