Soundtrack To My Youth (book 1)

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Don't Call Me Baby

You don’t realise how little attention you pay to your phone when it has no apps, when it only has the ability to call and text, which your phone company is going to charge a small fortune for you to do. I’m starting to wonder why anyone even bothered owning a phone before Facebook, insta and snapchat were invented and if I do send a text I have to fit everything I want to say into 160 characters without the option of emojis. On the plus side though, the battery life has lasted 3 days without needing to be charged and it was still sitting at half full, which I discovered on Tuesday morning when I dug my phone out of my handbag, where it had been forgotten about since Sunday. I laughed to myself when I saw that it was set to silent mode, a habit that I now live by because I hate the sound of a ringtone.

I saw that I had three text messages yet had to go searching through the phone to read them, not a simple task when you’re used to owning an iPhone but I found them eventually, two from Sam and one from Kate. I decided to read Kate’s first, thinking Sam’s would most likely be some sort of explanation for his behaviour on Sunday

Kate: I know it’s L8 notice but Sam offered me a lift this morning so you don’t have too xx

It was only then that I realised that Bridget and I did used to pick Kate up and drive her to school, we’d leave early to grab a take away coffee along the way, well hot chocolate for Bridge because she hated the taste of coffee when she was a teenager, as an adult she can’t start her morning without two strong cups. It wasn’t that big of a deal, considering she lived not far from his house but it did seem odd that Sam would offer Kate a lift, they were never really that close. Sam wasn’t really close to anyone apart from Lucas.

I sent a quick reply back to Kate, well as quick as I could be without the use of a full keyboard, cursing as I pushed a number too many times and it went past the letter I needed so I had to hit it another 6 times to get it back to where I wanted it, now I know why Kate abbreviated ‘late’. By the time I hit send I was frustrated, an emotion that grew stronger once I opened Sam’s first message, which I noticed he had sent last night.

Sam: 22 cents for your thoughts

That was it, no explanation for the way he acted on Sunday, no apology for just dumping me back at my car and then speeding off. I could give you my thoughts Sam but it would take more than the 160 characters that the Nokia 3310 has allowed me to send in a text. I didn’t bother reading his second message, I just deleted it and threw my phone into the front pocket of my school bag, determine to not let Samual Lions ruin my second first day of year 12.

My father was a carpenter, so he had left for the job site before the sun came up, leaving Bridget and I alone to get ready for school, I had the forethought to pack my lunch the night before, allowing myself more time to get ready that morning. I showered, ate breakfast and got dressed and was ready to go, meanwhile Bridget was still in her pyjamas, hair not brushed as she slowly munched on her cocoa puffs. I get it though, Bridget detested going to school, it was hell for her dealing with the bullying. I decided to pack her lunch for the day, to help get her out the door sooner, throwing in an extra rolled oats bar knowing that she’d be hungry again before recess. By the time she was finally finished getting ready it was already 745am and I knew we would be cutting it tight to get coffee and make it to roll call by 830.

I had just finished locking the front door when I saw the shinny black truck pull into our driveway, stereo blasting the The Offspring.

“Sorry we’re a little late, Kate insisted we stop for mochas before we get here, said something about you being a bear with a sore head without your caffeine” Sam said, laughing as I look at him confused. Bridget wasted no time climbing into the back seat behind Kate on the passenger side, who then hands Bridget a cup.

“Why are you here? I have my own car” I ask him, climbing in the seat behind Sam and taking a cup of coffee from Kate. If I’m being honest though, if coffee wasn’t on offer here I’d be driving in my own car to school. Taking the first sip of my mocha and I feel my body become more alert, thank you magical wake up juice and thank you Kate for being my saviour.

“I text you this morning and told you I’d be picking you up. I text you last night too and got no reply, are you not getting my texts” He asks me, looking in the rearview mirror, his eyes meet mine for a second before I look away, at first I felt a pang of guilt for ignoring him but then I realised why I had.

“I got them” I was going to add in that I read one and deleted the other but thought it best to leave it, I didn’t want to make the whole car ride tense, I already knew Bridget was stressed about going back today and I didn’t want to add to it, “Thank you for picking us up and thank you Kate for the mocha”

“Thank Sam, it was his treat, maybe tomorrow he might let me pick the music.” She hints towards Sam, flashing him her sweetest smile and fluttering her eyelashes but Sam just ignores her pleas and shakes his head.

“Nope, no manufactured, over hyped boy band who don’t even write their own songs will ever be played in my truck” Sam tells Kate firmly and I can’t help but laugh, in the rare times Sam had been in my room while he, Lucas and I hung out he would always make fun of me for my choice in music, stating that real bands write their own music and play instruments.

“Fine, no boy bands but you know Veronica would love listening to the Spice Girls” Kate tries another angle, dragging me into her argument.

“Fine, I will allow it” Sam says, giving in and Kate dances enthusiastically in the passenger seat.

“Umm Kate, I have my own car and can drive myself” I point out to her but she’s still to busy dancing to notice.

“I just thought it made more sense if I drove us all Roni, you were driving over to my street to collect Kate anyway, this way you can sleep in a bit longer, plus didn’t you tell me that this year is about making changes?” Sam explains, once again looking at me in the rearview mirror as we are stop at the traffic lights.

“Fine” I just say, breaking away from his stare, once again and looking out the window.

“Did you do anything fun in your last days of freedom?” Kate asks Bridget and I cheerfully, now that she had won her way against Sam she was in such an upbeat mood and it was infectious, bringing even Bridget out of her back to school slump

“I hung out with Amber, watched Cruel Intentions because she just bought it on VHS last week and Veronica played mini golf with a guy who made a bet that if he won he was going to kiss her but he bailed on her to get laid” Bridget announced to Kate and I cringed, she had begged me on Sunday night for details of the time I’d spent alone with Sam, swooning when I told her about how he had won and he wanted to kiss me but she became even more annoyed than I was when I told her how Sam had received that phone call and turned cold, leaving me to go get laid. I watch as Sam grips the steering wheel tighter and he groans.

“Oh my, a new guy already? I thought for sure you’d be back with Lucas before school even started. Wait, it wasn’t Puke-as right?” Kate questions me, using the nickname that she made up for Lucas.

“No, it was just some random guy who I’ll never bother going out with again” I tell them confidently.

“Good, remember our pact, no arseholes V” Kate reminds me as Sam parks the car in our schools small parking lot, there’s only a few spots allocated for students to park so he’s lucky to have snagged one.

Kate and Bridget start walking towards the school, I go to join them but I feel Sam tug on my hand gently.

“I’m sorry about Sunday, I didn’t mean to hurt you in any way” He says, still holding onto my hand, he looks tormented, like he’s battling with himself, “Please give me another chance to prove to you that I’m not a bad guy”

“You sound exactly like Lucas” I pull my hand away from him and run to catch up to Kate and Bridget, “I’ll get the bus home” I call back to Sam, without turning around. I hear the sound of leaves crunching harshly as he chases after me, clearly I struck a nerve, comparing him to Lucas, by the time he reaches me I’m walking in the school gate with Bridget on one side and Kate on the other, he steps in front of us, halting all three of us, we step off the path that leads into the school, to let others pass. He looks to Bridget first, his eyes almost pleading with her and she gives him a nod and pulls Kate towards the school. Kate looks back at Sam and I, piecing the puzzle together, her eyes are wide as Bridget drags her away, most likely explaining everything.

“You owe me a date Veronica, you can’t just back out of a bet” He’s trying to remain confident but his actions show he’s anything but at this point.

“Why not? You did” I challenge him and he drops his face shamefully.

“I haven’t, I’d still very much like to claim my prize, both prizes actually and to offer an explanation for what happened because it’s not what you’re thinking” His voice is small as he once again holds my hand.

“I’m probably going to regret this but fine, you get one date and if I am satisfied with your explanation of what the hell happened on Sunday then and only then you get the privilege of kissing me” He looks up at me, his big brown eyes look sad but his smile is warm.

“Tonight Roni, I know I said Friday but I don’t want to have to wait that long, you deserve the truth and I don’t want to put this off any longer. Meet me at the fields at 4pm, I have training this afternoon, I’ll drop you home afterwards” He tells me, there’s a hint of glee in his tone now.

“Alright” I agree before walking away from him, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit excited, although, this was Sam Lions, professional womaniser.

Walking back into the school as a student is the most surreal feeling. As a teacher, I have the authority to go anywhere, I can be running late to my own class and no one says a word, as a student though my freedom is limited and I would be punished for not showing up on time. I was heading towards the teachers lounge before I realised my role had flipped and I no longer have access to free coffee and muffins that are provided to facility every morning, being a teacher at Claremont High came with a few perks.

I reversed my steps and made my way back onto the quad, finding Kate, Bridget and Amber at one of the picnic tables, next to them at another was Lucas, Kristen and that kid who had kissed Kate at Sam’s party, I’ve really got to learn his name. I was hoping to pass Lucas without being noticed, he was joking around with Kate’s kissing buddy while Kristen was draped all over him, looking less than impressed that she wasn’t gaining his attention. I would have made it to my table had Kate not announced my arrival, alerting Lucas’ focus on me.

“There you are, tell me everything that happened on Sunday, as your best friend I deserve details?” Kate demands as Lucas shakes himself free from Kristen’s hold to come bounding up to me, wrapping his arms around my waist and kissing my neck, I try to get away from him but he has a tight hold on me and isn’t letting go.

“I’ve missed you baby, I thought you would have called me before school started back, we could have gone out” This was Lucas in full denial and it used to be enough for me to sweep all our issues under the rug and just take him back because he was being sweet and because I didn’t want to lose him either, I too had been in denial until I grew stronger and realised I was better off without him.

“Don’t call me baby, I didn’t call you because I broke up with you because you cheated on me” I state as I use all my strength to break free of his grip. I can see the hurt in his eyes for a small moment before it is replaced by confusion.

“Yeah but that was on Saturday, it’s now Tuesday, surely you’re over that by now?” He questions me in his smug, arrogant tone, using every tactic he knows has worked in the past.

“I am over it, I’m over sitting at home stressing if my boyfriend is at a party he will be screwing around, I’m over feeling like I was never good enough because my boyfriend felt the need to stick his dick into any girl seeking attention because you needed that ego boost that you felt you were missing out on by being with me but now I know I was better than just good enough, I was too good for you and being with you taught me that I deserve better”

“Maybe if you’d been around more then I wouldn’t have had to cheat” placing the blame back on me, classic Lucas.

“I’m so sorry that my parents are divorced and that my Mother lives over an hour away and that I’m required to go there every second weekend and for half of my school holidays. For once in your life take ownership of your shitty behaviour Lucas instead of blaming everyone else, maybe now you will learn that your actions have consequences” I deliver my final blow before walking away from him and taking a seat next to Kate at our table, Lucas mumbles something about me being a bitch and not worth his time, which earns an outbreak of laughter from Kate, Bridget, Amber.

“I’ll give you all the details in second period when we have Drama class” I promise Kate before whispering to the rest of our small group, “I have a date tonight with Sam”, Bridget looks excited by my news while Kate and Amber look surprised, “Just keep it between us, last thing I need is Lucas finding out and blowing up at Sam”

“Do you like him, Sam I mean, not Puke-as” Kate questions me

“We’ve been friends for so long but I feel that I don’t really know him outside of Lucas although it was fun when we hung out on Sunday” A smile spreading across my face as I glance over at Sam who is bouncing his soccer ball between his knee and his foot while still holding a conversation with Lucas, his brown hair is just long enough to fall in front of his face, there’s no denying that the boy is hot.

“You must like him a little bit because you’re willing to miss out on watching the new episode of Dawson’s Creek just to go out with him” Bridget points out, if only she knew that I had seen the complete series at least 4 times via a streaming service.

“Record it for me, we will watch it together tomorrow after school” I promise her. The bell sounds letting us know that the school day has begun, usually we would head to homeroom for roll call first and then on to first period but today being the start of the school year means we have a special assembly in the hall to attend. Even as a teacher I love when the school has a special assembly over classes, it’s an hour in which I usually just zone out.

Walking into the assembly hall I can see that not much has changed in the 21 years since I graduated to when I started teaching at the school. The overhead fans have since been replaced with air conditioning units, theres more plaques up on the walls and the seats were upgraded but apart from that it still looks exactly the same in 2020 as it did in 1999.

The hall begins to fill up with students fast so Kate,Bridget, Amber and I grab seats in the middle of the room. I was so busy talking to Kate that I didn’t even notice Sam had taken the seat next to me until he whispered in my ear.

" who will be our school captains this year?” He asks me

“Lucas and Kate” I whisper back to him, “I can’t remember who all the sport house captains are but I do know you are ours for the Green Machines but Lucas is captain of the Red Devils” News that brings a smile across his face, there had always been this friendly rivalry between Sam and Lucas so finding out that they would be opposing team captains for swimming and athletics carnivals brought Sam a lot of joy.

The assembly got started with our Principal, Mr Scott, welcoming us back and then jumped straight into the formalities of who was to be this years school captains, which we voted on at the end of the school the year before and the teachers make the students who are running sweat it out over the six week holiday break, it’s somewhat cruel to the candidates.

Lucas was announced first, making Kate turn to me and screwed up her face, even when I had heard the announcement the first time I wasn’t surprised, Lucas was popular and liked by students in all years. Kate was announced next and the look on her face was one of absolute shock, she hugged me tightly before joining Lucas up on the stage.

After the school captains were announced then Mr Scott moved on to naming Sport House Captains.

“Should I act surprised when he calls my name?” Sam joked as he took hold of my hand, entwining his fingers with mine and bringing our hands down between our seats, out of view of everyone around us, it was a secret moment just for us. My heart was racing from just the touch of his hand and I couldn’t concentrate on anything other than his thumb continuously brushing over the top of mine, I didn’t dare look over at him, I kept my eyes glued to the stage and then suddenly my hand felt empty and I became aware of the crowd cheering as Sam stepped up onto the stage, taking his spot next to Lucas, the two of them play fighting.

Throughout his professional career Sam had a lot of achievements, playing in the World Cup, two Olympics and three Commonwealth Games among the most memorable but becoming House Captain for the Green Machines in 1999 was most likely forgotten by him now, I only remember it because my eyes are always drawn to achievements plaque of my final school year every time I enter the assembly hall but for him, right now, this is his biggest achievement and he’s on top of world.

After the other two House Captains were announced for the Blue Torpedoes and the Yellow Bears , both of which I didn’t recognise at all, Mr Scott settled the crowd down to make more announcements for the up coming school year.

“Swimming Carnival will be held next Friday at Claremont Pool and attendance is mandatory by all students, any student not in attendance will receive a lunchtime detention” The school still makes this threat but never follows through on it because there is no roll call taken that day so there really is no way of knowing who actually attended and who didn’t, Kate and I had stopped attending any “Mandatory” school event after year 9, choosing in favour to go shopping instead.

“I want to see your school spirit, dress up in your house colours and your team could win the spirit prize for this year, go big, do it for your house. Team captains will be holding meetings with all team members next Thursday during last period of the day, this is your chance to plan your strategy and sign up for what races you wish to take part in or how else you can represent your team. Please remember though that you are representing your school on this day so we do advise that swim wear be respectable and by that I mean no bikinis, no nudity, no swear words drawn on your bodies with coloured zinc” Mr Scott continues, receiving an uproar of laughter from the students.

Our principal dismisses the captains from the stage and they find their seats. Kate can’t wipe the smile off her face as she skips up to her seat next to me and I’m so happy for her, she made a great school captain, planing dances and fund-raising days while Lucas just sat back and did nothing, he was in the role for the perks it would bring, I remember him admitting it to me once that he just wanted to be school captain so he could skip classes.

“You better be at the swimming carnival next Friday Roni, I’m going to need my good luck charm by my side so we can cream the Red Devils this year” Sam says as he takes his seat.

“I’ll be there” I promise him and for once I am actually looking forward to supporting my team.

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