Breathe chapter 5

Breathe chapter 5

A Chapter by LunalitSol

“I have often noticed that the suffering which is most difficult, if not impossible, to forgive is unreal, imagined suffering. …The worst, most obstinate grievances are imagined ones.” 

                                                   -------Laurens van der Post. 

Chapter 5: Ultionis est patina optimus servo gelu

1. Blake-

      Grounded. No wii, no television, no dates. It was the least fun he’d had in a long time. All because of a stupid D in German. Wasn’t his fault he couldn’t “Deutsch verstehen”. Frau Gabor hated kids, from what he’d seen, and seemed to hate the guys in particular. Almost all the guys taking her class had a C+ at the most. Only one “guy” had even a B, and he/she was a transsexual or whatever who had everyone call him/her Wendla and was a total suck up. 

     Blake twiddled his thumbs absently, peering dejectedly at the stack of German in front of him. His mom had begged the teacher into giving him a shitload of extra work to try to get his grade up a letter or so. 

     Daniela skidded in abruptly, stopping short at the sight of him and grinning sheepishly, one hand reaching up to mop back her ragged blond hair and chew on a jagged nail. 

     Blake sighed, exasperated, and gave her an expectant look. 

     “What is it Danni?”

      Danni pushed at her glasses, then took them off, removing a piece of purple cloth from her pocket and scrubbing at the lenses.

      “I wanted to know if Shay could come over. Are mom and Bryce out?”

      “Shay Wells?”

       She nodded vigorously, restoring her glasses to position at the top of her nose, magnifying her brown eyes by several degrees. He rolled his eyes.

      “I don’t see why not.”

      Daniela beamed, and gesticulated beckoningly at the door. Within seconds, the screen door creaked open and clicked shut, the regular door falling shut with a muffled clunk on top of it. 

     Shay careened into the room, her arm automatically looping with Danni’s, the coffee brown of her skin making that of Danni seem even paler by comparison. Daniela grinned and seemed to pull the other girl even closer. 

      “We’ll be in my room,” she said brightly, flushing slightly, and beginning to flounce towards her room, Shay virtually skipping beside her. 

     Blake shook his head and stood, stretching. He pressed a quick yawn into his hand and glanced around himself. Monday nights were always so dull, and that was with electronics on his side. Without…well he was at a loss as to any way to make the hours pass any faster. 

     A noise from upstairs caught his attention and he meandered towards the staircase, palm grazing the banister monotonously. 

      Blake reached his bedroom and opened the door, immediately tossing the pile of homework somewhere to his left, hoping distantly that they would land somewhere in the vicinity of his desk. He made his way towards the bed, kicking off his shoes, and letting thoughts of further investigation pass dimly through his head. He threw himself onto the comforter of the bottom bunk face down, turning his head to yawn again. 

     “Blake!”

      He started, slamming his head into the top bunk and tumbling to the floor with a cry. 

      A hand sought the top of his head and he cast a grumpy look about himself. There was no-one in sight. 

     “Who’s here?” he grumbled at length. 

      There was an annoyed muttering somewhere to his left, then a hard tapping, like knuckles on…glass. He could have kicked himself right then and there. Blake sighed and pulled himself up, walking rigidly to the window and shaking it once back and forth before jerking it up in a single determined motion. Taylor grinned at him from the window. 

      “Hey man. Can I come in?”

      Blake rolled his eyes, but took a step back, watching his friend clamber in. 

      Taylor tossed a backpack somewhere to the left and strode over to the bed, collapsing into a languid heap and yawning hugely. Blake scowled.

     “Taylor. Hey.”

     “Hi.”

      Blake sighed, exasperated, and grabbed his desk chair, rolling it over before throwing himself onto it. He faced his friend expectantly. 

     “Taylor.”

     “Yes?” Taylor asked slowly.

     “What are you doing here?” Blake said at last, slumping down in his chair. “I’m grounded, remember?”

      Taylor snickered.

      “Of course I remember, dumbass. You made a huge deal about it at lunch today. That is why, I say you get your revenge.” Taylor beamed at him, obviously in awe of his own brilliance. 

       Blake gave him a hard look.

      “My revenge?”

      Taylor nodded, reaching for the wall against which the mattress was pushed. 

     “Your revenge,” he repeated. 

2. Kiwi-

Kiwi grinned at Jennifer. 

“Trust me on this. You’ll look awesome.”

Jennifer tugged on a strand of dark chocolate nervously. 

“I don’t know…What if it looks bad?”

Kiwi rolled her eyes. 

“Stop worrying. You’ll look great.”

It was six p.m. on Wednesday, and Kiwi was plotting a massive makeover for Jennifer. For one thing, Kiwi couldn’t be hanging out nonstop with someone who plainly didn’t know the first thing about looking good. Lucas’s faux pos had only been tolerated because they’d known each other virtually forever. Secondly, Kiwi had in the works an idea to really bond with Jennifer. One of the bonuses of having a girl best friend instead of boy was doing girl-stuff, right? So, she was going to build Jen’s trust in her and their friendship by helping the other girl get a date. Then, she’d get one (it couldn’t be too hard) and they’d double date. They’d all go to Friday’s dance together and maybe some other dates and then they’d really be like best friends, and Lucas would regret losing her. Talk about a perfect revenge, right?

“I don’t know if blue is really my color though,” Jennifer protested. 

“Call it azure. And it is! Just like red is mine.” Kiwi pulled forth a short strand of her own hair, eyes crossing slightly as she examined the blend of onyx and crimson, her satisfaction plain. “We’re both going to be totally like…revamped. Believe me. The guys at school will be going crazy for us tomorrow.” She grinned at Jen, who smiled tentatively back. 

“Okay. Then, I’m ready. Let’s start.”

Kiwi examined her handiwork happily before flopping onto Jennifer’s bed. 

“Have any good movies?” she asked, staring at the big screen in front of her.

Jennifer shrugged. “I think…”

Kiwi yawned, considering this.

“Well I’m totally in the mood for something spooky. How about something creepy and intense? Like Odd Girl Out! I’m sorta’ve on a Britney Murphy kick right now.” she admitted with a laugh. 

Jennifer sighed, scratching at the top of her hand distractedly.

“I don’t know if we have those sorts of movies or not. If we do, they’re probably in the living room.”

Kiwi watched the other girl for a moment before rolling off the bed and venturing into the living room. The room was a nightmare of paisley and a sort of burnt orange, with puce drawings adorning the windows. It was an older sort of house (Jen had said it had belonged to her rich great-grandmother, who had in turn left it to her oldest descendent alive when she passed, which just so happened to be Jennifer’s mom). There was a huge orange tapestry on one wall, ripped magenta wallpaper decorating the rest of the perimeter. At the front of the room was a large antique-looking bookcase, crammed with various board games, several VHS tapes, and to one side, an abundance of DVDs. Kiwi made her way towards this, doing her best to avoid what seemed to be a very old, very stained rug. She reached the DVDs and began to scan them lazily, feeling rather annoyed as her boredom continued to flourish. 

Unfortunately, all of the movies looked impossibly dull and Kiwi simply couldn’t summon the energy to examine the selection closely, nor to actually decide upon a movie (something that had rapidly become a lackluster thought). With a resigned sigh Kiwi meandered back towards Jen’s room, arcing away from the master bedroom, which, much to her revulsion, was emitting sounds horribly akin to that of bed springs and muffled moaning. 

She rapped twice on the doorframe before entering, collapsing once more onto Jennifer’s bed. When she looked up it was to the sight of Jennifer fiddling with some green knitting needles and lilac yarn, and frowning slightly at her, a particularly odd sight really.

“Where’s the movie?” Jennifer asked, spinning her desk chair once, twice, then a third time before unbending her leg and placing her foot firmly on the ground, her knitting needles never ceasing their persistent click-clacking. 

“Couldn’t find a good one,” Kiwi responded, turning onto her stomach and propping her elbows up, chin settling on her folded hands. “Do you wanna go check on your hair?”

“Yeah,” Jennifer said. She paused then tacked on, “I can blow-dry it too while I’m in there, actually, so…you can just hang out in here, I guess…”

“Oh! Do you want me to help?” Kiwi asked belatedly, inwardly kicking herself. 

“No, it’s fine. I’ve got it,” Jennifer replied. She stood and walked to the door, entering the hall then venturing through it towards her large bathroom, leaving the door open behind her. 

As the cacophonous howling of blow-dryer started up, Kiwi found herself alternating between examining the pattern of the walls (a manila-envelope color with spangled stars shooting bursts of drippy rainbow) and the ceiling (covered in unintelligible black, green, red, and orange scrawl). When she tired of this, she rose from the bed, stretching, and began to scan the room she’d spent the past hour and a half in but hadn’t had the chance to truly observe. She gazed around herself, lip curling ever so slightly, then shot a look at the open door, noting the fierce roar still coming from the bathroom, and went to Jennifer’s bedside table. She opened the drawer to a stack of feathers, buttons, and zippers, various cloth-cuts, and several barrettes and headbands. She rolled her eyes and shut this, moving to the second drawer. This one gave her a bit of trouble but she managed to get it open, only to reveal an abundance of large drawing pads filled with creamy-smooth paper. She rifled through the first one with little interest, scoffing at a few of the more outrageous designs, before putting it back in the drawer. She ignored the basket of yarn  and sewing thread beside the bedside table and moved onto the dresser. 

Her eyes caught on a jewelry box tucked into the corner beneath the shadow of a large group of fabric-flowers. The wood was time worn, a sort of tarnished brown paled by age, and the perimeter of its lid was embroidered in solemn pink interwoven roses. There was some odd type of calligraphy scratched into the middle, the smooth contours of which were interrupted only by an abrupt dip of charred wood. Kiwi frowned at this, intrigue rising, and her hand swept forward, a finger extending to trace over the strange markings. 

“Hey Kiwi I think it- Don’t touch that!”

Kiwi turned to face Jennifer, whose face had rapidly reddened. She looked half-mad, her hair a tangled mess clinging to the nape of her damp neck. Kiwi raised her arms before her in a show of innocence. 

“I was just looking that’s all,” she laughed, rolling her eyes at the other girl’s peculiar dramatics. “Don’t have a cow.”

Jennifer scowled at this, pushing past Kiwi to the dresser and busying herself with making sure the box was okay. She pushed it back into the shadows, letting them drape protectively over its wood, turning the fairly innocuous, if curious, jewelry box, into something oddly ominous, almost sinister. Kiwi turned away, going back to the bed and falling onto it in a languid movement of slender limbs and ivory flesh, gesturing for Jennifer to join her. After a moment’s hesitation the other girl did just that, slinking slowly over and sinking onto her bed, facing forward and back ramrod straight. Kiwi smiled at her, a grin that tried to be gentle but failed, a cheeky, almost patronizing upturn of ruby lips with glossy eyes gleaming mirthfully above. 

“Calm down Jen. Don’t have such a fit.”

Jennifer nodded and swallowed, adjusting her limbs slightly. Kiwi laughed again. 

“That’s good enough. Now, what were you saying? Something about your hair?”

3. Colby-

The maternity ward, often so dull, was rife with tension, doctors bustling back and forth with clipboards and clipped tones. 

Bed rest. It was just two words, but it seemed like a lot more. It had been something like three days since he’d left school early to go with his dad to the hospital. His mom had passed out and doctors said she’d developed this thing called eclampsia. He didn’t really know much about the condition; all Colby knew was that it was supposedly pretty dangerous and that his mom’s cancer made the fact all the worse. 

“Colby, I’m going back to talk to Dr. James about some stuff, ok?” Colby’s dad asked. 

His dad was tall and thin, his forehead a plain filled with wrinkles and grey eyes traced with crow’s feet. His hair was dark and short, peppered through with shiny silver veins. Flesh vaguely bronzed and long arms with thick ropy veins added to him an air of almost peculiar superiority. His thin lips were puckered into a grimace, had been ever since the news had come. If things hadn’t been hard enough before, they were positively rocky now, so Colby figured this much was understandable. Nevertheless, he was angry. Furious, really. How could this be happening? Why hadn’t his mom just terminated it when she could have? Why did it have to be like this? If it was just his mom’s cancer it might have been semi-manageable. They’d dealt with this before. But with the fetus…

It was probably going to be live and die. One of them would have to go for the other to be able to continue on. And the one that would have to go would be his mom. Pretty much all anyone could do was make sure the fetus was okay and help make sure his mom was semi-comfortable as she died. It was total bullshit. Colby was getting really sick of all this s**t. It was like…nothing that mattered lasted. So why the hell did it have to matter at all? As far as he was concerned, things mattering could go f**k itself. 

A kindly call of “Colby” drew his attention to the frame of Dr. James. 

Dr. James was slightly short (around 5”8’) and caught in the tangle between fat and thin which seemed to engage anyone immediately following their thirtieth birthday, with everything going downhill from there. His hair was a sort of dark blond, darting up in clean-cut curls that fell, slightly matted, to just above his ears. His skin was sun-browned and his face slightly red and shiny around the forehead and the sides of his jaw. He wore a simple silver band around his ring finger, the cool metal surface tickled by small dark hairs. 

“Is my mom okay?” Colby asked automatically. Dr. James seemed to wince slightly and Colby’s throat went dry. 

“Where’s my dad?”

This, the doctor seemed able to answer.

“He’s in with your mom. She wanted to talk to him, say some things just in case.”

The last three words ring in his ears. Just in case. 

‘My a*s,’ Colby thought angrily. 

There was no such thing as just in case.

4. Amelia-

“There are some leftovers in the fridge just in case you guys get hungry again. And you have my number on your phone. And Dot’s. You have Dot’s number right?” 

Amelia rolled her eyes. “Of course I have Aunt Dottie’s number. Stop worrying mom. It’s just me and Haley. You should know by now that neither of us ever get in trouble.”

Amelia’s mom sighed.

“I know love. Mum’s just being a silly old worrywart. Can’t help it. Are you going to ring Liza before Haley gets here?” she asked, leaning against the doorway, though still somehow managing to appear almost regal, despite her pantsuit and messy bun. 

Amelia shrugged.

“I actually called a bit earlier, but she’s going out. Jess finally asked her out on a real date, without other people around, so she didn’t really have time to talk.”

Amelia avoided her mother’s concerned look, instead picking up one of her meditation books and flipping it open in her lap. 

She skimmed the contents almost lackadaisically then smiled up at her mum, the attempt only a bit weak, flailing at its corners. 

“Haley should be here in five minutes, mum. I can handle myself in the meantime.”

Her mum nodded absently and dropped a quick kiss on her forehead. 

“Okay darling. Have fun.”

Amelia rolled her eyes, watching her mom depart.

“Don’t worry; I will.”

She continued to idly flip at the pages, pulling at the sleeves of her jumper nervously. After hearing the door downstairs shut, she tossed the book to the side and took a deep, ragged breath. She was clearly being ridiculous, she reminded herself. Clearly. 

Amelia lay back, crossing her arms behind her scarlet hair, and stared up at the ceiling. So much for having a good time. 

It was funny, wasn’t it? How a single phone call can turn an otherwise decent day into a foul sort of mush. 

Not four minutes later Amelia was pulled from her reverie by the sound of a knock on her door. She rolled onto her side, one elbow going out to settle into the carpet, propping up her chin on bent hand. 

Haley grinned at her and flopped down onto a hot-pink beanbag just a few feet from Amelia.

“You got here quickly,” Amelia observed wryly, attempting to squeeze some degree of playfulness into her tone. Haley laughed, so she figured she could count the endeavor a success. 

“Jacob’s keeping Mom and Dad occupied, so they didn’t really bother with any of the usual procrastinators,” she said lightly, leaning back to plunge her head beneath the skirt of Amelia’s bed. 

“What’d he do?” Amelia asked, partly genuinely curious, but mostly just seizing the opportunity for distraction.

Haley pulled herself from beneath the bed, dragging a plastic case out with her. 

“Mom and Dad found his marijuana stash,” she replied nonchalantly, unbuckling the case with an odd sort of finesse. 

Amelia nodded, sitting up then turning onto her stomach, both elbows holding up her chin now. 

“How much trouble is he in?” she asked, though in all honesty most of her interest had already disintegrated. 

Haley shrugged, rifling now through the sheaf of construction paper and pages of decorations and trinkets. Amelia examined her for a few more moments the twisted herself to grab a heavy, bound pink scrapbook from the bookshelf. She plopped it onto the floor then, opening it with an amount of almost reverence, seeming to savor the dull thunk as the front cover fell to the floor, exposing the first page. 

The page bore about a dozen pictures of herself and Haley, with a gold emblazoning splayed across the top-middle section, declaring “HaAm For All.” Below this, scrawled between purple parentheses, was: “and pig for none.” An odd little inside joke that really wasn’t even all that funny. Except that somehow it totally was. 

Amelia smiled softly. Haley was sort of her redemption, in a funny kind of way. They’d been fast friends since they’d met, not even six months prior. It had been the first week of summer and her family had just begun to settle into their new home. She’d had to go to an appointment and there Haley had been, waiting for her brother Jacob to emerge from his own appointment. Haley had struck up a conversation with Amelia (though really, at first, it had been more a soliloquy than anything else). And Amelia had been astonished to find herself entrusting the stranger with…everything, really. Haley had spoken extensively of Buddhism and volunteered her number, saying offhandedly that if Amelia wanted some help learning meditation techniques she could just give her a call. That very same night she had done so and ever since they’d been virtually inseparable. Speaking of which….

“I got some great pictures earlier today of Olivia, Shay, Kayley, and Macy.”

“Macy?” Amelia asked distractedly, shuffling through the various pages with a feeling of overwhelming nostalgia

“You know how enthusiastic she is about getting her picture taken. She belongs on the red carpet someday with her attitude actually. And I can’t say no that kind of enthusiasm,” Haley said, not unkindly. 

Amelia nodded, sealing her lips against the desire to comment as to the fact that Macy Turnstill was the school s**t for a reason and she’d probably be getting her picture taken in the future by skeezy guys with their hands down their pants. And she’d love it. Because she was an attention w***e. But, no. Amelia did not think that way. No. No. No. That was mean and vindictive and thinking that way…it led to acting that way and….Amelia scratched agitatedly at a scab on her right arm. 

Haley looked up and frowned at her.

“What’s wrong?” she asked curiously.

Amelia sighed, shame creeping up in her. 

“I have a meeting with my parole officer tomorrow,” she said at length, eyes shifting to a spot somewhere on the wall behind Haley’s left ear. 

Haley’s soft “oh” whooshed through her. They were both quiet, thinking and avoiding thought respectively. The air was heavy-stifling. Forget the knife- only a cleaver could have even scratched its surface, let alone slice through it.

“You haven’t done anything though right?” Haley murmured finally, voice small with her insecurity. 

Amelia pulled her knees to her chest, chest tightening beneath the palpable tension in the air.

“I don’t think so,” she replied quietly, doubt spreading through her, white hot toxic, smoky, suffocating tendrils invading her every pore, her every thought. Making it hard to breathe…

Haley nodded then slowly shifted the scrapbook supplies from her lap and scooted herself over to where Amelia lay choking on her guilt. Amelia inhaled sharply as Haley’s arm fell around her but did not protest, instead leaning into the other girl, savoring the sensation of best friend and, well…maybe, if she was being honest with herself…. maybe more.

5. Taylor-

“This is going to be epic. Trust me man.”

Taylor grinned confidently at Blake, who in turn merely groaned and pulled vaguely, loosely, at the end of the rope. 

“Whatever.”

Taylor rolled his eyes. He could never understand why his friends seemed to have such trouble grasping the awesomeness of a good prank. They took for granted the mastermind some of his schemes took. And they always seemed to forget that afterwards they felt better. Taylor was helping them out, but they didn’t seem to get that. Everyone thought that he was just stupid or something and they acted like they were doing him a favor by going along with his ideas. As far as Taylor was concerned though, he was just playing the part of underrated hero until they realized all he’d done for them and bowed at his feet, eternally grateful. Idolizing. Chicks would throw themselves at his sensitive-guy motherfucking dickies. “Oh, Taylor,” they would purr. “Oh Taylor…”

“Um, Taylor. Are we doing this or not?” 

Blake was eyeing him in annoyance. Too much longer and, overreaction or not, he would be spitting fire. Taylor shrugged, grinning again. Frau Gabor wouldn’t know what hit her tomorrow morning. 

“We have to time this just right,” he told Blake, his eyes glinting. 

Blake shook his head.

“Whatever you say,” he muttered.

“Okay.” Taylor wanted this to be perfect. After all, this particular plot could easily be considered a masterpiece. 

“Gloves,” he said in a serious voice. Blake gave him a strange look but complied, pulling two leather gloves from his pocket and sliding them onto Taylor’s hands for him. 

The pair slipped into the dark classroom and Taylor immediately darted to Frau’s huge iron desk. 

“Paperclip.”

Blake frowned but pulled this from his pocket and handed it to Taylor who jammed it fastidiously into the bottom drawer’s lock. He began jimmying it very, very carefully, paying no mind as a very bored Blake leaned against the desk and toyed with a few of his German teacher’s instruments. In fact, neither boy was paying the other much attention as a click whispered through the air and Taylor beamed, triumphant for a moment, before meticulously sliding the drawer open, careful not to make a sound. He slipped a half-full flask from his coat pocket into the drawer, slowly undoing the lid.

“Where did you say she keeps her makeup?” he asked softly. 

“Next to the computer, on the wall side,” Blake replied absently. 

Taylor nodded and went to the computer, quickly spotting the small purse. He cautiously unzipped it and dug through the contents for a moment before his gloved fist closed around a slim cylindrical shape. He grinned and pulled out the lipstick tube, uncapping it slowly. It was most definitely used. Perfect. 

Taylor darted back to the drawer. 

“Hand me a tissue,” he whispered. 

Blake chucked the box at him.

“Can you hurry up so we can leave?” he whispered. 

“Hey, you don’t rush perfection,” Taylor chided, not really focused on his friend at all, but on the napkin in his hand. He had a better idea. Taylor glanced at the makeup bag at his side, then began to go though it again, taking a bit longer to find a napkin, covered in multiple lip-marks. Aha. 

Taylor smirked, tracing the lipstick over the exact contours of the lips on the napkin already. When he had finished, he scooted closer to the drawer and wrapped the lip-mark he’d made over the top of the bottle, then removing it and placing it neatly back in the makeup-bag. He then slid the drawer shut, relishing in the sound of it re-locking all by itself, and stood gingerly, tucking the lipstick back into the bag as he did so. He maneuvered himself back over to the computer’s side and placed the makeup-bag back exactly where he’d found it.

“Done,” he exhaled, pride overwhelming him. Hell yeah. This was definitely what he was good at. 

Blake looked warily at the doorframe then at Taylor, who was grinning triumphantly. 

“Are you sure this was a good idea?” Blake asked after a moment. 

Taylor’s smile fell. He turned to Blake, anger rising within him. A good idea? What was that supposed to mean? 

“Of course it’s a f*****g good idea. Mythbusters did something like this back in November of 2003 or something like that. I just made it better.” A pause, then, again, only slightly defensively,: “Of course it’s a good idea!” 

Blake rolled his eyes, jamming his hands into his pockets. 

“I was just sayin’. Don’t have to have a hissy fit.” 

Taylor scowled, but held his temper in check. He didn’t feel up to another fist fight with Blake, and he knew without doubt that the second he let his temper loose Blake would as well; from there an all out fight would be unavoidable. 

“Gabor won’t know what hit her,” he said instead, pulling the ring of keys from the pocket of his jacket. He carefully shut and locked the door. 

“I’ll never understand how you got your hands on the janitor’s keys,” Blake told him, eyes narrowing in a sort of suspicion.

Taylor beamed at the perceived praise. 

“I’ve got my sources. Just don’t ask questions or I might have to kill you,” he joked, brining out a ball of notebook paper and beginning to kick it through the dark hallways.

Blake ignored him. Again. 

“I wish I had my cell, “ he said wistfully. “You got an idea on how I could get that back Taylor? I’d have preferred that over revenge on Frau.”

Taylor frowned. What’d he say? His friends had zero appreciation. 

“I’ll think about it,” he retorted, trying to keep the irritation in his tone from being too obvious. 

Blake nodded absently. 

One day. They’d be falling all over themselves to make out with his motherfucking dickies. Just wait. 

They reached the side door and slipped out, Taylor automatically locking up. It was good for them that security kinda sucked at this school. 

Taylor pulled his brother’s car key out this time and they made their way to the Ford F150. 

“Can you drop me off a block away?” Blake asked as he climbed in. 

“Yeah. Then I’ll drop this baby off and come over,” Taylor replied, putting the key in the ignition and reveling in the engine’s purr. 

“Actually, I’d rather you didn’t come back over,” Blake told him. 

Taylor frowned. What?

“Why not?”

“Just parents y’know man. I’m grounded. And I’m tired. I think I’m just gonna go back to sleep.”

Blake saw his skeptical glance and rather-conspicuously forced a yawn.

Taylor nodded to himself.

“Sure then. I’ll see you tomorrow,” Taylor said haltingly.

Blake shook his head. 

“I’m being forced to do yard work all day,” he replied, tapping his foot against the dash. 

Taylor scowled darkly at that.

“At school,” he clarified, no longer bothering to disguise his annoyance. 

“Oh. Then yeah, I guess I’ll see you then.”

Taylor nodded. 

“Yeah. Sure.”

Always taken for granted and seen as an annoyance, wasn’t he? Well, his friends should have figured out that messing with the king of revenge schemes wasn’t a good idea. The only friend he really liked at the moment was Parker, who was too busy being in the hospital to be a jackass. Well, it was their loss, Taylor reminded himself. 

Blake tapped his foot against the dash again and then leaned forward to spin the dial of the radio station from Taylor’s preference to his own. Now it was Taylor’s turn to roll his eyes and, as he drove along with p***y-a*s music beating in his ears, he began to plot. 

6. Frieda-

Mom and Dad were going to be home in about ten minutes and Frieda still wasn’t quite sure how she felt about that. 

She’d been released from the hospital into the care of her Aunt Mel, who was staying in their home with her. That had been two days ago. Parker was awake now and the doctors intended to discharge him tomorrow at the same time as Sean-Ray. Of all of them, Sean had probably sustained the more serious damage in the form of a brain contusion. They’d had to shave his head to take care of that so that he didn’t have like a brain aneurism or whatever. He’d also shattered the lower portion of his left humerus and broken something like two fingers on one hand and three on the other. She was relatively sure that the two was on the same side as his shattered humerus. 

Parker had had a serious concussion and they had kept him longer to regulate his system, as supposedly he had some sort of iron deficiency they’d managed to catch before it turned serious. Nonetheless, they’d ended up giving him a blood transfusion. Plus, he’d also broken his right leg and sprained his left ankle. They said the break wouldn’t have needed much attention if it wasn’t for last year’s track-injury, which would have exacerbated his condition. The docs wanted to make sure that the risk of Park’s old injury coming back to haunt him were at a minimum, so they had him in a wheelchair for like the next two weeks. 

 Frieda herself was covered in cuts and bruises and had sprained an ankle as well as broken an arm, but these problems had been easily remedied. She’d also had a very mild concussion which had led to the selective amnesia she’d had when she first woke up. Otherwise, though, everyone was pretty much okay and she was supposed to be returning to school tomorrow. 
 
The sound of car doors slamming caught her attention and she stared wearily at the door, not quite excited enough to hobble over to the door and greet her parents, though not yet irritated enough to attempt to ignore their entrance either. 

The door opened and her aunt bustled in, arms full with two big suitcases. Next her mother entered. 

She was wearing a new pearl necklace and all black, what looked almost like funeral clothes really. Her dark hair was curled and wrapped into a sort of French twist, emphasizing her lighter highlights. Elegant and proper as per usual. She looked down her narrow nose at her step-sister, who simpered tightly. 

Dad followed, neatly avoiding his wife’s eyes. 

Dad had slightly long hair, a sort of russet, almond shade. His skin was tanned and leathery, the sides of his blue eyes marred by laugh lines. He was about mid-fifties, whereas Mother was mid-thirties at most. 

They’d been a whim marriage, dad a professor, mom his seductress student. She got pregnant, her strict, rich-a*s, catholic parents flipped out, and they got married. Nowadays, Mom and Dad tended to avoid each other, engaging only in absolutely obligatory occasions for any husband and wife in their societal position. 

“Hey Pumpkin,” Dad said, collapsing haphazardly onto the sofa. 

“Harold,” Mother groaned. Dad ignored her. 

“How you holdin’ up kid?” he asked.

Frieda shrugged. “I’m alright I guess. I’m still mad at Sean though.”

“Harold.”

“What’d the monkey do now?” Dad laughed.

Frieda scowled, crossing her arms over her chest with a bit of difficulty and slumping further into the corner of the couch. 

“He stole my bras and underwear and sold them to guys at my school,” Frieda glowered. “And he almost set the house on fire melting stuff.”

Dad grimaced. 

“I’d say karma got him then, huh pumpkin?”

Mother stalked over, scowling ferociously.

“Is that all you’ve got to say about that Harold? How about grounding him? How about grounding all of them? This accident wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for each and every one of them being distracted and irresponsible.”

Dad rolled his eyes.

“Relax Caroline. The kids have had it rough enough already I’d say. I’ll make Sean get Frieda’s stuff back and ground him when he’s a bit better, but we’re the parents and we weren’t there so I won’t go further than that.”

Mother sighed dramatically, clicking her tongue in disapproval. 

“I’m going upstairs,” she snapped irritably. 

When she was a few stairs up, Dad laughed. 

“She’s just grumpy because she received some surprising news this morning,” he told Frieda with a conspiratorial wink.

Frieda scrunched her eyebrows at him. 

“What happened?” she asked.

He grinned at her. 

“Your mother’s pregnant.”

7. Lucas-

Lucas crouched in his closet, hand opening and closing restlessly on a note he’d found in his jacket after he’d left the park. Meeting in Kline Grove this time. 1 AM. 

His other hand slowly flipped the pages of a book of advanced calculus in accordance with the pages of a book on advanced collateral mechanics. Every now and then a particularly loud crash would shake through the thin walls and he’d flinch violently, hands shaking slightly, then a second later he’d calm and continue reading, paper scrunching in his tight fist. 

Meeting in Kline Grove, he’d think. 1 AM. 

Every ten pages or so his eyes would dart to the electric watch around his wrist. It was now eleven P.M. 

Eventually he pulled a trig book from the shelf to his right and flipped that open as well, cross-referencing something then scribbling a quick plane into his diagram, striking a dash into the middle to symbolize an additional screw. 

Abruptly a loud crash had him shaking. He stilled, listening carefully. There was the sound of an odd shuffling in his room. He swallowed convulsively and dragged himself a little further into the back of the closet, shrouding himself in shadow. His eyes darted towards the doorknob, zeroing in on the lock. He’d reinforced it several times, adding a new layer of security with each near break-in. He came in here when his mom got really bad.

This morning he’d seen her for the first time in about two days, a manic glint in her red-rimmed eyes. She’d gone to her table in the corner of the room, roughly pushing the curtains aside. There were dark bruises on her upper thighs joining together various needle marks. There’d been a heaving snorting sound and then a series of hacking coughs and a grating growl of his name and that was all the signal he’d needed to grab his books and make a mad dash for the closet. That had been at about seven p.m. His mom’s tantrum had started up within the hour and had not stopped since. 

“Lucas,” his mom shrieked. He flinched violently. She was right outside his closet door. The knob began to jiggle. 

“I know you’re in there you little b***h,” she screamed. He clenched his teeth and scooted as far back into the corner as he could get. 

“You took my money,” she screeched. 

“I need that! I need that f*****g money!”

He squeezed his eyes shut, grabbing his books and bringing them to his chest.

“I can get Nick,” she bleated. 

“Nick can break down that f*****g door! He’ll wring your neck!”

Lucas shook his head slowly back and forth. 

No no no no no no no…..

“Lucas,” her voice was breaking. A tear slipped down his cheek. 

“Please Lucas. I’m sorry. I’m sorry alright? Please Lucas! Please! Please Lucas,” she begged, voice cracking with sobs. 

“Lucas, baby, mommy’s sorry. I just need that money baby boy. Just give mommy the money baby. Just give mommy the money and this will all stop.”

“No,” he croaked softly, the word repeating over and over in his head bubbling out of it’s own volition. 

“Open the Goddamn door,” she screamed. 

She’d heard then. 

Nonononononononononono……

 “Open the door,” she bellowed. His fist opened to close over his other hand and the note fell. He scrambled to pick it up, eyes flinching to his watch. 

11:50 p.m. he observed wryly. 

“Lucas,” his mom cried out. “Please!”

Kline Grove. One a.m. 

8. Kiwi- 

“I think we should go to bed,” Jennifer said slowly, looking at Kiwi from the corner of her eye, anxiety effectively cloaking her exhaustion.

Kiwi didn’t bother looking up from her silent admiration of her now-painted nails. 
“I’m not really tired.”

Jennifer threw her a beseeching glance and Kiwi scowled down at her hands. She knew that, going along with her newfound lack of friendship and, therefore, need to be nice, she technically ought to give in. She made sure to heave a big sigh, making it obvious that she was doing Jennifer a big favor, and [very] reluctantly relented. 

“Fine.” 

Jennifer grinned gratefully and stood to turn off the lights, pretending to not be aware of how much closer Kiwi was. Kiwi rolled her eyes and pushed aside her nail polish and sketchbook, moving to slide between the filmy layers of her sleeping bag. They were swallowed instantly in darkness and Kiwi listened to Jennifer move back onto her bed, wriggling shyly beneath her comforter. There was a heavy silence as both girls lay attempting to allow themselves to become accustomed to the dark. Kiwi stared at the ceiling, less sure of herself with the light gone. 

Kiwi spoke suddenly, haltingly.

“I know I’m a b***h, you know. Like I’m totally aware that I’m mean and a snob and all that stuff. I don’t know why everything changed. I mean, I used to love spending time alone. Luke and I would hang out, and I had my friend Marissa until she moved at the end of last year, but up until eighth grade they were just really good friends…I didn’t even know about Luke’s home….And now I’m just so…” she paused, searching for the appropriate word then spit out “dependent”, disgust coming off of her in waves.

“I always hated being alone,” Jennifer said quietly from the bed. “It scared me. But I always had to be. Now that I have a choice I really hate it, more than ever.”

Kiwi looked up, watching the other girl examine her nails from her position on the floor. She pulled at the silky material of her sleeping bag uncomfortably. 

“I loved it. Just me, maybe some music coming from the stereo, and paint and canvas. I painted all the walls in our house, you know?”

Jennifer glanced at her, a bit of curiosity seemingly cutting through the tension lining her face. 

“Is that what you want to do, then? When you grow up.” 

“On the side,” Kiwi said authoritatively. She frowned. “I still don’t know what I want to do, like on a permanent  basis. My mom says I should be a detective or something because I’m always in the middle of conspiracies and stuff and virtually nothing can be kept secret from me if I want to find it out.”

Kiwi thought she saw Jennifer flinch slightly but wrote it off. 

“You want to design right?”

Jennifer nodded.

“I don’t know what I’ll do if I can’t make it as a designer,” she whispered. “I don’t handle rejection very well.”

Kiwi sighed, crossing her arms behind her head. 
 
“I don’t care whether I’m rejected or not,” she said contemplatively. “As long as I’m good then I don’t care what anyone thinks or says about me, ‘cause they’re not right. It’s not like the people that say s**t actually know me.”

Jennifer turned over.

“I hate it. I hate how people talk about me all the time. The whispering, the mutters across the table…” she shuddered. 

Kiwi frowned. 

“I’ve never actually heard anyone talk about you,” she said softly.

Jennifer turned over again abruptly, her shining brown eyes seeming almost white in the darkness.

“They do,” she breathed. “They talk about me all the time.”

9. Parker-

Push, push. Brake. Push, push. Brake. Push, push. Brake. Brake. Push. Wait….

Parker grimaced down at his wheelchair, annoyance welling up within him. 

This thing sucked a*s. He scowled even more deeply at his mental-wording. 

Yeah. Fat a*s. 

He narrowed his eyes and slammed his hands down on the gears at his sides. The chair jerked forward, slamming him into the wall. He stayed there for a moment, head down, teeth grinding. 

Fat a*s. Fat a*s. Fat. Fat. Fat.

This stupid f*****g chair and this stupid f*****g hospital with his stupid f*****g bed had completely ruined his exercise regimen.

Of course, the blame ultimately went to his stupid f*****g car and that stupid f*****g street-light and, of course, his stupid f*****g self. His fat stupid f*****g self. 

“You keep accidentally hitting walls and we may have to keep you another night,” A bright voice joked from behind him. 

Parker wheeled himself around to face Nurse Britney. He forced a smile.

“I know. Just can’t seem to get used to the idea of a pair of wheels as legs,” he smirked at her. 

She smiled kindly back at him. 

“I’ve got your discharge paperwork ready for whenever your parents get here tomorrow. You’re lucky I’m your nurse. Nurse Brenda and Nurse Paul always straighten out the paperwork at the last minute so patient-discharge takes about five hours. Jonah is a bit better. He starts the morning of, but since he has the most patients it still takes forever.”

Parker nodded slowly, suppressing a grimace. He wasn’t sure which option was worse- having his discharge take forever or having a nurse who talked way too much. 

“I thought your parents were supposed to be here an hour ago,” she continued, oblivious to his distraction. 

It might just be the latter, Parker thought with an inward groan. 

“I already took out your brother’s IV. We’re only supposed to do that close to when you leave.” 

She frowned. 

“They are coming right?”

 He opened his mouth to respond, but she simply plowed on. 

“What am I saying? Of course they are! How could they not be? We told them explicitly that we’d done all we could here. And they said they’d come. I’m just being silly of course.” 

He nodded furiously and this time she did notice, a furious blush storming across her face. 

“Right,” she said slowly, looking awkward. “I should go call them then, actually. See if they’re on their way. Bye!” 

She waved a bit and ducked out hurriedly. He listened to her heels click-clacking down the hall towards the circular desk in the center of a hospital intersection. 

Three blissful minutes of quiet later (quiet if you didn’t count the voice throttling him from the inside out. Fat. Fat. Fat. Worthless. Weak. Fat. Fat. Fat. Fat. Fat), and the click-clacking was back, this time accompanied by a softer, padding tread. 

The door squeaked open and Sean-Ray bounded in, followed by a weak looking Nurse Brittney. From the looks of it, even her energy quailed in the face of Sean’s absolute mania. 

“Park!” 

Sean beamed, throwing himself onto the side of Parker’s bed and stretching his legs in front of him with bruised ankles lazily crossed. Parker examined his little brother critically for a moment. He’d heard some about his brother’s condition, but this was the first time he’d seen him since before the accident. 

“Your parents were held up, but they said they should be here in about five minutes,” Nurse Brittney said quietly, giving Parker an oddly fearful look. He almost laughed. That he’d scared her out of her talkative nature that easily was kinda’ve amusing, in a weirdly sadistic way.

Sean shifted restlessly on the bed, pulling himself awkwardly into a sitting position. 
 
“They took my lighter from me, Parker,” he complained sadly. Parker laughed. 

Somehow he wasn’t surprised that that was what Sean was focusing on. 

“Maybe that’s for the better,” he suggested lightly.

Sean shook his head vigorously. 

“No way,” he replied passionately. “It’s not like I’m an arsonist or anything!”

Parker raised an eyebrow. 

“You sure about that?”

Sean pursed his lips. 

“Not officially,” he said slowly, scrunching up his eyes. 

Parker rolled his own eyes. 

“Well, if you manage to get your pyromania a little more under control then I’ll get you another lighter, how about that?”

It was Sean-Ray’s turn to laugh.

“I have a whole bunch more at home,” he told Parker with an almost manic grin. “I just didn’t like that they took the one I’d had with me! It was one of my favorites!”

Parker rolled his eyes, his funny-little-brother-induced happiness draining slightly. He took a moment to massage his temples. 

“That’s not really a good thing,” he said, trying his best to sound stern.

Sean-Ray, however, didn’t seem to be paying attention anyways.

“Sean,” Parker chided. 

Sean eased himself from the bed and went to the window, still not paying attention. 

Parker took a moment to calm himself, then proceeded to roll himself to Sean’s side. He tapped his brother on the shoulder and Sean turned around, looking as utterly unrepentant as always. 

“Sean. Have you talked to mom and dad?”

Sean-Ray shook his head. 

“Nah. I think they’re mad at me too. At least Mom is. Nurse Brittney told me on the way over here that when she talked to them they said for her to tell me to get ready for a long talking-to.” 

He made a face. 

“I think Frieda told them about the bra thing,” he said slowly. 

Parker restrained a grimace at the mention of that particular incident. 

“It was a pretty big deal. I think she has a right to be upset and you technically should be in trouble.”

Sean shrugged. 

“I didn’t really think it was that big of a deal.”

Parker closed his eyes briefly. He hadn’t expected Sean to understand exactly how huge what he’d done really was. 

“Fine Sean. Just…please listen to Mom and Dad when they talk to you.”

Sean-Ray looked up at him abruptly, an odd look on his face. 

“If they yell at me, can I sleep in your room tonight?” he asked, peculiarly slow. 

Parker frowned at him but nodded. 

“Should I ask why?” 

Sean-Ray shook his head vigorously. 

“No. It’s embarrassing.”

Parker crossed his elbows over his knees and studied his younger brother once more. Sean-Ray was unusually careless, so he couldn’t fathom what could possibly have placed this look of consternation upon his face. He didn’t like this anxious-Sean. 

“You never get embarrassed Sean. Just tell me.”

Sean-Ray hesitated. Sean-Ray never hesitated.

“Tell me,” Parker said firmly. 

Sean-Ray looked down. 

“You have to keep it a secret, Park.”

“I swear.”

“Um well….I….”

Abruptly the door swung open and Mom and Dad themselves marched in. 

"Harold I've told you a thousand times that you're spoiling her too much. She's becoming a downright brat."

"Well, Caroline, I've ignored you a thousand times, so maybe you could try not “telling me” and we could move on already for Christ’s sake."

She threw Dad a cold glare and he heaved a sigh. 

"I'll tell you what. How about, you let me do what I want with the two oldest and when the new one comes along you can do whatever you wish with the two youngest. That control enough for you, Caroline?"

Mom huffed, hurrying over to Sean-Ray and fussily beginning to part his hair.

"What‘s going on?" Parker asked.

"Well, son-" Dad began, laying himself on the hospital bed and peering at Parker over the edge of his wire frames, very professor-like. 

Mom cut him off, glowering. 

"Your father is an idiot is what’s going on,” she snarled, looking to the side in annoyance. 

“Your mother’s pregnant,” Dad told them plainly.

“And your dad is the devil incarnate,” Mom tacked on with a little growl, pulling Sean to her side. 

“Thanks honey,” Dad said wryly. 

Parker stared between them in bemusement. How the hell had they even gotten pregnant? They hated each other! 

“How…wha…..how?” he asked slowly, his forehead 

“There are certain obligations you have when you are jackass and wife,” Mother explained with a look of understanding.

Parker nodded slowly, his nose wrinkling. 

“Right,” he said, looking away. “Can we leave now?”

9. Beth- 

“Hey mom can I spend the night at Eden’s?” Beth called from her room, already throwing her things into a bag. 

There was a long pause during which Beth continued to dig through her drawers, every now and then turning and tossing an article of clothing or a folder into the duffel bag on her bed. She was in the middle of pawing through her sock drawer when  a voice from behind her asked, “What do you think you’re doing?”

She hissed, startled, and spun to face her mom. 

Alice Quinn was a crude-looking woman with dark ringlets of onyx traced with silver. Her eyes were dark brown and beady, her abdomen flapping over the top of her brown corduroy jeans. She was a pasty looking white, with just a hint of past tan clinging desperately to her arms and chest in small clumps of only slightly darker flesh. Her lips were thin and pinched and she had the odd drowning look of a woman who had been slim her whole life, of a woman meant to remain tiny forever, but that had collected droopy bundles of dimpled fat and clasped it determinedly upon herself. 

“I have to go to Eden’s,” Beth told her, continuing to rifle through her drawer. 

“Is that right young lady?” her mom queried, looking disgruntled. 

“Doesn’t he realize that every night from the twenty-fifth of October to the thirtieth we go to Mercutio’s and listen to Bob’s Halloween prep DJ-ing? We do it every year. It‘s a tradition.”

“Well this year I’m putting my foot down,” Beth told her mom calmly. “And you won’t stop me.”

“Excuse me?” her mother exclaimed, looking utterly enraged.  

Beth sighed, finally stopping her search and turning to look at her mother fully. 

“Every year I want to go to Eden’s and spend the night so that I can be with him on his birthday and every year you tell me no and I listen. But this year is worse than any of the others, I don’t know why but it is. And I have to be there for him. No ifs. No ands. No buts. I have to be there for him.” 

Her mom scowled. 

“I forbid you.”

Beth smirked, picked up her duffel bag, and stood, walking from her mom on her bed towards the door. 

“You can’t stop me. I have a car. That I worked for and pay for. You’ll be fine without me, mom.”

“Beth Nora Quinn,” her mom said in a deadly voice. “Don’t you dare.”

Beth walked out the door. 

10. Blake-

So, Blake thought as he watched Frau Gabor get carted from the class by the agitated looking principal and two rather amused campus police, maybe he should pay attention the next time Taylor came up with one of his pranks….

As the foursome broached the hallway, a familiar voice called out: “Wait!”

Blake rushed to the door, joining a few of his more raucous classmates. 

“Taylor,” he muttered, his disbelief evident in his tone. 

“Wait! I can’t let you take Ms. Gabor away,” a pause, then: “The alcohol wasn’t hers,“ Taylor exclaimed. The foursome paused, Ms. Gabor turning her beady eyes upon him. Blake’s jaw fell slack. 

“Taylor?” his voice ghosted through the air, clearly saturated in incredulity. Without realizing it, Blake had edged his way out of the door and into the remote hallway, joining Taylor, Frau, Principal Mendoza, and the two campus cops. His classmates by the door jostled each other behind his back, but fell silent. 

“I’m sorry Blake. I have to tell them,” Taylor proclaimed dramatically. 

“What?” Anger seeped into his tone of its own volition. What the hell did Taylor think he was doing? Didn’t he realize how much trouble they’d be in? Taylor, really, more than him. How stupid could he be?

Blake went swiftly to Taylor’s side, hissing fiercely: “Taylor for your own good just shut up.”

Taylor’s only reaction was to shrink slightly then violently shake his head. 

“I’m sorry Blake,” he half-whimpered, sounding pathetic and really, really not-Taylor. What the f**k? Taylor jerked away from him. 

“Blake planted the alcohol in her drawer,” he exclaimed, somehow managing to sound to Blake’s knowing ears simultaneously smug and mournful. 

Blake blinked, shell-shocked. It seemed to him for that brief space of time as if he was caught in some kind of limbo with only his astonishment to accompany him. And then, abruptly, he was yanked from his perplexity as the realization of Taylor’s words hit him with an almost astronomical force and his astonishment dissipated, replaced with an immense, deadly type of fury. 

The next thing he knew he was on top of Taylor, his fist reeling back and slamming into his friend’s face. He’d pulled back for another punch when two hands wrapped around his arms, gripping them with a steady determination. Blake was pulled up by the two cops, his fists still pumping in front of him, desperate to land another punch while he was still in close enough proximity. He succeeded twice, screaming as he did so. 

“You jackass! You f*****g jackass! I trusted you! I trusted you! I’m going to f*****g kill you, you son of a b***h!…Goddamn it let me go,” Blake hollered furiously, the exertion causing a few tears to fall and stream down his beet-red face. 

“I’m sorry Blake,” Taylor murmured, his face unreadable. “I had to do it.”

“No you f*****g didn’t,” Blake snapped, utterly enraged at the very insinuation of his friend’s actions being compulsory. Nobody had to stab you in the back. F**k. 

The campus cops wrenched him away towards the principal’s office, their faces stoic as they dragged him into his own personal hell, new-found enemy watching quietly as he was left behind. 

11. Alyssa-

The locker-room was empty, filled with the aroma of cheap fruity perfumes and the sharp undercutting stench of layer upon layer of mold and old sweat. Alyssa hummed tunelessly to herself, tossing her satchel to the floor and reaching out to spin the dial on locker 247. Her humming morphed into singing as she chanted to herself to the tune of Beyonce’s song Single Ladies. 

“Three turns then stop at twenty-three, two turns to get to fifteen, go the other way and stop at just four. Pull open and see you’re done.”

She didn’t really have to sing the song she supposed to herself. She’d developed it in the first week of school and almost two months had passed since then, so she’d definitely managed to get her locker’s combination memorized by now, but it had become an oddly ingrained habit. Her singing fell back into humming, now to the tune of the song she’d just used as her mnemonic  device of choice.  She pulled out her neatly folded volleyball shorts and T-shirt, slipping of her royal blue dress, folding it meticulously, and placing it carefully in her locker, swinging her hips absently all the while. 

“Oh, hey. Sexy.”

Alyssa choked on air and launched into a coughing fit, her ears and cheeks burning with shock.

“Hey Tara,” she wheezed when she could speak again. 

Tara Vance laughed at her, stripping off her Abercrombie T-shirt and white-washed jeans unabashedly. 

“You’re way too easy to embarrass Alyssa,” she replied, smirking. 

Alyssa hesitantly pulled her own T-shirt over her head. 

“I know,” she sighed. 

Tara smiled at her, tugging her flat, strawberry-blonde hair into a high ponytail, paying no mind to the volleyball uniform still in her open locker. 

Crimson swallowed Alyssa’s face and she stared at the floor as she slipped into her shorts as quickly as she could. She couldn’t help the discomfort crawling her skin in the company of the other girl. Tara was nice enough, if a tad awkward, and really she was plenty popular so she obviously had some good qualities, but Alyssa and her closer friends on volleyball all privately agreed that Tara had to be at least partially butch. She’d grown up weird from what Alyssa had heard, living in a nudist colony until the fifth grade. Alyssa liked to think that she wasn’t very judgmental, but, really, that was just weird. And the way she acted in the locker room…Tara had to be gay. And it wasn’t that Alyssa had a problem with that, she had a few friends (well, really, acquaintances) who claimed to be bi or whatever. It was just…well, uncomfortable, was all. Alyssa could deal with the possibility of guys checking her out, but girls? Ew. 

“Earth to Alyssa,” Tara said, giving her a strange look. 

Alyssa laughed nervously. “Sorry,” she giggled. 

Tara clicked her tongue and walked over to the bathroom, still not wearing her volleyball clothes. Alyssa shook her head vaguely and closed her locker as the door behind her banged open and about ten other girls trooped in. Molly Hanes grinned at her and Kylie Marshall and Haley Knowles smiled politely before going over to the better lockers that the sophomore JV players got to use. Belle and Ellie entered together, gossiping lightly. They always came in together because they had last period together. Hill’s pre-AP world geography if she remember correctly, all the way on the other side of the school. 

They joined Alyssa at her locker, exchanging quick hugs. 

“Are you and Travis going to the dance tonight?” Belle asked as she removed her shirt (designer as per usual) and pulled her volleyball tank out. 

Alyssa shrugged, perching herself on the slim, pale limber of the bench running through the center of the athletics locker room.

“I guess. I just have no idea whether or not it’s as friends or- you know- more.”

Ellie gave her a sympathetic look.

“That’s so stupid,” she said, taking her time opening her locker. 

Belle sighed. 

“I so wish I could go. Just my mom has this stupid tradition of going to see a friend of her and dad’s DJ-ing for like the entire week before Halloween. I’d try to bail, but Beth already did and Mom’s completely freaked out. She’s insane when it comes to tradition.”

Ellie nodded.

“I know what you mean. My brother Judah is completely sentimental about everything. He’s always trying to get things to stay the same. It’s so stupid, too, because it’s the only thing stopping him from going out with this girl Clara that he’s been friends with forever. They already act like they’re together, so it’s so annoying when he talks about not wanting to change anything between them. I mean I’m just like Hello! Nothing‘s going to change! He’s so stupid.”

Alyssa groaned. 

“Maria is nothing like that. It’s like she’s addicted to change these days.”

Belle rolled her eyes. 

“Yeah, that can get annoying. Like, I don’t like my mom’s tradition really, but it’s still a tradition. And Mom really cares about it so I always think why not just go along with it. Oh sorry,” Belle cut herself off, moving to the side to allow Abigail Spencer to leave the lockers then flopped onto the bench beside Alyssa and pulled out her compact and a ponytail. “What was I saying?”

“Why not go along with it,” Alyssa supplied helpfully. 

“Oh yeah. And then Beth just messes up everything. She just walked out of the house last night, no goodbyes, no anything. What the hell is that about? All to go spend some time with stupid Eden Thorsley. I don’t get it. She’s just such a spoiled b***h. She has no idea how much that upset Mom. And Dad’s pissed now too. He and mom were yelling back and forth half the night. Completely messed up my beauty sleep.”

“Beauty sleep?” Ellie laughed. 

Belle rolled her eyes again but laughed.

“Yes beauty sleep. God, last time I said that Beth was just like ‘Izzy you’re ugly and no amount of sleep is ever going to change that’. And when I tried to help her out a few nights ago she said I looked like a drowned rat! I mean what is that? God, I hate her so much.”

“Sounds like Maria,” Alyssa sighed. 

“Some sisters, eh?’ Belle asked wryly. 

Ellie just fell onto the bench between them and tossed her arms around their shoulders. 

“C’est le vie,” she murmured. 

Alyssa laughed. 

“French? Aren’t you Jewish?”

“L’chaim,” Ellie nodded. 

They all giggled for a minute then fell into a companionable silence. 

“C’mon girls,” Ellie said at last, pulling herself up and propping her hands on her hips, smile tugging at her lips.

“We got us some volleyball to do.”

12. Eden-

“Eden c’mon. It’s just another birthday. You’re sixteen! You should be happy!”

Eden lay perfectly still, just staring straight ahead. 

“Please,” Beth whispered. “Your dad said he hasn’t seen you eat anything in the past few days. He’s concerned.”

No….he wasn’t. His dad just always got like that around this time of year…and he wasn’t hungry….

“Please,” Beth begged him. “I made you a red velvet cake. With cream cheese frosting. And it looks delicious. We can watch some cartoons on nickelodeon. That always makes me feel better. I’m sure they’ll have spongebob or something like that on. Come on Eden.”

Spongebob. Spongebob. That’s what they were watching when…baseball cards. Red. Everywhere. Staring green eyes that wouldn’t leave him alone. 

“Eden?”

Eden squeezed his eyes shut and screamed


© 2010 LunalitSol


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Added on October 9, 2010
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LunalitSol
LunalitSol

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Now a twenty-something mom, wife, employee, and student- still chasing that same dream. Still a writer from the inside out. more..

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Bang Bang

A Poem by LunalitSol