Chapter 1: SCHOOL’S OUT
In high school I wasn’t popular. That’s not to say that I was unpopular, though. I had a small group of friends and a steady, albeit surprisingly out-of-his-league-but-I-could-not-see-it boyfriend. My nose was always in a book, even ones I had read plenty of times in the past. I did not really care, though. I was perfectly fine with blending into the olive-coloured walls of Vancouver Island’s Fairview High School. I would have preferred being a wallflower to having either of the two nicknames I received in my four years of schooling there.
By tenth grade most people knew who I was, if not by name than by one of two titles:
1. Seizure-girl. (I was an epileptic―nothing to be ashamed about, I know, but still embarrassing.)
2. The-girl-who-got-caught-with-a-boy’s-hand-up-her-shirt-in-the-make-out-closet. (I was not the only girl with this title. I was eventually narrowed down to ‘the one with long hair’.)
(Unfortunately, just after spring break of grade eleven, I would get a new nickname that stuck until graduation: That-girl-whose-mom-offed-herself. Real nice.)
Andbutso, as my entire drama class waited for the last bell to ring to signal the start of a two-week freedom, I found myself being pulled into a conversation about my mom and stepdad’s pending divorce.
“So, is the separation between your mom and dad final yet, Beth?” Candice asked, leaning toward me. I tore my stare away from the clock above our drama teacher’s head and turned to face her. Spring break started in ten minutes.
“Will is not my dad. I live with my dad,” I corrected her. “And yeah, it is. My mom just bought a new place up island, and Will lives down here now ... with his girlfriend.”
“Did she keep the cat and dog?” Candice asked.
I looked back up at the clock. It amazed me that that is what she was concerned about. Not the fact that my ex-stepdad was living with his new girlfriend so soon after the separation.
Fuzzy groaned behind us. “Candice, come on, have a little tact.” Even as a teenage guy, he knew that this was not cool. Fuzzy and I had known each other since sixth grade, but had really gotten close in the ninth. Now, in grade eleven, we were best friends. He had been branded with the nickname ‘Fuzzy’ when he gave himself a poorly done buzz cut. The adjective had described his hair perfectly.
Candice and I turned to look at him. I gave him a thank-you smile and Candice scowled. She hated it when people spoke to her in any negative tone, no matter how much she deserved it.
“My mom gave the dog away, but thankfully she kept the cat,” I said eventually, not looking at her.
“I really am sorry for all this crap.” Fuzzy put his hand on my arm gently. I smiled grimly and patted his fingers.
I was about to thank him when the last bell of the term rang. Everyone in the class cheered and stood up. We gathered our things, ignoring Mr. Thomas’ request that we head out the door in single file. Even a teacher the entire class respected and loved could not be paid attention to when there were two weeks of freedom at our fingertips.
When we got into the hallway, the three of us spotted my boyfriend, Connor, leaning on a wall down the next corridor. I headed in his direction, dodging a couple of over-excited students. I guess I was kind of the leader of our group. Wherever I headed, Fuzzy and Candice seemed to follow. That’s actually how Candice and I became friends; she seemed to take to Fuzzy very quickly and wherever I went Fuzzy went. We were a package deal. It didn’t surprise me that the two of them were right behind me when I reached Connor.
“Hey you,” we said to each other, kissing quickly.
“Why do you always wear your hair in this stupid bun, Bethy?” Connor asked, reaching behind me and pulling out the elastic. “You look like a stressed-out librarian. A hot one, but still ...”
“Really man?” I heard Fuzzy grunt behind me. I glanced over my shoulder at him and saw him scowling at Connor.
I ran my fingers through my long brown hair and messed it up a bit. “There. Better?” I flipped it over my shoulder. I felt the end of my hair brush along the waistline of my low-cut jeans.
“Totally.” He reached into his pocket. “Besides, you won’t want to look like a stressed-out librarian when you’re on stage,” he continued, as he pulled out a folded piece of paper from his jeans.
“What are you talking about?” Candice asked slowly, as I took the paper from Connor.
I opened it and gasped. It was the casting list for the school play, RENT, and I was one of the lead characters.
“Holy fuck!” I yelled. I threw my arms around Connor and kissed him. “I got in! I play Mimi!” I let go and turned to Candice and Fuzzy. Candice grabbed the paper and Fuzzy hugged me. “I got in! I got in!” I squealed, jumping up and down and clapping my hands.
“Well, was there a doubt in your mind?” Fuzzy laughed, holding my shoulders. “We helped you with that audition song for weeks.”
“And of course she would get the part as the stripper,” Candice added, giving her points on the bitchiness scale. “She’d make a great one.” She gave me a hug and I stiffly wrapped my arms around her. I saw Fuzzy roll his eyes. She had a talent when it came to veiled insults.
When I pulled away, all smiles, Connor swooped in and kissed me. “Feel like celebrating?” He winked, putting his hand in my back pocket and pulling me closer to him. When we first started sleeping together, the year before, I had done the stupid thing of telling Candice. She had called me promiscuous and ranted about how she was disgusted that we had only been fifteen and were ‘totally not ready’. It is not like it was a big deal. We’d had sex; so what? It was not a life-changing experience. There was nothing on TV so … we did it. It had not been any good either. It was clumsy and a little painful―not to mention that, at fifteen, neither of us knew what we were doing. I was hoping to have a girlfriend to talk about that with, but I guess that was too much to ask from her. She needed to have the stick removed from her ass.
“Sure, I’d love to,” I agreed, more to annoy Candice than to actually have sex. I turned to Candice and Fuzzy. “Have a great spring break, you guys.” I grinned, as Connor put his fingers in the loopholes of my jeans. “I have to head home.”
“Why so soon? So you can get all ‘hot and bothered’?” Candice snapped, putting her hands on her hips.
“Actually Candice,” Fuzzy said, smiling at me and putting his hand on her head, which was a good foot lower than his, “they’re going to get ice cream.”
As Candice whipped around to scold Fuzzy for making a joke, Connor grabbed my hand and we ran down the corridor to the main entrance.
“Where are you two off to in such a hurry?” someone asked as we passed the front office. We automatically recognized Connor’s mom’s voice. Stopping in our tracks, we turned to face her.
I absolutely adored Lynn. She was just a fantastic person in general. She was somehow raising three teenagers, and Connor was an extra handful due to his ADHD and OCD. For some time now, whenever I needed motherly advice, I would go to her. Lynn somehow knew all the right things to say and would give honest feedback to problems I found myself in, without making me feel bad about myself.
“We, uh ... we’re just excited to get out of school,” Connor said, shrugging. “Spring break has been a long time coming.”
“I agree.” Lynn sighed. She was the art teacher at our school and had to put up with some serious hell raisers for ten hours a day. She needed this break just as badly as we did. “Oh, Beth, I heard that you got into the school play. Congrats!”
“Thanks!” I beamed as she hugged me. “I was actually pretty nervous about the outcome. A lot of people auditioned for the part of Mimi. This isn’t just some drama class production; over thirty girls tried to get the part I ended up landing.”
“There wasn’t a doubt in my mind,” Lynn said. She glanced at Connor, who was looking longingly at the front doors. “I suppose I should let you go. Be good.”
Connor starting jogging toward the exit, holding onto my hand. “And home by seven, please!” she called after him.
It was time for spring break, and little did I know, it was going to suck.