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The Art of Blackmail

By TheRiverRunsDeep All Rights Reserved ©

Romance / Humor

Blurb

We had each taken pictures of them, with the intent of using the photos as blackmail. Our plan was going to work. I knew it.

Chapter 1: That Guy Gets on My Nerves . . . and Say Hello to My Friends

Maddie’s Point of View

The phone in my hand repeatedly vibrated, alerting me that I was getting an incoming call. My eyes darted down to my cell phone to find a familiar name flashing across the screen. With a small smile, I answered the call. “Yes?”

“I’m going to be at your house in five minutes Maddie. Please, don’t make me wait.” My friend, Savvy, said in a rushed tone of voice.

“I’m walking out right now, impatient heffer!” The smile slipped from my face, “I’ll be the one waiting!” I hated it when Savvy was in a hurry. Patience was not her virtue. On the other hand, her outgoing, fun personality overshadowed most of her flaws. I had learned over the years that you just got to take the good with the bad.

“Whatever!” Savvy breathed in the phone but her tone said it all. She didn’t believe I would be outside and ready for her.

My mouth parted to speak but, with a beep on the other end, I realized she had hung up on me, per usual.

Not bothering to say goodbye to my parents or siblings, I walked out of my house. The second my tan flats touched the welcome mat; I inhaled deeply. To me, the air always smelled different in the morning, and I loved it. I liked the sound of the birds and the way the grass, on my front lawn, glistened with the morning dew.

I wished, like most days, that the weather would remain exactly how it was in that moment. It was unlikely, however, because Memphis, Tennessee was doomed to be smothered in its normal, hot and humid weather by midmorning. One would think after I had lived in the same city for seventeen years, since birth, I would be accustom to the heat of the south. Yet, I had never been able to adjust and find comfort in the simmering summer days. That is, except in the mornings.

Abruptly, I heard the thunderous sound of a door closing. The noise echoed through the street. Looking at the house across from mine, I saw Brandon Zander walking out of his house with a frustrated look etched on his face.

Forcing myself not to ogle at his six-foot-two frame, I immediately tried to hide so he couldn’t see me. In my frantic state, to find a good place to hide, he noticed me. My body went rigid; frozen in place by Brandon’s bright green eyes.

My lips curved up as I put on a nervous, sweet smile.

“Weirdo!” He called to me as Savvy pulled up to my driveway.

With a growl, much to myself, I marched to the end of my yard. That morning I was not going to let Brandon go without a piece of my mind, in regards to his namecalling. “For the past ten years of my life, you’ve insulted me with names like weirdo, pig, slow, klutz, stupid, and so on. How about you get a freaking life and leave me alone?!”

Boy, that felt good to say, I thought. With a wicked smirk on my face, I decided to go the extra mile and I flip him off. For once, I had felt empowered.

Silently, however, I had wished those nasty exchanges between Brandon and I would not happen. Truth had been told, I had a crush on him. It was a deep-rooted crush that has been burning and twisting inside of me since as far back as I could recall.

Torturously had told no one, let alone Brandon. If he got wind, I feared he would have made fun of me.

“You’re the one that needs a life,” Brandon stated before he begun to twirl his car keys with his index finger. He awaited my response with a smug grin.

I studied him for a second, even watching as he stopped twirling his keys and ran a hand through his brown disheveled hair.

I realized that it was a game to him — getting my reaction. On that morning, he was going to get a little more than he bargained for. “You think running around in your beat up, old truck is a life?” The moment those words spilled out of my mouth I regretted them. It had been the worst comeback of all mankind. I wanted nothing more than to hide away for eternity.

I had managed to once more make a fool of myself. By the cocky look on his face, Brandon knew he had me cornered.

He won the battle, but not the war!

“I have a damn good life, Maggots,” Brandon said, calling me by his personally coined nickname for myself, which he only used when he had reached a certain threshold of annoyance with me. “You wouldn’t know a good life is if it rang your doorbell and slapped you in the face!” He fired back with a victorious smile.

The second Brandon realized I was speechless, he unlocked his car. After opening his driver’s door, Brandon tossed his navy blue backpack in the passenger’s seat.

I could feel the irrational jealousy swell up inside of me because the backpack was getting to sit next to Brandon in his truck, not me.

“Maddie!" Savvy yelled, craning her head out of her car window. "If you don’t get in this car we’ll be late for school! Don’t think I won’t hesitate to leave you! As for you, Brandon, you’re an asshole!” Savvy was always right on time with her sass and savvy, just like her name.

With that, I laughed and raced over to the passenger side of Savvy's car. Once I was inside, I looked over at her and smiled as I felt a sense of pride to call her my friend.

Savvy, who had her brown ringlet curls pinned up, smirked at me. But, her smirk wasn’t normal, it meant something.

“What?” I asked as I began to wonder what she was thinking.

“You like him!” She said as she wiggled her eyebrows. Savvy had this funny thing she could do with her eyebrows. She would raise one brow high while lowering the other one down. It was funny, but I also had to admit it was a tiny bit creepy at times.

I glared at Savvy comment as we pulled out of my driveway. But all too suddenly, I started laughing, which was a habit I had when I was caught redhanded. “Come on, Savvy you know me," I tried to explain as I attempted to control my laughter. "I’m not in love with Brandon. I hate his guts.” I lied through my teeth but knew she saw right through me.

Briefly glancing over at me, with her soul searching chocolate eyes, she replied. “Maddie, you can't hold it in. I've been your friend for ten years, I know when you're trying to hide something. But, it has never worked for you. We all know that you've liked Brandon for years. Even a blind man can see it. Honestly, I think it’s about time you tell him.” Her teasing voice permeated the air as the car turned down an all too familiar road.

“I’ll tell Brandon I like him as soon as you tell Shane you like him.” I challenged with Cheshire cat smile. Putting Savvy on the defense made me feel like I had the upper hand. I knew the angle would not last long with her. Savvy was good at seeing the truth, even if you tried hiding it.

Looking at me with wide eyes, Savvy exploded. “I don’t like Shane!” Her voice was laced with falsehood as she continued. “He’s my best friend and has been for the past ten years! . . . Liking Shane . . . yeah . . . yeah right!” With that, Savvy began to rant, on and on, about all the reasons she is ‘not’ in love with Shane.

“Who are you trying to convince here, me or you?”

Savvy’s pink lips pressed into a fine line, as she refused to reply to me. In fact, the more I looked at her, the more I could tell Savvy was slightly uncomfortable by the way she wiggled a little in her seat. I started to wonder if she was feeling that way because I was making her realize she was indeed head over heels in love with her friend, Shane.

Remaining silent, Savvy pulled up to Lena’s driveway.

The steps Lena took towards the car could not seem to disappear fast enough under her feet.

We watched as Lena's mother walked out on the porch and sang to her daughter. “Love you, Lena Bear! Hope you have a great day at school!”

Lena got in the car with her blond hair cascading all over her noticeably reddened face. Her blue eyes gazed at us with urgency. “Drive! Drive!” Lena chanted.

Savvy and I busted into uncontrollable laughter as Lena’s mom begun to blow kisses from their front porch steps.

“All this morning she wouldn’t stop smiling," Lena explained as Savvy begun to pull out of the driveway. "As you know, that is rare for her. I had made the mistake and asked my mom why she was smiling and so perky this morning. . .” Lena replied disgustingly before seeming as if she was about to be sick.

“If you’re gonna be sick in my car, please let me know so I can roll down the window. If you dare puke in my car, Missy, we’ll have problems!” Informed Savvy as she glanced at Lena in her rearview mirror.

“What did she say when you asked her why she was all happy?” I curiously questioned. I was ready for anything but what she was about to say.

“She told me, her and my dad got down with it last night.” I never laughed so hard in my life, for it was so funny the way Lena stated it. It was like Lena was a ten-year-old and was highly afraid of saying the word ‘sex' as if it had been a curse word. “Don’t laugh, it’s not funny!” Lena bellowed as she put her face in her hands, showing she was embarrassed all over again.

Savvy was laughing so hard she almost ran into a parked car.

“Savvy!” I yelled in hopes of getting her immediate attention back on the road.

The drunken laughter couldn’t be stopped though. Savvy swerved back into the open side of the road.

Lena slowly began to laugh at all the ruckus she had started in the car.

“I can’t believe your mom flat out told you that she and your dad had se-” I was stopped by Lena putting her hand over my mouth.

Lena gave me a serious look through her smile. “Don’t you dare say it, Maddie. I mean it,” Lena said with challenging eyes. “Now, if I take my hand off of your mouth, will you not say it?”

I nodded and gave off a small chuckle as she gradually removed her hand from my mouth.

Within a few seconds, Savvy pulled up to Hope’s house and honked a couple times.

We all stared at Hope’s front door, waiting for the sight of her stumbling out of the house. After a few minutes passed, I glanced over at Savvy to see that she was irritated. With her patience running thin, she rolled down her window and placed her palm firmly on the center of the steering wheel. She then proceeded to stick her head out the window. “Hope!” Savvy called out as she honked her horn. “It’s time to ‘get down’ with it!’ Come on!”

We erupted into another fit of laughter at Savvy’s words. With teary eyes from deep chuckling, Savvy turned back to look at Lena. “I’m so sorry you had to go through that Lena. I couldn’t picture my mother saying that, but somehow I can see your mom saying it to you. I have to admit, though, she did look festive in her purple robe and big curlers!” Savvy looked at herself in the mirror and using her index finger, she fixed a portion of her eyeliner that had been messed up in the midst of her tearful laughter.

Lena tried to shift the conversation, but random laughter and remarks kept surfacing.

Just when I noticed Hope was truly taking forever, she came tumbling out of her house. I studied her as she sluggishly walked to the car. The mere sight of Hope made me want to sigh. She was so unprepared for the day; it was evident by just looking at her.

Hope's bag kept slipping off her shoulder as her hands were full of papers that looked like they were about to crash on the ground at any moment. Not to mention, Hope's elbow-length hair was a mess and her outfit looked as if she had just thrown something random on her pear-shaped body seconds before.

Getting in the car, Hope let out a heavy, elongated sigh.

With all eyes on her, Hope started to look at us strangely. “What?” She inquired, with furrowed eyebrows.

“You look like you just woke up and rushed out of the door,” Savvy stated the obvious. “Do you ever get up to your alarm clock or just get up when I pull into the driveway?” Savvy asked with a chuckle.

“You can thank my brother Scot for this morning. He’s such a little punk. He took my phone last night and never gave it back. You all know I use that thing for an alarm clock. You would think my dad would have woken me up too, but no. He got up late and decided he was in too much of a rush to wake me up. Scot, of course, never gave it a second thought to get me up. So, when I did finally wake up, I realized I had three minutes before y’all would be here.” Hope stated in a one winded, sweeping breath.

Knowing the drill, Lena dug into her purse and handed Hope a pack of minty fresh gum.

“Thanks,” said Hope.

I opened my shoulder bag and got a hairbrush out of my bag. “Here, Hope. Where would you be without us?”

“Thanks, Maddie. Well, I’d probably be in bed and that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. I think.”

It was not Hope’s first time rushing to get ready without brushing her hair and teeth. After the third time, Lena and I come prepared with all the necessities in our purses.

“So, what's going on with y’all this morning?” Hope quizzed as she brushed her honey blond hair. Her hair was maintenance but messy or not, that long wavy hair was Hope's trademark.

“Well, Lena’s mom and dad—” Once again I got a hand covering my mouth by Lena. She grinned, happy that she caught me before I said it.

Oh, I thought, this story is not going to be swept under the rug so easily. I pulled my face away from her hand, but not before Savvy yelled, at the top of her lungs. “Lena’s mom and dad had sex last night!”

Lena pulled her hand back to her side and shot Savvy daggers. Her cheeks begun to turn redder than cherry tomatoes. “Sorry Lena, I had to. Plus, you can’t touch me. I’m driving,” Savvy explained.

“Do I even wanna know how you found out your parents were doing it?” Hope asked Lena with an uncertain expression written on her heart-shaped face.

Lena blue eyes glared intently at Hope before she looked out of the window in embarrassment.

Just by looking at Lena's encrypted facial expression I could decipher that she was not only embarrassed but mad. As Lena pressed her bare forehead harder on the window, I decided to annoy her just a little bit more. What are friends for?

“Why are you mad Lena?" I inquired in an innocent voice. "You do know that it’s a part of nature. In fact, it is how you came into this world." A smirk found my face. “I will admit, it’s not usually something you would hear your mom confess. But hey, next time you know not question why your mom is in a good mood.”

Everyone but Lena started to giggle.

“Will you all stop laughing?! It’s not funny! It’s a sickening thought anytime, much less first thing in the morning! I could’ve gone the rest of my life without hearing her tell me that!” After a minute passed, Lena broke and a smile stretched across her face.

“Her mom was in a good mood? No, I can’t believe I missed that! Not fair, next time pick me up first,” Hope said.

Lena’s mom was a bit off kilter, which is nothing like Lena. I guess you could have considered the mother and daughter a pair of polar opposites.

“I would pick you up earlier but you would never be ready on time,” Savvy wittingly stated.

“True. Never mind but at least video record it on your phone, next time. Lena’s mom in a good mood happens like once in a blue moon,” Hope chimed.

“Hey! You’re talking about my mom here!” Lena exclaimed.

“So girls, are you ready for school? Let’s get down with it, if ya know what I mean!” Savvy joked before taking a big gulp of coffee.

I snatched the cup from her grip, almost spilling it. Only to realize that she had already drunk most of it. I looked at her wild eyes.

“What the hell, Maddie? Why did you do that?” Savvy asked, knowing all along why I grabbed the cup.

“Coffee?! Savvy, you know what that does to you.” I was not the only one who knew how ballistically insane Savvy could get on caffeine. She had a strong tolerance for most things but caffeine was not one of them. Her and coffee should have never found each other. Not in this lifetime or the next.

“You drank coffee?!” Lena said in a shocked tone when Savvy parked the car in her designated parking spot. “I’m getting out of here,” Lena opened the door and hurried off without saying another word.

All of us got out of the car and started to snicker.

Savvy stomped her foot. “I’m not that bad!” Savvy yelled at Lena, who was already making her way past the crowds of students at the front door of the school.

“Yeah right, last time you had coffee you know how much trouble you caused! It was a nightmare, you—” Hope started to finish her sentence but then stopped. She looked at Savvy and then started to hurriedly walk away in the direction Lena had previously went.

Savvy stared at me with a puzzled expression. “Why is it that when I drink coffee everyone runs away?!” Savvy pouted.

“Because you’re hyper as it is and with coffee, you bounce off the walls, literally. Remember last week, when you had coffee? You started jumping up and down. You almost got suspended because the principal thought you were on speed. Then, of course, he thought since we were with you we were also doing drugs. Overall, it was a total mess, one I would rather not repeat — thank you very much!”

Savvy looked at me with emotionless eyes. Her lips twitched down into a frown, but something behind me caught her attention. The eyes that previously looked spiritless turned into a look only a fool that found a treasure would give. “Shane!” She took off across the parking lot towards Shane.

Glancing over my shoulder, I caught a glimpse of a semi-long brown haired guy making a mad dash towards the school. Grinning, I knew that by the way Savvy yelled at Shane, he had full knowledge that she must be wired up on coffee.

I shook my head. My friends were so crazy.

I walked into school alone and caught Savvy pushing past people to get to Shane. He, on the other hand, kept zigzagging through the crowded hall in order to get to his hiding place. The one place Savvy couldn’t go — the men’s restroom.

I gave a small laugh as I strolled towards my bright red locker.

Putting in my combination, a shiver came over me and I began to get an overwhelming feeling that something was about to happen. As I unlocked my locker and opened the metal door, I just knew deep in my bones that something was off. Whatever it was might not happen that day but it was going to happen sometime soon.

“Do you know where she is?” Lena whispered to me as she slid up to my side, almost scaring me to death. Her eyes danced around the hallway in search of our hyper friend, Savvy.

Shaking my head, I opened my black backpack. “No, last I saw she was chasing Shane down the hall.” I admitted to Lena as I picked out the books I would need for my first few class, shoving them mindlessly into my backpack.

“I realized the other day that Savvy likes Shane,” Lena stated the obvious while taking out her digital camera from her bag.

Lena was a true blond, bless her heart.

“What rock have you been under?” I said right as Lena took a picture of me and then of the lockers. The flash danced blue and purple dots across my vision. Blinking a few times, I spoke, “Hey, did you ever sign up for photography? I heard they had a few extra spots open.”

She took the camera away from her face and looked at me. “Yeah, I got accepted. I start the class next week. What about you? Did you ever get accepted into creative writing?” She asked, sliding her camera back into her lime green messenger bag.

“Not sure. I was going to ask the creative writing teacher in between classes this morning.” I told Lena as I slammed my locker shut and spun the combo numbers. Pulling on the lock, I checked to make sure my worldly possessions at school remained there.

“Well, good luck!” Lena encouraged with two thumbs up.

I chuckled and was about to walk away from her when Hope came up to us. “Two questions. Are we having the sleepover tomorrow night? And, is it going to be at your house, Maddie?” Hope questioned as she readjusted her blue jean purse on her shoulder.

I smiled as I thought, what time of the day does Hope pull herself together? She was such a sweet mess, you just wanted to hug her. “Yeah, it is tomorrow, ” I said but I was not sure about her second question. “Didn’t we agree that it will be at my house? I can’t remember, either.”

Lena nodded, “We talked about it last week, I thought. You said that your parents are going to be out of town. Aren’t they going to a trade show, again?” Lena quizzed as she tried to recall their discussion the week before.

“Yeah, that’s right,” I nodded in remembrance. “My parents are going to Knoxville, Tennessee for the weekend. My sister, Bonnie, is still staying with us. She and her son will be at the house; I hope you guys don’t mind.”

“It’s fine with me!” Hope and Lena said about the same time together.

“Anything special planned for us to do?” Hope asked.

“Considering I forgot we planned it my house, not really. . .” I murmured as I contemplated on what we could do. Usually, there was something we all engaged ourselves in like a board game, movie, or some kind of video game. But, it seems that through the years we’ve played and done almost everything. I was in a dry spell for any ideas.

“I‘ve wanted to play a good game of truth or dare. How about that?” Lena asked with curiosity.

“I guess,” I stated as I figured we hadn’t played that in a long time. “Oh, I almost forgot. My sister, Bonnie is taking her son on Saturday to the Y.M.C.A to swim in the indoor pool. Bring your swimsuit and we’ll hitch a ride with them. ”

“I’ll tell Savvy later on,” Lena added, clearly deciding that she would wait till Savvy had come down from her caffeine high.

“Okay, then it’s settled, Maddie’s house tomorrow night. We will play Truth or Dare and swimming on Saturday. Oh! I’ll buy the food! I’m getting paid tomorrow for that weekend-long babysitting job I did at the Lazarus’. So, maybe Savvy can take us to the store after school,” Hope replied.

“Sounds like a plan if you ask me,” said Lena with a hopeful smile.

“There you guys are! I’ve been looking everywhere for y’all!” Yelled Savvy as she skipped — yes, skipped — over to us.

The bell rang to signal we had five minutes until our first period class. Hope, Lena, and I gave Savvy a nervous glance as she made her way over to us. Soon, our laughter could be heard throughout the hall as we raced in separate directions, with high hopes of losing her.

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