St. Liapa is a small-town. Not the smallest by any means, but small enough that everyone knows everyone, and their business included. The town had little roads that led nowhere and people that were going nowhere perpetually also. The only sort of fame the town got was from the Thyme Point National Park right next door. Every summer a couple hundred tourists came down with their big camper vans and decided to set up shop. The park has a giant lake good for swimming in, and local teenagers who weren’t old enough to buy beer yet hung out around the lake, guzzling alcohol and taking part in the horizontal tango within the trees.
Unfortunately, I had never been invited. If I did, I know I would have certainly not taken part in the festivities. I had only been drunk once in my life, my mom as witness and I had no urge to get plastered and fumble around with a random in the dark, hoping eventually one of us would find a zipper.
I was more of a stay home and smoke cigarettes out of my bedroom window, making sure my mom didn’t know, type of girl. The bedroom smoking was becoming a problem. I could walk the streets and smoke my life away but I’m sure one of the hundreds of people who knew my mom would go back and tattle and I wasn’t ready for a death sentence just yet.
I had lived in St. Liapa my whole life, never gone further than the old, boarded-up Sierra Motel on GateAcre Road. Our town had a skill in choosing strange names for places. The whole of St. Liapa was strange in all honesty.
“Annie! Can you come help me with the decorations!?”
I rolled my eyes in annoyance. My mother had been pulling in decorations all afternoon, getting ready for my upcoming 16th birthday. I’m not sure what all the fuss was about, every other year she couldn’t have cared less about it, but this year she was all gung-ho about me having a ‘big birthday bash’. She’d invited tons of family members, from forgotten cousins to nosy Aunts and I was dreading all of it.
I quickly blew out the last of my cigarette and flung it out my window, making sure to flap away the smoke before I closed it. It was a miracle my mother hadn’t discovered it yet; she was perceptive about things usually.
As I made my way downstairs, I couldn’t help but groan in embarrassment. Pink balloons gathered in the hallway, already blow up with helium and banners adorning ‘Happy sixteenth’ lay on the hallway table.
“Mom, you can’t be serious?”
Mother was standing in the kitchen, ticking off things in a tiny, black notebook that she had been fairly obsessed with the last few weeks.
“What? Oh, come on Annie, your sixteenth birthday is very important. Especially to me”
“I don’t understand why though, none of my other birthdays have interested you this much”
“Well, now I’m making up for it. Now, can you be helpful and go bring in the rest of the balloons?”
I turned to the front door and noticed around ten more pink balloons, all just sitting there, mocking me. I didn’t even like pink.
“So, your mom’s pretty excited huh?”
“Yep, bought pink balloons and everything”
After helping mother bring in the rest of her decorations, I thought of any excuse I could and got out of dodge. I rung the doorbell of my friend Bess and we ended up sitting on a bench outside the local diner. We weren’t planning to go in and eat, we didn’t have any money and we were pretty sure we weren’t welcome.
The Oak Diner had been a staple in St. Liapa since I was born. The diner had always been owned by the Barnes family, and you could say they weren’t my biggest fans. A few years ago, Bess and I ordered a burger and ran off without paying. Mother had found out, like I knew she would and both Bess and I ended up apologising. But it was pretty much known we were both effectively barred from the establishment. It didn’t bother me anyway, their burgers tasted like ass.
“Hey, Annie! You listening?”
I was brought back to reality by Bess shaking my arm and getting saliva from her screaming into my ear.
“Yeah, I’m listening”
Bess and I had been friends for as long as I could remember, always doing stupid shit and getting our reputations tarnished together. It was harder than you’d think, St. Liapa didn’t have a high reputation for people. She was a tall girl, standing near 6ft3, while I was a measly 5’8. I did make up for it in my personality though. Her hair was rarely combed through, shoved into some ridiculously high ponytail with constant knots. She always wore trainers and jeans, even in summer and spoke with a slight lisp.
“So, who’s been invited?”
If I did say so myself, I think Bess was excited about the clownish party mother was organising. She seemed giddy in her seat, holding onto the bench with her hands, her legs shaking below her.
“Just family members I think, and you of course”
“Sounds like it’s gonna be fun…oh god…look”
Bess’s giddiness ceased and she took on and overall meek tone, lowering herself down and pointing slightly towards the front of the diner.
When I followed her pointing, I understood why. The unmistakable presence of Beau Barnes stood 10 feet ahead of us, along with his whole motley crew.
The son of Alcott Barnes, the aforementioned owner of Oak Diner, and the biggest prick I had ever met. I had known him since age five and growing older did nothing for his personality. He always seemed to be standing around, douching it up in my vicinity.
The only positive was his looks. He was an attractive guy, standing even taller than Bess with wavy, dark hair and cool-grey eyes. He was popular too, I wouldn’t say the most popular, he was too much of a dick for that, but a lot of girls liked him. Bess and I were not included.
Beau always had a small group of lackeys at his side, girls and boys included, and they always hung out at the stupid diner.
Bess was pretty scared of the guy. He once spread a rumour that she was a hermaphrodite and her parents played rock-paper-scissors on what to raise her as. Bess tried to confront him about it but couldn’t get the words out properly with her lisp and all the nerves. Beau ended up mocking her for it and now Bess took on a nauseous green tinge if even his name was mentioned.
I wasn’t frightened of him myself. I just saw a walking kick-me sign I loved to irritate.
“You’re not gonna go up to him, are you Annie?”
“Hmmm, not today, I’m all wiped out from mommy-dearest this morning. I’d just be wasting oxygen; I’ll get him tomorrow”
“I don’t understand why you like annoying him so much. You know you’ll just get in trouble”
Ever since the hermaphrodite rumour sprang up, I had made it my personal mission to torment Beau into complete insanity. From slashing the tires on his car, to filling his backpack with used tampons and pads from the girl’s toilets. I got creative with my efforts.
“He deserves it Bess. Someone needs to bring him down a peg or two”
I wrapped my arm over Bess’s shoulder, bringing her in close.
“I think someone needs to bring you down a peg or two”
Bess’s statement probably had a grain of truth to it, I pretty much acknowledged I wasn’t the nicest person. But I’d like to think I wasn’t nice to only people who deserved it, I think that certainly weighs out the negatives.
Now I just had to worry about if mother was going to order any more pink balloons.Start writing here…
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