All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
Author's note: This book idea came to me during English class. We were reviewing vocabulary and litteray elements and she introduced us to the Big Potato Lead. I set that up first then lined the rest of the story up. This has to be my first book that I actually planned out.
I slept in because there was no real need to wake early. The rest of my house was quiet, meaning everyone else was still asleep. I tried to return to sleep, to maintain the peace, but the period of sleep was over for me. I slowly got out of bed, and checked the running water. It would should shoot out dirt occasionally then go to clear water then shoot out more dirt. I trotted down the stairs and went outside to check the system. It was still broken. We had called a plumber over a week ago, still no one came.
It appeared that as time went along, America’s resources started to lessen. But when we asked around to our neighbors it seemed no one else was experiencing our water problems. It could all be diagnosed and fixed if the plumber came but it seemed nowadays no one wanted to do their jobs.
I went back in the house and decided that skipping a shower would be best this morning. I ate some cold leftovers from last night, for breakfast and waited for everyone else to wake up. First my dad came down,
“Good morning, what are you doing up so early?” He asks planting a wet kiss on my forehead.
I tried to maintain from cringing before answering. “Couldn’t stay asleep.”
“What do you have there?”
“Leftovers. Want some?”
“Umm I’ll pass.”
“Your loss.” I spoon down some more cold, clam chowder then watched him as he got ready for the morning. It wasn’t as if I enjoyed the chowder, especially not for breakfast, but it was always hard to find something in the pantry. I remember when I was younger and our problem was we stacked so much food in our pantries a lot of it would go to waste.
The kitchen was connected to the family room and down the hallway there’s three doors. The one on the right takes you to the laundry room, in which the washing machine and dryer are both broken. The one on the left was the bathroom everyone used whenever we’re running late. And the door right dab in the middle, leads you out to the garage. He takes a left then slapped on some cologne in front of the mirror. My dad always managed to look so clean. Even his hair looked washed, but how? The water was dirty.
“The water’s still acting weird.” I complain, while twirling my spoon around in the chowder. I couldn’t swallow another spoonful.
“I know, I can’t do anything about it, Paige.”
“Just thought I should let you know.”
He slid on his shoes while still standing then said, “The plumber should come any day now.”
“I don’t think he’s coming at all, Dad.”
He turns on the TV, the news had just taken a break, and the commercials came on. “Just watch to see if you’re called to school today.”
“Why should I care?”
“Because you’re education is very important. You need it to go into a successful profession like me as a doctor, or your mom as a lawyer.”
“Not if I go to school smelling like a wet dog.”
“Here,” He hands me my mom’s perfume bottle. “Splatter some of that on and you’ll be fine.”
“Wow. Thanks,” I say eyeing the bottle.
“I understand you’re not a morning person but please try to not be so depressing.” With that he slipped out the door.
I scooted my chair from under the table and walked over to cut off the TV when the news report caught my attention as it would anyone else’s. “America now adapting China’s ways.”
“We’re going communist?” I ask the TV.
It was my biggest pet peeve when I saw my mother doing it, and here I was following in her footsteps….
Midway between a shudder I end up jumping because my brother snuck up behind me saying, “Don’t be silly we’re a republic. Or a democracy….which is it, Paige?”
“Quiet Liam.” I wave my brother off because I wanted to hear the reporter. Reengaged Richard Congy, who had a full head of black hair and dreamy blue eyes starts talking. I only watched Channel 6 for him. He sat behind a desk with his hands folded over a stack of papers. On the upper right hand corner of the screen the icon of a question mark waited behind the words, “China’s Laws.”
“We have received shocking news from the White House, a new bill just passed saying that we have adapted China’s current child birth law. We’re going to Diane for more,”
“Yes Richard,” Diane stands in front of the White House as she paces back and forth trying to draw attention to how her heels complimented her calves. “It seems America is becoming overpopulated. The president believes that in three years we’ll be just as big as China if not bigger. So to avoid the clean air issue--”
“And clean water.” I add.
“There shall be a mandatory tubectomy directly after birth. No questions asked.”
“What’s that?” Liam starts,
“Can we be nice for once, Paige?” My mom always happened to come in and hear just the one part of our arguments.
“Mom!” I yell, pointing at the TV.
She stops and looks at it for a minute then says, “It’s about time.”
“You’re right,” I say looking at Liam, “had you just stopped after me, the family would be in a lot less debt.”
“I didn’t mean it in that way. I mean it’s about time that they try to do something about these women wanting thirteen kids!”
“Like the Octo Mom?” Liam pipes up.
“Shut up, Liam!”
“Paige, stop being mean to him.”
“He just keeps saying idiotic things.”
“No, you’re having issues. Is it 12:10 yet?”
I look over at the kitchen clock, “Yeah.”
“Well there was no call for school today so go take a stroll to blow off that steam.”
“Fine.” Outside the air was nice. But the sides of the roads were filled with that brown water that came through the faucet this morning.
All I‘ve ever had to do, since middle school, was walk right down the street to Zach‘s house. “One kid.” I say while sitting on Zach’s couch.
Zach was a twenty one year old colleague. Unlike middle schools, elementary, and high schools it wasn‘t actually mandatory for colleges to tell their students when to come to school. So sometimes he would just take a few days off to sit and talk to me. Our friendship wasn’t weird either. It all started a long time ago…
“Well that’s no good for you, is it?”
“Of course it isn’t! I mean I have quite some time until I actually plan on being a mom but….just one kid?”
He shrugs, no longer interested in our conversation, “Did you already have breakfast?”
“I had about three spoonfuls of cold chowder .”
“Sounds gross. How about you hop in my car and I treat us to some pancakes?”
“Do you have batter? I like homemade stuff better.”
“I’m a college student. The only thing that sits in my fridge is day old pizza.”
I laugh, “Okay, but I gotta get home soon to watch Liam.”
“That’s fine with me.”
He pulls his coat on then leads me out to the garage.
There was nothing special about the most popular pancake house in town. It was in an ordinary building, with ordinary food. Something about it though. kept the pancake house the talk of the town. Since it was way out of walking distance he drove me around there in the truck his aunt bought him, which he named Blue. Even though his aunt had a little extra money she didn‘t waste it on certain things. One of those few things were cars, you would‘ve sworn she pulled his blue truck from a junkyard. “I was never big on wanting kids.” He says, biting into one of his eggs.
“Most guys barely want kids. It’s just how it is really.”
“I know but I want a reason behind it. Girls want babies because they want to be a better parent for these kids and give them everything they never got. They want to give and take love from these people of their own DNA.”
“I don’t have a reason.” He pours some syrup on his plate then dips his bacon into it.
“How are you so skinny when you eat like a fatty?”
“I’m not skinny, Paige. I’ve got a six-pack,”
“Which no one’s ever seen.”
“You never asked to.”
I smile, feeling a bit uncomfortable, “Changing the subject…”
“And you eat nothing. That makes sense I guess.”
“I eat, just not in front of you.”
“And why’s that? I’m paying for this breakfast. The least you could do is pretend you like it.”
“I do like it.” I take a big cut of a pancake, stuff it in my mouth, and smile at him. He smiles back with a nod of approval.
“I guess that’s the end to that conversation.”
I insisted Zach stopped at his house. I had just ate over eight hundred calories in one sitting, the least he could do was spare me a few blocks of a walk back down to my house. I thanked him for breakfast with a hug then headed down the street to get home to Liam.
“Where’ve you been?” He asks, shooting zombies through a video game.
“Breakfast. I brought you what I couldn’t finish.”
“Mmm. Smells good.” He pauses his game then runs over to me and grabs it. “Thanks, Paige.”
“No problem.” From the family room you ended up in the main hallway, where the front door opened up to our winding stair case. I take my time up the stairs to see my mom was still home, which was unusual considering the fact she worked day shifts at her law corp. When I peeked into the office to get a closer look I figured out she was crying.
“Mom? Is something wrong?”
“Close the door.” Her voice was so quiet, I quickly closed it.
“Aunt Terry and Uncle Ralph didn’t make it back from the cruise.”
“What? How? Did they drown or something?”
“Shh!” She raises her hand, “No one knows the details yet but when Dena went to pick them up, they weren’t there.”
“Is it possible that the cruise left them behind on one of the islands?”
“I don’t know,” She sighs, “Dena’s coming to stay with us.”
“Paige, listen to me your cousin’s parents are missing. She’s barely sixteen! She can’t live by herself!”
“I doubt she even wants to come here.”
“She doesn’t, but I talked to your grandmother and she said it doesn’t matter. She needs somewhere to stay.”
“Why can’t she stay with grandma? In her nice little gated community?”
“You know the rules. 55 and up.”
“Break the rules for a few days--I mean come on! You know Dena and I don’t get along.”
“Well maybe you’ll bond more when she’s staying in your room.”
“Now that’s just cruel punishment.”
“She’ll be here tomorrow.”
“How do you get from Jersey to Arizona in a day?”
“It’s the magical way of transportation called flying. Just get out of here, Paige. I’m not in the mood for your selfishness.”
I wished I could walk back up the street and complain to Zach about everything that had happened. But I had just bothered the guy and I’m sure he had some ten page paper due today. Thefore I had three people I’d call to let out my feelings. One of them lived far far away in a place called Florida. We went to middle school together a while back, vowed to be best friends forever. And when she heard from her parents that she had to move, we renewed that vow. Our long distance friendship had lasted over five years now. The other lived just a few cities away. The last one barely ever picked up her phone, so I called Sierra in Florida.
“Hey it‘s my girl, Macy! What‘s happening in the Wild Wild West?”
“Hey Sierra. I got news that the wicked witch of the east is coming to live on us.”
“Because her parents went missing.”
“Poof, they’re gone? She probably did some witch’s spell on them or they found out what a horrible child they had and ran away.”
I laugh, “Yeah, no. They went on a cruise and when she went to pick them up, they weren’t there. I tried telling my mom they’re probably fine. I think the cruise may have just left them on an island or something.”
“Well you’re right! Shoot, anything could’ve happened. Wrong cruise, wrong time, wrong location--anything.”
“Tell me about it. It was only a weekly thing, that’s probably a couple hours per dock.”
“Why was Dena left behind?”
“She managed to get an in school suspension after fighting a girl over a boy….Ridiculous ain’t it?” I say with a sigh as I pull up the blinds to let some light into my room.
“Well what’d your boyfriend say?”
“Zach’s not my boyfriend.” I correct nearly immediately.
“Oh you’re right. What’d the pedophile say?”
She cracks up. “It’s nothing but the truth. Come on, what’d he say? I know you told him about this.”
“Well actually I didn’t.”
“Oh jeez, has hell frozen over?”
“No, I went to his house earlier today to complain about how we’re now adapting to China’s law--”
“What law?” Sierra asked.
“You haven’t heard about it?”
“Darling I live in the suburbs of Florida! Clermont, to be exact! What do you want from me?”
I laugh, “We can only have one kid now. After you squirt out the kid they tie your tubes no questions asked.”
“Man, that’s some crazyness.”
I‘m too deep into my thoughts than to keep up the conversation, “You think I should go back and talk to Zach? I mean, don’t you think I bothered him enough?”
“Well what was his reaction this morning?”
I smile, “He took me out to breakfast. We had blueberry pancakes. Just the stuff you and I used to make dozens of! He got some bacon, I got some eggs. Your ideal breakfast.”
“Somehow the conversation led to him showing me his six pack.”
“Girl I’d get in there! Heaven knows what it’d lead to….”
“Now you’re really trying to get him arrested.”
She laughs, “No one would have to know. Well except for me of course.”
“You speak of absolute fantasy. What would Zach want with me?”
“What any pedophile would want with a gorgeous girl like you,” she says
“Shut up, Sierra.”
“Think about it ,Kid!”
She laughs. “Bye, Paige.”
I paced around my room for the longest time, staring out the window, wondering if I should go back to Zach’s house. And then my mom broke my thoughts. She came into my room, cleared her throat and leant on the doorway with her arms crossed.
Typical mom. When she was mad, upset, hurt she never hid it. She wore it proudly on her sleeves but only at home. In court of course, attorneys have to turn into cyclones. But this was mother’s way of warning you, you’re in trouble.
“Where were you this morning?”
“I went for a walk like you told me to.”
“Oh! So you walked all the way to the pancake house?”
“Okay I caught a ride from my friend.”
“Yeah mom, as unbelievable as it is, I do have friends.”
“Don’t get smart with me, Paige! Who’s this boy?”
“This boy? Why do you automatically assume my friend’s a boy?”
“Why aren’t you answering my question?” She looked pleased with herself after I didn’t respond. It meant that as a lawyer, she had won the case.
“His name is Zach. He’s a really nice guy .He lives up the street. He doesn’t want kids, and he has a very low income. Anything else you want to know, Mom?”
“He sounds nice.” She smirks again, “Invite him over for dinner. The family would love to meet him.”
“Yeah, that’s not happening.”
“Bring him over, or we‘ll go visit him.”
“That is so not fair.”
“I don‘t care.”
I eye her until she leaves my doorway. Then Liam walks by. My little fourteen year old brother. When I was younger I wanted him out of my house so badly because I asked my parents for a sister. Instead they brought him home. Over the years I’ve grown to love him as much as any sister should, sometimes we could be really good friends and other times he annoys the crap out of me.
He does a 180 then walks in, “Yeah?”
“What’s worse bringing your girlfriend home or going over to her house?”
“With a family like ours, either way is risky.”
“My point exactly. Thanks, Kid,”
“No problem .I’m sorry if I got you in trouble, Paige.” He doesn’t wait for a response but stuffs his hands in his pant pockets then walks out.
The next morning I sat in front of the TV, basically praying for a call to school . But once it passed 12:10, my shoulders slumped over.
“School today?” Liam asked as he walked up.
“Then why are you upset?”
“Dena comes to live with us today.”
“Where’s she staying?”
“My room, unfortunately.”
I push up off the couch mumbling, “Speak of the devil, and the devil shall appear.”
“I am done with your attitude, Paige!” My mom snaps.
“Have a nice day at work!” I say sarcastically. She rolls her eyes at me then walks out. I wait until I hear the garage door open and close then say, “Well alright, I’m out.”
“Where are you going?”
“Doesn’t matter. I’m taking matters into my own hands. I was left home alone at twelve! I don’t know why mom’s babying you.”
“I’ll be back in a little bit. I’ll bring you back some… cold pizza or something.”
“Jeez thanks.” He says sarcastically as he turns on his game console. I look back at him at the door and remember how I felt, when I was just morphing into the staying home alone stage. It got lonely.
“Okay here’s the deal. If you come with me you better be on your best behavior. And if you embarrass me I swear to God--!”
“I won’t! I promise.” He jumps off the couch while throwing down the remote after cutting off the TV.
I groan as I watch Liam happily search through Zach’s collection of videogames. Zach takes it lightly with a laugh. “Was it a mistake to introduce them to him? I was just making conversation.”
“No, I’m sorry about him I begged him not to embarrass me--”
“You know what? I was the same way when I was his age. You remember don’t you? I completely understand. But I have to apologize about the lack of AC.”
I wipe a few beads of sweat from my forehead then say, “Really? I barely noticed.”
“Doubt it. We can go swimming or something…?”
“Your pool’s working?” He nods, “It sounds fun but--”
“But? But what?”
“I actually came over….with my annoying little brother because…there’s something I kinda need to talk to you about.”
He nods then leads me out of the room, and into the kitchen. He pulls me close to him then says, “Go ahead.”
“I was caught with the doggy bags and my mom got out of me that I have a friend that took me out to breakfast. She knows you’re a guy, she knows your name’s Zach she--”
“Wants to meet me,” He says with a sigh.
“Did I completely, utterly, screw up everything?”
“Like I mean maybe you could lie about your age.”
“How young do you think I could honestly pass for?”
“I think eighteen.”
“I screwed up…I’m sorry…you know what? Forget everything. I’ll fix this, I’ll lie, I’ll--I’ll just make it all go away.”
“No, Paige, you haven’t done anything. We have nothing to hide right?”
I smile, “Yeah. You never showed me your six pack and I never let you see my bellybutton piercing.”
He smiles too, “You never told me about this...”
“I’m out with friends right? We didn’t even know what happened to the punch at Homecoming, all we knew was it was out of this world, with her emergency credit card we all got them. And I for some weird reason got a lucky charms ring.”
“Really?!” Liam eavesdropped right at the wrong moment.
“Go away, Liam!” I scream.
“Hey!” Zach motions Liam over, “You don’t tell on your sister, and I’ll let you have whatever games you want.”
“I wasn’t going to tell….but all right, sold!” He runs back into the living room area.
I turn back to Zach, “You didn’t have to do that.”
“But I did.” His eyes stare into mine, and I think we’re having a moment when he breaks to say, “So what about swimming?”
“Yeah, it’s extremely hot in here.”
“I’ll meet you out there.” He jogs up the stairs that come down through his kitchen .
“Hey, Kid! We’re going swimming,! Are you coming or going home to try out your new videogames?”
“I’m so out.” He grabs up a stack then struggles to open the door.
“This is why you’re single.”
“I’d ditch a date for a videogame, any day.” The door closes behind himself and through the windows I watch him trot down the street.
I walk out to the pool then stand there wondering what I was thinking. What swimsuit did I have?
“Zach, I’m so stupid…I don’t have a swimsuit.”
“Don’t get insecure on me now.”
“No, I’m serious.”
“Well then dip.”
I pause, “What?”
“You mean skinny--?”
He laughs, “No, no no. Underwear, swimsuits, same thing right? I mean they look the same to me.”
Slowly I slide off my pants then my shirt, and then I’m jumping in the pool causing a giant splash. Once I come up I’m staring at Zach. Uncontrollably gorgeous Zach. His eyes were such a unique beautiful shade of brown. His lips curved up into a smile. I loved his smile, I didn’t want to fight the urge to kiss him. This was ridiculous though. Zach and I have had this opportunity way too many times. But maybe I never thought of him like that before….
“I can’t do this,” I push the hair out of my face and start to get out the pool.
“Whoa! What’d I do?”
“Well prepare yourself but I’m about to come out of the friend zone. I like you Zach, as in I’m attracted to you. I--”
“I feel the same way. Stop stressing.”
I stopped stressing immediately but felt society’s pressure.
“It’s wrong though.”
I step down the stairs of the pool and stand next to him again. “So what are you saying?”
“We‘ve known each other forever. Just before we were too young to know how we really felt. I think now’s the time we stop pretending that our feelings don‘t exist.” He pushed the hair out of my face. Then hesitantly moved his mouth towards mine. I didn’t know what else to do but follow suit. I wrap my arm back and behind his neck.
“I-I’d usually have made the first move. I was afraid, you’d be afraid. I-I’m sorry it took this long.”
“Don’t be.” I shush him and kiss him.
I was floating sky high when I stepped through the door.
“What did you and Zach do?” Liam asks with one look at me.
“It’s all nat-u-ral, kid. You’ll understand one day.”
“Well what did you do?” He’s annoyed.
“Nothing illegal, don’t worry about it.”
I rub the hair on his head then jog up the stairs. I opened my door intending to fall back on my bed releasing a sigh like the cliché girls do in the teen romances. But instead I’m greeted by Satin’s daughter, Dena.
“Thanks for the welcome party. Well thrown.”
“I didn’t know you got here so early. I would’ve been here to greet you, sorry. I’m sorry about your parents too. I’m sure they’ll come up.”
“Don’t be stupid.” She mumbles with her eyes cut and her arms crossed.
“Okay I understand we don’t like each other. There is no reason to pretend we do. You keep to yourself, and I’ll keep to myself. If we have one word, it’s going to be goodbye. How‘s that sound to you?”
“Too bad your mom couldn’t hear the way you’re talking to me. I haven’t done a thing to you, Paige.”
“Oh rot in--”
“Now, now. Let’s not say something we don’t mean.” She shows me her voice recorder.
“Really? What are you doing with that dinosaur?”
She replays my little tirade.
“Uh-uh-uh Couz. It’s still recording.”
“Record me, Dena. Blackmail me, Dena. Do whatever you want, Dena. Where’s it going to get you? It’s going to get me in minimal trouble. Don’t you have something to do other than torturing people? I mean for goodness sake your parents are missing and you‘re too busy stressing over me than to really pay attention to what matters now.” She cuts it off, “Yeah go ahead and turn it off when I start preaching the truth. Isn’t that what all the congregations do? Stop listening to the pastor when he starts preaching the truth? Or something they don’t like?” I begin to walk out, “Actually this is my room. You can leave.”
“I’m not going anywhere.”
“Apparently you misunderstood me. This is my room. You will leave.”
I smirk at her, “Please don’t push me, Dena.”
“What are you going to do, Paige? Huh?”
I take her by the hair, pull her out my room, then slam the door shut. And even knowing that I’m going to get in trouble later, I let out a sigh, to know that I’ve done what I’ve been dying to do for years.
Dena was only a couple of months younger than me. Our feud’s existed for years though. When we were younger, my barbies went missing during play dates, and cookies started disappearing off my plate. When we grew up it became much more serious than that. My clothes started missing, sometimes even my money. But the worst of worst things Dena did was It was her idea for the two of us to go in the back and swim while our parents talked. It was her idea to take Liam with us. And when he almost drowned it was all on me, she didn’t admit anything. That permanently got my parents to see me as irresponsible. And that was over four years ago.
At dinner, we all sat quietly at the table. Dena hadn’t tattled yet. Mom forgot about Zach. Dad was reading a newsletter and eating. And Liam looked really suspicious as he played with his phone under the table.
“So how have you been holding up. Dena?” My mom finally asks.
“Well, I suppose.”
“I just want you to know, when you’re at our house you’re going to be treated just like your cousins. If tomorrow calls for school I expect you to go.”
“Okay.” She mutters
“Liam, who exactly are you texting?” My mom snaps.
My dad looks up from the newsletter, at Liam, then waits for a response as does everyone else.
“Who’s the girl?” My mom asks holding out her hand.
“Jessie.” He passes the phone over.
“Hmm…..how old is Jessie? Sending winking faces….” My mom searches through more of his texts then says, “Invite her over to dinner.”
“I’d rather not.”
“Invite her over, or we go over.”
“I’m done with dinner.” He says quickly while scooting his chair from the table then makes a dash upstairs.
“Hmm….we’re a pretty messed up family if our kids never want to bring home their secret lovers.” My dad says now eyeing the newsletter again.
“No, our kids know we’re not going to approve of them. Isn’t that right, Paige?” She did remember. “So since Zach failed to show up, tell him we’re coming over.”
“Mom, you can’t just invite yourself to other people’s homes! It‘s rude!”
“We invited him here. If anything‘s rude it would be for him not to return the favor.”
“He’s broke, Mom. He can’t cook us a lobster dinner.”
“Honey, in the economy we’re living in we’re all eating chunky porridge for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! We expect nothing more than a glass of water.”
“You’ll get lucky with a plastic cup.”
“Then so be it. You can warn him tomorrow. Now it’s late, go to bed.”
I look over at the clock. 10 o’ clock. Never a minute too late to escape the evil wrath of my mother, Missy Macy.
“So I sleep in my bed, right? And Dena sleeps on the floor?”
“What else, Paige? Goodnight.”
As I walked off to bed, my mother and father began talking quietly to Dena. I stopped to listen then without warning released out a high pitched sneeze.
“Go to bed, Paige!”
The house was busy. The kettle on the stove was whistling, the toilets were flushing, I think I even heard a shower running. I jump out of bed to find it wasn’t a shower, it was raining outside. The kettle on the stove was whistling, but yes Liam wiped his nose with his arm, as he walked out of the bathroom.
I went downstairs. My dad was pouring water into his coffee.
“That looks gross.”
“Don’t knock it before you try it.”
“What’s with the water?”
“Oh this? I asked the neighbor if I could borrow a pitcher of water. And the plumber called yesterday, he said he’d come to fix the water today.”
“That’s nice. We’ll finally stop living like the kids in third world countries.”
“Stop complaining, Paige. And turn on the news. Hopefully you can go to school today.”
I walk over to the couch and turn on the TV, I catch a glimpse of this whole week’s forecast being rainy and stormy then they cut to the commercials.
“Have a nice day regardless if you go to school or not.” He kisses me on the forehead,
As he makes his way out the door I say, “Yeah….you too.”
I sat eating some bell peppers as the 12:10 news came on. “Today all of Arizona’s districts are calling their students to school. Have a nice day, kids. And remember, stay cool by staying in school.”
“Oh how lame.” I mumble throwing down my bell pepper strips.
“School today?” Liam asks.
“Yes Liam, we have school today. Want to go wake up that bat we call a cousin?”
“Sure.” I begin to turn the TV off when another announcement catches my attention.
“Another bill has been signed. The president is now allowing a long-term vacation for those in the medical field. This means surgeons, doctors, nurses, even nursing assistants! Today when you arrive at work you will be given a yellow sheet. That means you can go home, rest up, and kick your feet up.”
“Sounds great, Bill, doesn’t it? Too bad they don’t have that out there for the journalist field.”
“What’d they just say?” My mom asks walking into the family room, while poking her earrings in.
“I don’t quite understand why but…dad’s getting laid off.”
“Because our president is an idiot. First we adapt China’s laws--we don’t even like China! We use China! Then we start laying off people we need for survival. What happens next?”
“Please, Paige, don’t jinx us. Go get ready for school, I’ll drop you kids off today.”
My mom never dropped us off at school. Two reasons. One, her commute to work was over two hours long and two, it was rare to even have school. I heard that back in the day, when she was a kid, school was 5/7 days a week. We get it at most now, twice a week, and not even consecutively. We’ll maybe go Monday and then go back on Friday. And that’s what we were doing this week.
They began cutting teachers so rapidly, that instead of the 50 something teachers per hundred students that a school would usually have, we now have 25, per hundred. Becker claimed the whole reason we were in an economic repression was because we were sending our money to all the wrong places. He believed that education was important, but not to waste it on those who don’t care about their futures. Stoners, feel that if there’s no one forcing them, why go? And the kids that don’t get it, don’t plan on getting it. I guess it was a good idea in the president’s eyes. But what happens when no one wants to or has to go to school anymore? Then no one has an education. And then all of America becomes even stupider. We drop down to number 196 in education rankings.
I to try to take a shower, but the spout starts shooting out freezing then boiling hot water. I cut the shower off then attempt freshening up with my mom’s spray perfume bottle. I look at it, and wonder what’s she’s been using instead of this? But then I do remember how she smells differently. Dena breaks my thoughts.
“Let’s go, Princess.”
I throw open the door and make sure my finger is on her chest, “Don’t you dare call me Princess ever again.”
“What the heck is wrong with you, you freaking bipolar lunatic!”
“You’re what’s wrong with me, Dena!”
“Girls!” My mom yells from downstairs. Dena growls, I bark, as we brush our way past each other.
“Try to learn as much as possible today.” This is something my mom says almost every chance she has. Right now she was doing it while rubbing some red lipstick off her teeth, peeking up through the driver’s mirror, while stopped at a red light.
“Key word, Dena: try.” I smirk at her.
“Paige Macy! When are you not trying to start a fight with someone?” My mom yells.
“She’s been doing this with me since I got here, Aunt Missy!” Dena whines.
“The two of you are really getting on my nerves. Don’t try to play innocent with me, Dena. I talked to your mom a little while ago, she’s said some things about you.”
“Really? You have more dirt on you?” I ask looking over the seat at her.
“Well since we’re keeping secrets, I suppose no one’s going to tell me what you all we’re talking about in hushed whispers last night.”
“You’re absolutely right. It’s none of your business,” My mom says as the car starts moving again.
“You may think that, but it’ll make me even more curious. And you should know, Mom, when I want to know something bad enough, I end up finding out.”
“I wish I could ship you off to a boarding school.”
“Can’t get rid of me that easily. Sucks, doesn’t it? Dad’s my only anchor that’s keeping me at home. You’d think you’d love me a little bit more considering what I’ve done for you--”
Once upon a time my mother was the woman I looked up to. She was practically a goddess. In my eyes she couldn’t do anything wrong. But as I grew older I started to see her flaws more and more. I migrated from being a Mother’s girl to a Daddy’s girl. My mom realized the switch, and whenever I did anything wrong she ran off on the mouth to my father about it. She’d make irrational disciplining ideas like shipping me off to boarding schools, or sending me to a third world country, to make me appreciate life better. My dad always stood his ground against it, and was probably the only reason I haven’t been disowned yet.
“Please, do tell Paige Macy, tell me what you’ve done for me?”
“I kept quiet about that little thing. Yeah you know, Mom! That little thing that could wreck the way Liam, and Dad think of you.”
“Don’t you dare! You say one word, and you’ll be grounded for so long Liam will move out the house before you do!”
“If you were to kick me out. I know where I’d go.”
“Do tell, Paige!”
“How stupid do you think I am?”
She stomped her foot on the brakes in front of the school Dena and Liam made swift escapes. However as I attempted opening my door, her voice was broke.
“A miscarriage is not just something you can scream out to the world, Paige! Let’s say you and Zach do something--you make a giant mistake….would you want me to tell your father?”
I had to stifle back tears. It was always a weakness when people began crying, “No.”
“It was a minor cardiac arrest .When it comes up on our credit card bill, it will come up as a as a rush to the ER. To remove a blood clot, for all we know. Right, Paige?”
“It just…it makes me wonder how many times it’s happened. You’ve only told me about this once, but how many times does Dad know of?” I had failed at keeping back the tears. Trying to imagine what my new sibling would’ve brought to the family.
“It only happened once--and only God can judge me--and I’d just like to know why I’m explaining myself to a clueless seventeen year old girl-- I’m not having this conversation with you ,Paige. Get out!”
“Gladly,” I turned my sorrow into fury as I threw open my door, stepped out, and slammed it shut.
She rolled down the window saying, “And you’re grounded! If you want to talk, we’ll talk from today ‘till this day two weeks from now.” I snap around to argue why I shouldn’t be grounded for two weeks but she rolls up her window then speeds off.
With a mixture of a groan, a sigh, and an eye roll I walked onto the school grounds. I found my friends hiding from the overcast sun (like idiots) under a tree.
“Hey Paige, you look mad.” Sarah says,
“Another fight with my mom.” I respond,
“It seems you guys fight everyday.” Erin says,
“That’s because we talk to each other every day.” I admit,
“Well what’d you fight about this time?” Sarah asks,
“What I talked about that I shouldn’t have even hinted at…”
“Who’s the new girl?” Erin was no longer even listening. I look over my shoulder to see Dena walking around, just like a loner.
“That’s my cousin.”
“Well why are you being so un-hospitable? She needs to know where her classes are.” Erin actually looked like she wanted to help her,
“You mean main room and lunch?”
“It’s different for everyone,” Erin passes by me saying, “I’ll take her to the administrative building.”
“You do that.”
“I think I’ll go with them.” Sarah says trying to follow after Erin.
“Really?! She doesn‘t need two people‘s help.”
She shrugs at me then scurries off before I can put up anymore of an argument.
“Great friends!” I yell sarcastically, then with an eye roll the morning bell rang.
I knew from the beginning my school friends, weren’t good friends. They were always flaky and rude. I only stuck with them so I wouldn’t be a loner. Sometimes I wondered if that was ever the right decision. Usually when I’m this angry, I can’t even look them in the face. But I guess I had had enough of their crap. From across the room I stare Sarah down. She did everything to make sure she didn’t even look my way. My eyes quickly flew up to see Dena sitting where the recent drop out once sat. Then I’d stare right back at Sarah. I couldn’t stare at Erin, she sat a few rows behind me.
“Paige. Paige, are you following?”
“Where is it you are not understanding?”
“Well in this book….To Kill a Mockingbird….all of a sudden they decide to leave Scout? Why can’t Jim and Dill, be good friends to her? Why do they have to be such bastards?”
“Oh, it’s moderate. Class appropriate. Especially since it’s allowed to watch and read things in which people are using the N word, don’t you agree, Mr. Forrison?”
“Harper Lee didn’t intend to insult or demean anyone. She wanted to educate you on how loosely that word was used back in the 40’s.”
“So why don’t we pick a more recent book?”
“We’re going to soon be reading one based in the 80’s.”
“That was a long time ago, too! Why can’t we read one from this current date? I’m positively sure there are good, educational, somewhat interesting books that an author wrote , in this time period, out there--!”
“List one that’s in print. You can’t can you? And since we’re not upgrading our material, you’ll be reading only the classics.”
I sigh, “Fine. That’s why kids started dropping out of school.”
“No, kids started dropping out of school because the president passed a law that they no longer had to come.”
“So now we’re talking politics?”
“You’ve become a nuisance. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but go stand in the hallway ,Paige.”
Kids getting in trouble? Used to happen all the time in high school. Their punishment? After school detention, lunch detention, trash duty, all that stuff people found cruel back then. Now since the typical kid that would normally get in trouble in class, no longer comes, no one usually ever gets in trouble. And me? I’m a good kid at school. Barely have I ever gotten in trouble. I used to cry for getting a time out for chasing kids with rocks, but never actually throwing them. The teacher would say to me,
“Paige, now I’m not yelling at you. Do I look upset to you? I want you to know that throwing rocks isn’t okay, not even to play around. Okay?”
I’d still continue to sob.
I stood in the hallway, pacing back and forth. I could hear a teacher lecturing down the hall, which was surprising since the classes were so spread out now. Giant school grounds, possibly 400 kids total, spread out through the campus with about 25 teachers. The door opened, “Paige, what’s gotten into you?”
“I don’t know. Bad morning I guess.”
“You’re a good student.”
“I said I had a bad morning! What else do you want from me? I’m sorry!”
He turns and walks back into the classroom. Confused I wondered if I should follow in after him, or stay out in the halls. Quickly though he returns with a white sheet. “Go have a talk with your counselor.”
I walked out the school building, and made my way over to the administrative building. I looked down at the white sheet. Sign out times, my name, his signature, “COUNSELOR” was circled, and he even added a small note, Was excused from class today. Due to abnormal behavior. Abnormal? Was he serious? It’d be abnormal if I was picking lice out of kids hair and eating it! I had a simple debate with the teacher and all of the sudden, I’m wearing a dunce hat and about to be spanked with the paddle board.
I open the door to the administrative building and show my white sheet, to the school guard. I walk in, sign in, then wait in the chair forever. There was a clock on the wall, but all I knew was time kept moving, and I was just sitting in my chair. Aggravated, I kick my chair out from underneath the table, and storm down to my counselor’s office. She was on the phone. I pretend to knock on her door. She holds her finger up to me, making every last one of my nerves pop. Finally she mutters her goodbyes then hangs up.
“Paige Macy, you can wait your turn. You saw me on the phone.”
“I waited in the waiting room for over an hour!”
“That’s an exaggeration it’s only been….” she looks down at her watch, “Forty three minutes.”
“Come in, and close the door, Paige Macy. Let me see your slip.” I hand it over to her. “Excused from class? Abnormal behavior?” She looks up at me, “What were you doing the chicken dance around the classroom?”
That lightened my mood, I even think I smiled. “I had a small debate with the teacher about outdated books, and how America’s education was failing and…”
“And he kicked you out for voicing your opinion?”
“Basically.” I shrug, then flop down into the seat in front of her.
That irritated her. She squints her eyes at me then looks down at the paper, “I’m going to give him a quick call.”
Behind her, through the window, I see the road, makes me think of walking home. Maybe I’d be excused to go home.
“Uhuh yes, Mr. Forrison, this is Mrs. Charless. I’m calling so I can get a little background on the situation.” The tone of her voice sounded as if she was playing the role of a seductress in some odd movie. “Mhm, I see. Yes, she told me some of that. Well….what do you want me to do?”
I think Mr. Forrison and I shared the same thought, but he was the one to say it, I hear him yell, “What do I want you to do?! Aren’t you the counselor? Isn’t that what you’re getting paid for?”
“Insult me further, Mr. Forrison, and I will report it.”
I didn’t hear a goodbye, but Mrs. Charless hung up the phone. She stares at me for a while, making me feel extremely uncomfortable. She crosses her hands to get a little more comfortable, and a bead of sweat drips out of nowhere onto my hand.
“Comfortable? ‘cause I’m not.”
“Mr. Forrison doesn’t want you back in his classroom today.”
“So I go home?”
“A parent has to sign you out.”
“How about I forge my mom’s signature?”
“No, I have to call her.”
“Only emergencies allow phone calls to the work place.”
“Well, okay.” I shrug then push out of my seat. As I make my way to the door I look back over my shoulder at her and say, “Can I give you a little advice?” Her mouth opens and she begins to talk, “Staring at your clients is creepy, and it‘s okay to talk a bit louder than a whisper.” Before I can hear her thoughts about it, I make it out the room escaping by hearing a gasp. As I make my way down the hall, I hear muffled yells.
The overcast clouds released down little splatters of rain. I hold my arms out and lean my head back in joy. I tend to hate rain. Just the smell makes me sick. But today, for some odd reason it comforts me. A horn honks at me, twice. I put my head down quickly and look over to the street. Zach’s blue truck is pulling over to pick me up, “Hey, Kid, I lost my puppy.”
“I’ll help you find it!” I say with a smile as I jump in.
As he pulls from the curb he says, “So what’s up?”
“What are you doin’ outta school?”
“I can ask the same question.”
He laughs, “No, really, what’s up?”
“I got kicked out of class.”
“For appropriately voicing my opinion.”
“Another fight with your mom?” He asks looking over at me. He had easily read right through my facial expression and lie.
I don‘t even try, “Yep.”
“What’s this like…the 4th in the week?”
“Try the twelfth?”
“Yeah.” I mumble.
“Will lunch cheer you up?”
“I can’t keep having you buy me food.”
“Of course you can. The place I’m taking you has decent prices. Besides, you’re my girl, right?”
I smile over at him, “Right.”
Sandwiches, cold cuts, the millions of names you could call them, never tasted so good.
“You’re actually eating today?”
“Weird, right?” I say around my mouth full of food.
He laughs, “No, I like it.”
I smile then sip some of my lemonade.
“Feeling better now?”
“Yeah.” I nod looking around then I catch eyes with the cashier. With a deer-in-the-headlights look. she immediately breaks the gaze and looks down at the register. I give her the benefit of the doubt, look away then look again, to see her staring once again.
“I think the cashier has the hots for one of us.” I whisper over to him.
He laughs, “It’ll be good if I don’t have spit in my drink. That’s my ex-girlfriend.”
“Jeesh, no one likes the exes.”
He smiles. “She’ll live.”
Possesive ex-girlfriend brings up a question that‘s been wandering around in my mind. “Are we too public?”
“Paige, you’re almost eighteen.”
“In like a year.”
He shakes his head, “We’re fine. Stop worrying. I’ll tell you when something’s sketchy.”
“Okay.” I force a smile.
He nods glancing around the sub shop and over to the cashier. I start to feel a bit of jealously before he says, “Want to get out of here? She is giving me the evil eye.”
We both stuff the ends of our sandwiches down then walk out.
“So I drop you off, you go home…what are you gonna do?”
“Really? In the rain?”
“It’s extremely fun in the rain. Besides it’s only sprinkling.”
“Won’t you get sick?”
“Mmm…I don’t know. I’m grounded though….again. I don‘t have many other options.”
“What’d you do this time?”
“The argument really set my mom off this morning.” He hadn’t even started the car yet. “It seems I pissed off everyone today.”
“Not me. I think you actually made my day.”
“You’re just saying that,” I wave him off.
“No, I’m serious. I had a flat this morning, was an hour late to lecture, asked to stay an hour late over lunch break,”
“You get an hour long lunch break?”
“No I go back late, I stay late.”
He shrugs, “Could care less because I saw you today. You…. found my puppy.” We both laugh then he gives me a kiss, “Thanks.”
“For what?” I ask searching both his eyes.
“Finding my puppy.” He waits for my smile until leaning back in for another kiss.
I didn’t have assignments or homework to do, I left before it was assigned. No I was excused before it was assigned. So I watched TV until mom called for dinner. Just as I was leaving out my room Dena was making her way past.
“You enjoyed your first day of school huh? Stealing my friends? Putting your little voodoo on them. Or your witches spell…?”
She looks over with a look of annoyance, “Get a life Paige. They were probably never even your friends in the first place. You should be happy I took them off your hands.”
“What are you saying?”
“They’ll never win honorary friends of the year..”
“What did they tell you?” I nearly growl.
She looks at me but doesn’t say anything, “Does your mom know yet about you getting kicked out of school?”
“She’s about to.”
“You’re going to tell her?”
“How stupid are you? Of course not. The school’s going to call. Try your best to not say anything before then.”
We all sat awkwardly at the table. I already knew what my dad was so nervous to tell my mom about. She knew, if she was honestly listening this morning. My brother and Dena sat, completely oblivious to the tension. Maybe my mom was so tense about our argument this morning..
“Kids, Dena, Honey….”I love how my dad segregated Dena out of being a kid. “I’ve got something important to say.” Everyone’s utensils clinked as they waited. My mom even crossed her hands and waited, giving him her utmost attention. Something I haven’t seen done in the longest time. “I was--”
The phone begins ringing. My dad lets out a giant sigh. My mom gets up out of her seat,
“Wait no!” I grab onto my mom’s hand to stop her, “What were you saying Dad?”
“The phone’s ringing.” My dad motions to my mom.
“Thank you Captain Obvious.” My mom says annoyed as she snatched her hand away from mine.
“Paige?” My dad questions.
“Hello!” My mom’s cheery welcome sing-song voice. “What?! Is that so….?” She gives me a stern look that reaches me all the way from across the room, “I did not sign her out today.”
Dena lets out something of a laugh until she begins choking on her rice.
“Are you okay Dena?” My dad hits her back,
“That never works dad.” Liam says in his Come-on-now-! Voice.
“Yes it can Liam!” I snap not wanting to watch the slap fest end.
“Paige!” My mom yells.
“Mmm, that’s my name don’t wear it out!”
She storms over, “Two more weeks. Grounded.”
“Two more?” My dad asks.
I smile, justice hath found it’s way. “Yes Dad, why don’t you ask Mom why I have two weeks already?”
My mom was busted. It gave me joy to believe that, “We’ll talk about it tonight Mychael.”
Really?! She got away with it that easily?! Gosh you’d think she was a pretty blonde.
She sits back down in her seat then says, “Well, what was it you were about to tell us, before I got the phone call about our daughter being excused and magically signed out of school by her mother that was at work today?”
“Why were you excused?” My dad asks sidetracked again.
“Long story. Mom will explain it later. News?” I say quickly,
“I was excused from work today. For a long period of time. There’s a lot of doctors and they’re planning on doing what they did with teachers. Cut us down, until there’s only the necessary amount of us.”
“Can they do that?!” Liam asks in shock.
“Of course they can. They did it.”
“So what? Are we even poorer now?” I ask.
“No we’re not even poorer. We were never poor. In fact our water was fixed today.”
“Awesome!” Liam says pumping his fist.
“Umm do you know at all what this conversation is about? Or are you just tuning in when you can?” I ask over at him,
“Paige, leave him alone. Your mom still has her job and as long as one of us are working, there will still be food on the table, clothes on your back, and a roof over your head.”
“Sounds poor to me.” I mumble.
My dad lets out a sigh and my mom yells, “You’re excused Paige!”
“You’re excused Paige!” I mimic.
Sierra howls with laughter, “That’s a really good imitation!”
I let out a laugh, “You think so?”
“Yeah but aren’t you grounded? What are you doing on the phone?”
“I just wanted to vent to someone.”
“Well I’m here for you girl but not when it’ll get you in even more trouble.”
“”Jeez thanks Sierra.”
“But before you go tell me about you and the Pedo.”
“His name is Zack!”
“What about Zack?”
I look around to make sure no one’s eavesdropping then say, “We’ve been kissing and he took me out to lunch!”
We both squealed with glee. “Okay, okay, bye Paige. Have fun with your lover boy.”
“Paige,” My dad shook me, “School’s been called today.”
“On a Saturday?” I ask sitting up groggily.
“Okay,” I kick my legs to the side, with a yawn.
“I made breakfast, want some?”
He smiles patting my knee, “I’ll tell Dena and Liam to save you some pancakes.” He gets up off his knees with an old man groan, then walks out.
“Pancakes?” I pinch myself. I was awake.
I rush to the bathroom and see if the good dream continued. I turn on the faucet and clear, warm water shoots out of the shower spout.
Clean and refreshed I trot down the stairs and slide onto my seat. Two uneven, probably eaten off of, pancakes waited on a crumbly plate. I wasn’t the least bit ungrateful, so grabbed them up then dipped them in the remaining teaspoon of maple syrup left at the bottom of the bottle.
“Need a drink?”
“Sure, do we have some Skim milk?”
“Went and bought it this morning.”
My dad pours me a glass by the counter then places it in front of me. This time I pinch harder, nails digging into my skin, “Ouch!” I was still awake.
He drove us to school, but he held me in the car after Dena and Liam got out.
“Paige you cursed your mom out?”
“That’s what your mom told me.”
I sigh, “I can’t believe I was surprised.”
“Are you saying she’s lying?”
“You say it like it’s impossible.”
“So then why were you grounded?” I go quiet, even fidget, feeling uncomfortable. “Paige, what’s the secret?”
“What do you mean Dad?” I slap on my best acting smile.
“What are you and your mom keeping from me?”
“Nothing! Why--?” Why was I lying for her? He looks disappointed, even lets out a sigh. “I’ve got to go now, I’m going to be late.” Quickly I unbuckle my seatbelt, push open the car door, then slide out.
I was kicked out of class, once again. This time it was because I related yesterday’s punishment to racism. I did it as professionally as possible by relating it back to To Kill A Mockingbird.
“Bad morning again?” Mr. Forrison asks arms crossed and eyebrow risen.
“I can tell you want to talk about it,” Just like all men he slaps a white sheet into my hand. Not that all men do that. It was just his way of an escape from talking.
I make my 2nd day’s consecutive route to the counseling office and wait for Mrs. Charless’ tirade. But when I checked in, they said she wasn’t here today. Probably had an ulcer or minor cardiac arrest from my constructive criticism. “Mr. Axley will be your substitute counselor for today.” I sat in front of this man, staring at him like any child would. He was funny looking. He had an extremely swollen nose, thin pursed lips, bushy gray eyebrows, and nearly balding brown hair. We both began to talk at the same time, but each of us were being pondered with different thoughts.
I spit out, “How old are you?”
And he blurts, “Why are you here today?” He realizes what I’ve said and yells, “Well I don’t believe that’s any of your business!”
I mentally lock my lips then quickly hand over the white sheet. I forgot to read it this time.
“Inappropriate language in class?” He looks over his paper at me, “Were you cursing?”
“Of course not!”
“Hmm….are you going to confess or am I going to have to call your teacher?”
“Alright, I accused Mr. Forrison of being a racist.”
He laughs. An old man chuckle. I could only tell the difference between that and hacking by the smile on his face. “Mr. Forrison adopted a child--!” He continue laughing.
“Is it?” He slowly calms down the laughing, “She’s from Haiti.”
“He might’ve adopted her to raise her as a head-bowed slave.”
He gives me a scornful scowl, “Are you always so pessimistic?”
“Just send me home!” I whine, in agony, the air conditioning was broken.
“That’s not how it works,”
“Make it work! I beg you!”
“Go back to class,”
“Are you sure he’ll want me there?”
“Haven’t the slightest clue. However I do know I don’t want you here.”
I kick my chair out in attempt to show my anger, snatch my sheet right from his hands, and walk out of the administrative buildings. Did I really want to go back to class? I stop walking. Of course not. We weren’t even doing anything special today, so why would they call us over the weekend?
Last time I tried to be reasonable, and remain a good kid, but Verified Ditch was going to be stamped on my school record.
With no rescue ride from my Prince Charming, I decided to give my mom a visit at work. It wasn’t that I really believed it, but it was a good excuse. “The guilt of lying to my dad this morning (for her) chewed me away and caused that inappropriate outburst in class.” I had to pay her back. Just by a little visit by the office.
I walked for heaven knows how long just to get to the bus that went downtown. I pay up two days worth of lunch money then take a seat.
As I walked through the door to the mostly marble building, I was immediately greeted with 60 degree air conditioning. I had been to my mom’s job maybe three times in my whole life. Last time had to be over seven years ago. I went up to the directory board then found her. “Macy, Gregory, Lines,…” tons of other non-important names and “…floor 3.” I look around to insure I wasn’t paranoid. And I wasn’t. Everyone in the lobby was staring at me. That feeling of being a pink elephant in a room washed over me.
I stormed out of the elevator, which immediately opened up to the work area. There were multiple desks, separated by useless glass walls. My mom’s eyes lift up from her papers, then grew ten times in size. She must’ve already known I came to put on a show. “Hey Missy! Want to hear about my day?”
She stands up immediately, pushing aside her work. “ Paige, what are you doing here?”
At least she didn’t know I ditched school. Yet. “I came to tell you about my day. Quick question, did you really tell my dad that I cursed you out?”
“Why else could I have grounded you for two weeks?”
“You could’ve pulled a better lie then that! Don’t make me look bad because you’re--” She snatches up my hand and marches me into the elevator.
“Why are you here Paige Macy? And you better have a damn good reason.”
“I do, it’s to embarrass you, have I done my job? Do you feel the anger, I feel for having to lie to my dad this morning?!”
“Don’t try pulling that crap with me! I’m sure there are countless times you’ve lied to me and your father.”
“A sin is still a sin, Mom! Isn’t that what you taught me?”
She waves me off, and begins to open up the doors when I yell, “You know Mom, I don’t even know why I expected you to understand! You’re not an understanding person! So tell me, why should I keep your secret any longer?”
“Are you blackmailing me?” I cross my arms and say nothing. She sighs then thinks, “I won’t pester you about Zack anymore.” Her eyes became pleading, and as if that weren’t enough she grabs up my hand.
I snatch my hand away, “You’re going to have to do better then that. Everyone knows lawyers have to take acting classes.”
“I’ll drop your grounding period.”
“Try harder!” I tease in my sing-song voice.
She growls, her pleading look vanishes, “What do you want from me Paige?”
I smile, this time I won, “Get Dena out of my room. Then I do like the idea of no longer being grounded. Not being grounded means I can see Zack. Seeing Zack and you not pestering me would be lovely…..hmmm….and you can’t ground me for the rest of month…in case of future groundation factors….”
“You’re not making any sense Paige,”
“You can’t ground me for another month!”
She looks down at the ground, nodding her head occasionally, biting her lip even, as if replaying my ultimatum in her head. Is that what all lawyers do? “Paige….why future groundation?”
I sigh, I might as well tell her, “I ditched today because I was kicked out of class again.”
“Deal or no deal Mom?”
She looks down at her watch, pushes her bangs back then says, “Okay. Fine. Whatever! I need to get back to work and hope I can hold onto my job after all that you’ve done.”
“Say your daughter has special bipolar needs.”
She rolls her eyes, “Alright, go home.”
“Wait, we haven’t closed a deal yet. Where’s the shaking of hands?” I hold my hand out, with an ear to ear grin spread across my face.
She shakes it reluctantly, opens the elevator door, turns around and with a finger pointed at me says sternly, “Go home.” The doors close after that.
I took another stop to get home quicker. Right next to a convenient store, and close to the hospital my dad used to work at. I casually walk by the convenient store then with so much anger with the hospital I speed walk by it, even frowning. To calm my anger, I run across the street then take a turn into the neighborhood. Instead of heading straight home I stop at Zack’s house.
He opens the door to me, sweating through his clothes. “Hey Paige, where were you all day? I waited around for you then had to go on my jog alone.”
Sarcastically I say, “Sorry to have missed that.”
He smiles offering me a way into his arms, “So where were you?”
“School was called today.”
“What? What would they need with kids on a Saturday?”
“It doesn’t matter either way,” I flash a smile as I flop onto his couch.
“Why? Were you kicked out of class again?” He asks taking a seat next to me.
“Actually I prefer the word excused.”
He laughs then gets a whiff ( I luckily didn’t get) of himself and says, “Woah I need to slip in the shower.” He pushes off the couch then heads over to the stairs.
“Is that an invite?” I tease seductively as I look over the couch at him.
He laughs, “Watch some toons or something, Kid.”
“How about I help myself to your food?”
“Go ahead.” I push up off the couch and wonder into his kitchen. There was actually a half eaten burger and a cheese stick in the fridge. I snatch up the cheese stick then listen as the water runs upstairs. I return to the family room, flop onto the couch and turn on the TV. The shows they had now for kids were nothing like the cartoons I watched when I was younger. It was a let down. Disappointed I turned off the TV with a sigh. “Nothing good?” I look over the couch to see him walking down with a towel tied around his waist.
“Umm….” Distracted I could barely respond, “No…not really.”
“Mhm.” He bends over to look into the fridge then says, “Thanks for eating tomorrow night’s dinner.”
“I’ll go down to my house and bring you something better to replace it.”
He leans back up, “I’m joking.”
“I’m not.” I push up off the couch then head towards the door,
“How long are you going to take?” He calls,
“Long enough for you to put some clothes on Love,” I shoot him a peace sign then walk out.
It took me a while to process it, I was busted. Just as I skipped down the steps to Zack’s house, my dad’s car drove by. It came to a quick stop, I heard the complaints of Dena and Liam as they were pushed forward and yanked back.
“Paige! Why weren’t you at school?” My dad calls out the window.
“What? Dena didn’t tell you?”
“No, I didn’t tell him stupid. Otherwise he wouldn’t be asking.” Dena says while rolling down her window.
“Hey, no name calling.” My dad snaps.
I sigh then say, “You can just talk to Mom about it tonight. I went to visit her at work.”
He sighs. I guess he felt he could no longer get answers from either one of us. “Would you like a ride home?”
“Sure,” I look back at Zack’s house, stupidly, then walk forward and slide into the car.
As my dad pulls from the curb he asks, “Well who’s house is that anyways?”
“My friend’s.” I spit the lie out. I wait back in my seat, even counting down the seconds until he accuses me of seeing a boy like Mom always does, but when he says nothing I look over at him in disbelief.
“What? What’s wrong Paige?”
“Then what’s the problem?”
I lean back in my seat and mumble, “That is the problem.”
“So…” I say as I step into my room, following after Dena, “Anything interesting happen today?”
“Umm…” She hands me a slip of paper, “They have this new club that the president is rewarding kids for if they join.”
I skim over it then look back up at her, “You automatically get rewarded, just for signing up?”
“Yeah ‘cause the state representative said something like…teen’s lives are being wasted…and we shouldn’t waste our lives…it can like guarantee umm scholarships and all that good stuff--recommendations!”
“Wow…” I stare down at the sheet, “Are you going to join?”
“I’d be stupid not to!” She snatches the sheet from my hand.
“I don’t know…why would he give out scholarships to all the kids of the U.S.A. that decided to devote themselves to some club they barely know about…? It’s really sketchy.”
She rolls her eyes, “Nothing’s sketchy about following the footsteps of the president to get into an I.V. League school.”
“Would you make it there?”
“Since I can stay in class long enough.” She sends me a smirk then goes through her class work.
“Tried to give you the benefit of the doubt, to see how long-- or if it was even possible-- for you to be nice… and you blew it.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Once my mom gets home. You’re out of my room. Permanently.”
“Is that supposed to scare me or something? You’re room is like a 2 by 4 cardboard box, I’d sleep in the doghouse rather then sleep in here with a snoring grizzly bear.”
I smile, “Are your insults intended to be hurtful? ‘cause I can just…” I motion at brushing off each shoulder, “brush them off Cuz.” With that and a smile I turn on my heels then walk out.
So when dinner time came around everyone except for my mom was setting up for dinner. Dena set the table. I got out the drinks and ice. And Liam was in charge of the aftermath clean up. “Oh crap.” I say throwing my hands down.
“What?” My dad asks looking over from the stove.
“I told my friend I was going to go back to…their house.”
“It’s okay, you can go back after dinner.”
I continue on happily. As we all begin to sit down, and start dinner without my mom she burst through the garage door panting. “What are the cops doing at our front lawn?”
“There’s cops?!” At least two of us screamed together.
As if everyone was guilty of something, we all jump out of our seats and begin to panic. Only Dena began to started whimpering. I roll my eyes at her then say, “Well I better go hide my stash!”
This time both my mom and dad yelled with a pointed finger, “That’s not funny Paige!”
“Whoa. I would calm down that anger before the cops hear it.” I tease,
The doorbell rings. Everyone breaks into an even sweatier panic. “Okay I’m going to answer it.” My mom finally says. “We have nothing to hide right everyone?” She looked at each of us, long and hard, as if waiting for a last minute confession but instead all she received back were blank stares. “Okay,” The doorbell rings again. My mom wipes her hands on her pant legs and my dad motions for us to go back to getting ready for dinner, then disappears to the front after her.
I take my glass over to fridge then pour in some lemonade when all of a sudden my mom let’s out a high pitched scream. I drop the glass as an immediate reaction, but instead of worrying about the broken glass, I run to her rescue. She stands there crying as one officer nods then turns to look at me. The other pats my dad’s shoulder, and the third one leaves. My mom’s shoulders shook so wildly I was afraid of the news. My mouth became dry, and when my lips moved, they didn’t exactly know how to word the words running through my head.
Liam, stronger then me, asks, “Mom what’s wrong?”
She lifts her eyes off my dad’s chest then looks at him, and begins bawling even harder.
“Aunty Missy? What’s wrong?” Now Dena had the power to speak. My mom immediately looks away, even cowards to the wall.
My dad speaks at last, “The police believe they found your parents Dena.”
So now Dena breaks into hysterical cries. I think even Liam got it before I did, “Wait, what’s going on?” My dad shakes his head at me, probably thinking I was joking around, then takes my mom into his hold.
I sat on Zack’s bed, hugging my knees. “So they’re dead?” I ask.
He hands me a cup of decaffeinated coffee, “Not necessarily. But it’s what everyone else thinks. I mean they could’ve found someone else’s bodies.”
“With my aunt and uncles identification on them?” I look at the cup of coffee.
“Don’t loose hope. That’s like the number one rule Paige.” He sits next to me, I lay my head against his shoulder.
“You should’ve heard my mom--seen her! She looked like….I can’t explain it…and then Dena….Dena’s a maniac normally….when she heard about it….she went insane.”
“So what do you think is going to happen now?”
I lean up off his shoulder then say, “ I just remembered, I was supposed to bring you food.”
“And I failed at that too. I mean now that Dena’s parents are most likely dead, I’m going to have to be nice to her. And you don’t know how hard it’s going to be.”
“She’s most likely going to be moping around making you miss that nasty attitude.”
“I’d be insane to miss that.”
He sighs, “I’m sorry Paige…”
“I thought you told me not to loose hope.”
“I did, and I don’t want you to but if it comes down to them being dead,--”
“Oh stop. I can’t think about it right now. I can’t forget how about two weeks ago…my aunt tried calling and I purposely ignored her call just so I could talk to my friend in Florida.”
“She didn’t even know Paige.”
I look up at the ceiling and around, “She does now.”
“What, you believe in ghosts?”
“No. But I think that when you’re dead the whole truth comes out. And you can spy on your family members that are still alive. And hear what they have to say…”He sips some coffee not so sure what to say to that. I laugh, I can’t believe it left my mouth, “Am I making you feel uncomfortable?”
“No….it’s just eerie the way you talk about it.”
“I’ll go…I doubt my parent’s notice but I shouldn’t leave Liam alone in that kind of environment.”
“You really do care about your brother whether you know it or not.”
“Here,” I give him a kiss as I climb off the bed, “I’ll catch you tomorrow if possible.”
“Wait Paige!” He calls after I make it out the doorway, “Let me walk you home.”
The walk down was mostly quiet. Few street lamps were working, I was actually quite glad he did walk with me. Otherwise I’d be terrified. “Should you be doing this?” I ask. He barely notices I’m talking to him until he regains eye contact with me.
“It doesn’t matter, as long as you’re safe.”
“But will you be safe when you walk back home?”
“Guys don’t think about that kind of crap. A punk messes with me,” He tries imitating an Italian mafia‘s accent, “I’ll mess him up!”
I laugh, “You’re such a dork!”
He stops at the tree before my house, “Make like a bird coo that lets me know you made it in safely.”
“Will do, and how will I be sure you heard it?”
“I’ll return it with a bird coo.”
“Okay ‘night Zack. Thanks for everything,”
“Anytime Paige,” We exchange a quick kiss then I run to my front door. A hedge of bushes blocked Zack’s view of me getting into the house. Once my key turns the lock and the door pushes in I cup my hands around my mouth and coo. Zack let’s out a sad imitation of a coo then I smile and walk in.
The house was still chaotic. Dena and Mom were still crying. Dad and Liam were nowhere to be found. As I jogged up the stairs my dad was on the phone talking, “He wants us to go confirm it’s them tomorrow. Your daughter’s not holding up at all--”
He was talking to grandma. I continue down the hall to Liam’s room. I open up the door and he’s holding a 12 foot fishing pole that he tries hiding behind his back. “What the heck Kid?” I grab it from him. “What’s this?”
“The pole Uncle Ralph gave me. I blew him off multiple times. Never got to use it.”
“We all have our guilts, those things we wish we could’ve said or done after someone’s dead. But we should’ve felt that way when they were alive. But it’s not official yet--”
“You believe that as much as I do Paige.”
“Either way, your guilt is not going to do you any good. Only harm.”
“I didn’t ask for any philosophies Confuscious. Thank you though,”
“Gosh Liam. When did you get so mean?”
“Really Paige?! After all the crap you’ve said to me? And the way you’ve treated me?!”
“I’ve brought you food! I barely would leave you home alone, ‘cause I knew you didn’t like it! I left my friend’s house for you!”
“Finished that quickly?” He asks suggesting we were having sex. I jumped him. Groans, grunts, obvious signs of struggle and my dad comes in to break it up.
“You guys never--!”
“He asked for it!”
“What’d he do Paige?” My dad had to be the reasonable one.
I wiped the sweat and bit of blood from my face then look at Liam with disgust, “Forget you. Don’t come to me Liam after this! Don’t you dare ask anything of me!” I point at him, “I will never forgive you.”
“That’s a little dramatic Paige,” My dad says as I make my way past him.
“Really? ‘cause I think it’s pretty darn unforgivable to call your sister a whore.”
“I never did!” Liam yells.
“You might as well!”
“Your mom will chew you both apart if you don’t lower your voices. Liam, grounded, one week--”
“One week?!” I ask in disbelief. “Mom handed out two weeks of being grounded like she was the freaking Giver! And he gets one week for disrespecting me--?”
“No. You both get one week.”
“Well,” I smirk then say, “I’m glad that I can’t be grounded for a week.” He opens his mouth to talk, “Go talk to Mom.” I hold my hand up to him then slam close the door to my room.
I woke up cheeks wet and eyes pink. My eyelashes looked like they were dipped in mascara because they were so wet. My head even hurt. With a hand against my forehead I made my way across the hall to the bathroom. I opened the medicine cabinet and pulled out not one, not two, but three ibuprofens. I cup my hand under the faucet and swallow down nasty tasting tap water with the pills.
“Paige?” My mom’s voice made me jump. I turn around to face her,
“Is everything okay?”
I run my hand across my nose then say, “I’m fine.”
“Your friend’s downstairs.”
“Umm tell them I’ll be right down!”
I run down the staircase still pulling up my sweats. My smile faded when I see it wasn’t Zack waiting by the door but Tracy.
As we walked down the street she asks, “Why wouldn’t you call and tell me about this?”
“I called and came to you when my granny died. Where were you then?”
“Don’t play the guilt game with me! I called you looking for comforting when my Nana died.”
“Well right now, if you haven’t noticed yet, it’s not about you.”
She says, “I’m starting to think coming here was a mistake.”
“Maybe it was.”
She stops walking and stares at me in disbelief, “Don’t lash out on me Paige.”
“I’m not! I just can’t take anyone right now. I’m extremely irritable.”
“Exactly, and you’re lashing out.”
“I’d say I’m sorry but I’m tired of having to apologize to people.”
“Why should it matter? You’re apologies are never sincere!”
“Exactly! And I’m done lying to you, lying for my mom, and--and--” I broke down crying. I couldn’t even control it. I stood there in the middle of the street for countless minutes. It took her a while to finally understand this is where she should step in. This is where, she should hug me. But when she did, I clung to her as if to dear life. “I’m sorry,” She whispers.
“I’m sorry too.” My words weren’t exactly audible but I think she got it.
We continued down to the park and swung on the swing sets. “So how’s life?” I ask to break the silence.
“Good. Me and my boyfriend worked out our problems.”
I roll my eyes, “You’re always talking about your boyfriend. I’m not even sure if I’ve heard his name before. And how long have you two been seeing each other? A few months? When do I actually get to meet him?”
“I’m working on it!”
“What do you think I’m making him up?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“But you meant it!” She stands up from the swing and points at me, “You’re just jealous of me having a boyfriend and you still being single.”
“Sure, you could say that. I’m jealous of your utopia high school life and this dreamy football player boyfriend you have.” I went through half of those words doing quote marks with my fingers.
“You are unbelievable Paige.”
I kick the sand under my feet then say, “Well prove me wrong.”
“Well how about you? You’re always so secretive about your high school life--life in general! So what? Does it suck, Paige?”
“No I’m fine. I’ve been excused from school a couple of times, grounded….etcetera.”
“And you plan on going to college with that as your routine?”
“Yeah, why not? Zack did it.”
I smirk, “My boyfriend.”
“Paige you have a boyfriend?! Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because it was kind of a secret.”
She shakes her head, “He’s not real, is he?”
“He’s as real as day.”
“You honestly expect me to believe that you have a college student as your boyfriend?”
“If you don’t believe me, that’s fine. I don’t have to prove myself to anyone.”
“Oh please Paige? I’d love to meet him.”
I stood at his door hopeless. I had rung the doorbell over five times in the last ten minutes. Where was he?
“Why don’t you just give up now Paige?” Tracy asks waiting on the sidewalk with her arms crossed and tilting on one hip. Just when I was about to bow down, Zack’s truck pulled into his driveway then into the garage. I smirk back at her but she still wasn’t buying it. I follow him into the garage then say, “Hey Zack.”
“What’s up Paige?” I think of an answer when he asks, “Wait how long did you wait out there?”
“Try half an hour in this intolerable heat!” Tracy made her way into the garage.
“Paige…is this your friend?”
“You can call her that.”
She cuts her eyes at me, “I’ve known this kid for the longest time.”
I could tell Zack didn’t want to be bothered, he barely makes conversation, smiles, even releases nervous laughs every now and then.
“Okay Tracy, your mom should be picking you up soon. I’ll catch you later Zack.”
“That’s it?” She asks as I push her out, “That’s your proof? Introducing me to a guy who acts like he barely knows or likes you?”
“It’s you he doesn’t like, Wise One.”
“He doesn’t even know me.”
“He’s lucky.” I say slyly. We start to head down the street when Zack calls me back. I ask Tracy to stay where she is and run back to him, “Yeah?”
“What are you up to Paige?”
“Tracy didn’t believe me--”
“You don’t have to prove yourself to girls like her.”
“I know…I just crush under peer pressure.”
He smiles into my face then kisses me, “Stay strong Kid.”
“Bye Zack,” I start to walk away when he pulls back on my hand, “Coming over for dinner?”
“You’re acting ridiculous, but I promise.” He gives me another kiss then releases my hand. I turn back around to smirk at Tracy.
“It’s a date right?”
“Yeah…isn’t it hitting dinner time out there?”
I look out the window then down at the clock on my nightstand, “Almost…”
“Well what are you doing on the phone with me?! You should be picking out an outfit for Christ’s sake!”
“Fine…I don’t know what to wear.”
“Nothing that’ll arouse your parents’ attention.”
“They won’t be here tonight…” I didn’t feel like going into details.
“What about the bat and Liam?”
“Liam’s sleeping over at a friend’s house,” Just saying his name reminded me of how he turned from the sweet kid I knew to a jerk. “And Dena went with my parents.”
“Why didn’t you go with them?”
I play it off, “Please! Me, Dena, and my mom in the same room? One of us may have killed the other.”
“Could only do so much,” I fake yawn, “Gosh getting tired Sierra, talk to you later?”
“You do know you have a date you have to go to right? Drink some coffee or something Tiger. I’ll talk to you then.”
“And Paige? Please stay safe.”
“Goodnight Sierra!” I sounded just like my mom. It scared me. I looked back down at the clock then covered my eyes and plucked an outfit at random from the closet.
I really liked Zack. Before him there weren’t any guys brave enough to say how they felt about me. I had two boyfriends before him, none of the relationships were anything serious. If I felt nice they’d last a little over a month. My first boyfriend, something in him, had me try it again and again with him. By the third time, the breakup wasn’t even official. It was just I’m going to this school and you’re going there. I never saw or heard from him after that. So here I was. Setting my self up for failure or success. I wasn’t even sure yet. My stomach was doing flips, my hands were hurting, I was squeezing them too tight. My bottom lip began to itch because I was biting into it for so long. I had to calm myself down as I stood at his door. Two slow exhales and then I knocked.
Immediately the door opened, “Paige!”
“Expecting someone else?” I joke as I make my way in.
“No, I’m surprised you came this early. I hadn’t even finished setting up.”
“You don’t need to set up. It’s just dinner silly.”
“It’s our date. Our first official date.”
“Lunch didn’t count at the sandwich joint?” I ask with a half laugh.
“Ah! Paige don’t doubt me.” He jokes as he disappears into the kitchen.
“Zack! You’re sweating through your shirt and the date hasn’t even begun yet.”
“I haven’t even gotten the food ready yet,” He says with a sad smile.
“How about this?” I grab onto his arm, “You go upstairs and wait for me up there. I’ll handle the dinner.”
“Don’t worry about it.”
He sighs, “I don’t see how this makes me look good.”
“Trust me,” I push him towards the stairs, “Just wait for me.”
“Are you going to make a run for it?”
“If I’m not up in ten minutes you’ll know I made a run for it.” I send him a reassuring smile, he returns it, then hesitantly heads up the stairs. I wait until he’s out of sight then put up all the weird combinations of food he had laying out on the counter. I find the bowls, take out two spoons, and pray as I open his fridge doors with my eyes slammed shut that he’d have milk. Luckily he had a half carton. I even the amount left into the two bowls. Then open his pantry and pour out his crunchy oats and almond cereal then search around. I pop some bread into the toaster, get out some cups, and take out one orange and make some quick homemade orange juice with it.
“Paige--it’s been ten minutes should I be worried?”
“Five more minutes! Go back!” I yell trying to hide the surprise.
“Alright! I didn’t see anything!”
I happily turn off the stove top and scrape out the bacon and eggs onto a plate.
I balance out the plates on my arms, and carry the drinks in my hands. By the time I got to the last step he was rushing out of his bedroom. “Want to help?”
“Oh my God, yeah. Here,” I hand over the drinks then follow him into his room. “This is amazing Paige.”
“Are you serious?” He nods smiling at me and the food, “It’s breakfast for dinner…”
“I know. When’s the last time I had some homemade dinner?”
I shrug then say, “The orange juice is handmade too.”
“I knew it. I haven’t bought orange juice in over a month.” I smile then sit down onto the bed with him. “So you covered the dinner and I cover the movie.”
“Ooo what are we watching?”
“Some chick flick with Leonardo Dicaprio.”
I laugh, “Why would you sign yourself up for that?”
“All I used to hear you talk about was Leonardo Dicaprio. And girls love guys that watch chick flicks so I’m filling two standards.”
I saw the cover, “This movie makes me cry.”
He pats his shoulder, “Waterproof cotton.”
“I’m not even wearing waterproof make-up.”
“Deal Paige. We’re watching it.” I smile as he puts it in then jumps on the bed. “I love bacon.”
“I know,” I pick up a piece and stick it in his mouth. He holds up my orange juice cup, has me drink some, then drinks some his self. From the corner of my eye I saw Rose and Jack kiss, right as we did.
I woke up under his arm. I smiled at first then sat up quickly. Oh my God. The sun was forcing it’s way through his blinds. I look quickly over at the digital clock on his floor and jump. It jolts him up. “What’s wrong?”
“I slept over!”
“My parents probably called the cops by now! What do I say? I have no realistic lie!”
“They couldn’t have called the cops. It hasn’t been twenty-four hours yet.”
“You’re just not getting it! My mom and dad are probably freaking out of their minds!”
“Okay,” He holds my face in both his hands, “You have to breathe.” I inhale then exhale, he kisses me then says, “You’re going to be fine.”
“You go in there, not acting suspicious they won’t suspect a thing. They ask you where you’ve been, you tell them out and about. Act like your normal bad ass self.” I think I slip a smile. Still too scared to laugh, though. “Alright?”
He kisses me again, “Thanks for coming over, and making dinner.”
“Thanks for the movie and a place to crash.”
“You know? You didn’t even cry,”
“I fell asleep before I could.” I give him one last kiss then push up off the bed and rush out the door.
I push the front door open. “Mom?” I walk into the kitchen, “Dad?” I jog up the stairs, “Liam?” “Dena?” I push open all the doors in the house, “No one?” I groan thinking of how much longer I could’ve laid right next to Zack. I heard the door downstairs open, I rush down to see someone. Dena walks through, that fire behind her eyes was gone. I’d say she was innocent. But I don’t even think she looks normal anymore. Her eyes reach up to mine she walks over to me, her words take me back.
“I’ve done a lot of crap in my lifetime. The worst things I’ve done were to my parents. What I said to them, about them, what I even did to them. You still have yours. Please don’t take them for granted. Don’t make my same mistakes.” She stares at me, and I think her mind and soul drift out of her then she looks away and walks up the stairs. Liam comes through the door next, his eyes look apologetic as he comes up to me, I look away. He stops in front of me to say something but I say, “I don‘t want to hear an apology. What you said about me was unforgivable.” He sighs then goes up the stairs too. “Mom, Dad!” I run over to them.
They question me with their eyes without saying a thing, “I know you came back from a really sad thing but I missed you…I felt lonely.”
“We’re sorry. We didn’t know how far out it was…we got lost in time…we had to rent a hotel room. Are you okay?”
“Well it looks like right now, Dena was left in our hands.” My heart stopped I do believe, or I just held my breath. “The conflict you have with her is going to have to be resolved. We really have no other choice but to adopt her.”
I know I was being completely selfish but I felt like my whole life was being taken from me. And there would be no end to it. Not for another two years. What could I say to my parents? To trick them out of actually doing this. There wasn’t anything I could say that I wouldn’t get in trouble for. “Oh….okay…”
I went on a walk, a long walk to nowhere. No one even asked as I made my way out the door where I was going and when I planned on returning. Already my parents’ cares and concerns had changed. One foot in front of the other for miles and more miles. I sat in some neighborhood’s park with my feet in the pond, surrounded by ducks. “Want some bread child?” I look up to an elderly woman, “They say you’re not supposed to feed the ducks anymore. But I think that’s just cruel,” She hands me some breadcrumbs, “It’s none of their business anyways.” I smile but can’t open my mouth to thank her. I toss some into the water and leave my hand hanging. “I always come out here. The ducks show me how lucky I am to be me.”
“Really?” I ask looking back to her, “Why?”
“Well look at them. The things have to fight for survival. Of course they’re adorable and have multiple spectators and visitors. But who’s there for them through the night, when it’s cold, when it’s unbearably hot…? I guess their fellow ducklings.” She doesn’t say anything else. She silently walks away and to the other side of the pond. That made me wonder, would I rather be a duck or me? It was a race against time as the pond’s cod and the duck raced towards my breadcrumbs. The giant thing of a coy swooped up and ate all of them.
Zack was coming my way, this is how far he’d jog. He takes out his earphones and out of breath, tries catching his breath, so he can say something to me. “How’d it go with your parents?”
“You say that as a quick I don’t want to talk about it answer. Did you get in trouble?”
“No my parents weren’t even home by the time I got there. Even when I was heading out the door they could care less where I was going.”
“That’s a good thing right? You and I can see more of each other.”
“It’s a bad thing Zack! Back then when my parents asked all those questions it meant that they cared. Now that they have another child they won’t care about me anymore.”
“New child? Wait your mom’s pregnant again?”
“No. My cousin’s parents were announced dead, and now since it was in their will, we have to take Dena into our family.”
“I understand you’re pretty upset about this but--where else could she go Paige?”
“My grandma or someone!” I sigh as I try to fight back my angry tears, “It’s not that Dena and I don’t get a long anymore. It’s just….we’re going back to the days when Liam was just brought home. New responsibilities, new priorities. My family is barely surviving now that my dad got laid off. My mom’s working extra hours or at least that’s what she tells us. Can lawyers even work extra hours? I don’t know what she’s even doing out there in downtown Phoenix!” My voice began trembling and I let the tears flow down anyways.
“Gosh Paige….I’d hug you but I smell like a pig’s ass.”
I turn away, feeling that I don’t even need him there right now. And as my shoulders shook just like my mom’s, he came and wrapped his arms around me. Yes he smelled, but it was way better then feeling like I was all alone.
It took countless months to get Dena under my parents’ wing. Our attorney told us before hand that it was going to be a long and hard battle. It’s extremely hard to be able to adopt one of your own family. He even warned them that there was a slight possibility that they could sign all the papers and the court could still deny them. It was on my birthday, February 14th that Dena Miller became Dena Macy. We cleared the floor to one of the extra garages, separated by the others with tall cabinets and made it into her own room. So that way my mom kept her promise, and I kept her secret.
My sudden outbursts became less and less, finally I was able to stay in the classroom a full month without saying anything that’d get me kicked out. As soon as the morning bell rang, we all headed towards our class but our principal’s voice came over the announcements. “Students, we would gladly appreciate for you to join us in the auditorium for a speech from a special speaker.” A speech most likely meant a lecture. We barely had these things, I wonder who did what now. In a large crowd we made our way through the two auditorium doors.
It was Erin, I cut my eyes at her, “What do you want?”
“Just someone to walk with,”
“Go walk with Dena.” Without saying another thing I cut my way through four kids to get as far from Erin as possible. As the auditorium filled no one stood behind the podium. It was just an empty stage.
“Can I sit here?” Dena asks, without waiting for a response she sits down next to me.
We sat in silence, still the fire behind her eyes were gone and it scared me. “Is the garage comfortable? If not you can move back into my room.”
“It’s fine, thanks though.”
She turns and looks at me, “Do you really feel like I’m stealing your life away from you?”
“No, where’d you hear that?”
“I overheard one of your conversations…I’m sorry if it feels that way. I’ll be out of your hair in two years.”
“Before that, I’ll be off to college next year.”
A man in an unknown uniform steps onto stage, he smiles at all of our faces. “Good morning students.”
“’morning.” A few of us mumbled back.
“I said ‘Good morning students!’” He was screaming into the microphone.
A lot of groans in complaint and a few annoyed voices snap back, “Good morning!”
“That’s better. I’m General Cappeeton. I’ve been appointed here by the President himself. I’m sure you’ve been handed pamphlets for Becker’s Youth. And I’m sure you’re all wondering what is Becker’s Youth? Becker’s Youth is a recruiting offer from the president to show your patriotism and loyalty. Those that prove to President Becker, that they truly are there to serve their country will be awarded scholarships, paychecks, and liberty.” He opens the pamphlet and like a flight attendant motions all of us to do so also. There was a pamphlet sticking out of the pocket behind every seat. I pick one up then open it to his page,
“So what do you mean serve our country? Are we signing up to fight some war? No. Becker’s Youth is a paramilitary program. You won’t be fighting any wars.” He quickly changed the subject. So what would we be doing? Those reassuring sighs that were echoing throughout the stadium, would not be coming from me. “Now even though the president would like each and everyone of you to be in his program, there still are guidelines. For males you must be between the ages of sixteen to twenty. And females must be between the ages twelve to sixteen.” Oh wow. There went my chances at a scholarship. “President Becker would like to qualify at least six hundred children from each district, so please, turn back in your paper work.” I look around to see the teachers passing out fifty something page thick packets, “The sooner the better. President Becker would like if this program could start practice and meetings before March.” That was only a few weeks away. What math was he using when he decided to set the deadline in a few weeks? “Thank you all and remember, you are the children of America. Lives like yours should not be wasted.” Was that the groups logo? Lame!
After the meeting, through my lunch break, I stormed over to the counseling office. “Oh no, excused from lunch?” The secretary teased as I signed in.
“Ha ha, funny! Did lunch excuse itself from you?” I hint down at her empty fast food carton, there weren’t even crumbs left she was so hungry. I send her a smirk then take a seat in front of my counselor’s office.
Mrs. Charless was in today. She pretended not to see me, and continuously typed up things into her computer. I push up out of the seat and knock on her door, “Yeah I kinda only have five minutes of lunch left so can you just see me really quickly?”
“Oh Ms. Macy I didn’t even see you out there.”
I roll my eyes then take a seat in front of her. I pull the folded pamphlet out of my pocket and hand it to her. Her eyes grew large, when she didn’t say anything, I did. “I wanted to join but I’m too old. Is there anything I can do to get in?”
“Why would you want to get into this program?” She slid the thing over so carefully as if afraid she’d get a paper cut.
“Umm why wouldn’t I? They’re handing out scholarships, money, liberty--from what? I don’t know! But why should I care? Freedom is a good thing.”
“You’re too old, you can’t qualify. Of course there are other ways to get scholarships such as honor roll, athletics--”
“But I want to be in this.”
“Well you can’t!” She snaps, “There’s nothing you can do about it so you may as well stop talking about it!”
I slide my pamphlet back from her, “I’ll see about that.” I cut my eyes at her as I make my way out of my seat and out of her office. Just as I round the corner I hear her sigh. Hormones.
All during class I fumbled with the pamphlet. Over and over I read the rules and guidelines. Where was my loophole? Why couldn’t I get in? Was it just not meant to be?
“Put your phone away please.”
I look up from the pamphlet to Mr. Forrison, I laugh, “I’m not playing with my phone.”
He holds his hand out to me, “Let me see it, Ms. Macy.”
“Fine,” I pout then hand over the pamphlet.
“Everyone put away anything that can distract you from today’s learning experience. Please and thank you.” He placed it in a drawer in his desk then he says, “You can get it after class.” After class?! He was acting like I was texting on my phone! I throw my hands up, let out a groan, I nearly have an ulcer just stopping myself from telling Mr. Forrison off.
Zack wraps his arms around me then gives me a kiss, “How was school?”
He laughs while reaching for a drink, “How come?”
I show him the pamphlet. “I’m too old for this.”
“Don’t feel bad, I am too.”
“You’re already in college! I’m not. This-this stupid idea of a program the president has is--it gives away a full ride scholarship meaning dorms, food, books, everything until graduation!”
“I know what full ride means Paige.”
“Zack I’m serious! This is killing me! I’ve read over the rules over and over again trying to find a way that I could somehow just…just…”
“Shh,” His lips shush me on the side of my neck, “You’re stressing. You wanna know how I know? You always frown and bite into your lip. Now personally, I think it’s hot but--I don’t think it’s hot for you to stress.” He gets up off the couch once he notices I’m not in a cuddling mood then says, “Besides why do you need a scholarship? Your parents can afford for you to go.”
“It’s not that I need it, it’s that I want it.”
“Why do you want one so bad?”
“So I can become independent…I don’t know….all I know is…” I take the pamphlet in my hands then throw it in his fireplace. I go into his kitchen and take one of his match boxes and throw one in after the pamphlet.
He comes back from upstairs then says, “Whoa! Paige!” He runs back into the kitchen comes back and throws a water on the fire. “You can’t just do that! You know it’s illegal. If the air cops fly over and see smoke coming out of my chimney I get fined. Just as I would for speeding.”
“Sorry…you know if you do…I’ll pay for it. I just got overwhelmed with jealousy.”
“Jealousy for younger girls, that don’t have a sexy boyfriend like you have?”
I roll my eyes, “No, Dena gets to join. Christ, even Liam gets to join!”
“I thought you never wanted to talk about him again…You never did tell me what he said….did….I don’t even know.”
I watch as one flame still flickered even as the water slowly dripped onto it, “He suggested that you and me had done a quicky.”
“That we slept together, that we were doing bad things, that--” I sigh, “It doesn’t matter.”
“It shouldn’t get to you Paige. You know the type of girl that you are. You know what you’ve done and what you haven’t done. You don’t have to prove yourself or lie to anyone.”
I flop back onto the couch, “You always say that….but it’s much easier said then done.”
“I know that,” He sits back down next to me. “Which is why you have me here, to talk to you.”
I wiggle under his arm then ask, “You mind if I sleep over tonight?”
“No, why you don’t feel like walking home?”
“Nope. I’m comfortable right here,”
“You want to sleep on the couch?” He asks confused.
“No Smart One, I’m comfortable right under your arm.”
“Oh!” He laughs, “Got it.”
In the morning I slipped from under his arm as carefully as possible then made my way to the restroom. I was getting so used to staying over at Zack’s home I had even begun to bring my hair spray, toothbrush, and deodorant. As I brushed my teeth he walked in to use the toilet, same thing almost every morning I slept over.
“Have I gotten too comfortable?”
He zips up his jeans then asks, “No have I?”
“I mean, I bring my crap over to your house like it’s my house--”
“It is your house. I was even planning on talking about something tonight over dinner…”
“Really? Like me moving in?”
He smiles then says, “I said over dinner.”
“Well now I’m going to have to go throughout the whole day wondering what it is you wanted to talk about.”
I moved aside so he could get to the sink and wash his hands. He changes the subject by saying, “I’m a guy. Guys do some things that girls find gross if it makes you uncomfortable--”
“Please, it’s your house Zack!”
“But does it make you feel uncomfortable?”
His eyes had the same effect even when staring through a mirror at me. “No,” I say contently.
He gives me one of his shirts, I tie a bunny tail at the end then wear the same jeans I wore yesterday. We trot our way down the stairs, he drinks from the carton, we take turns drinking then he passes over the fruit bowl I grab out a banana he takes an orange then we both head into the garage He drops me off of school, I walk around to his side, bend down to his window then we share multiple kisses, neither one of us wanting to stop but knowing that we’ll have to eventually. Finally the minute bell to class rings and I give another ten seconds then wave apologetically and half jog to class.
Once I walk into class no one’s sitting in their seats, Mr. Forrison’s doing roll call, but everyone’s standing near the front of the room and scattered all over the classroom. Confused I slowly migrated towards where the rest of the students were, “Okay so I know you’re all Seniors if you’re sixteen I need you to make the first row.” Students spread to stand in one linear line up and down to the classroom. “If you’re seventeen form the second line, and if your eighteen make up the third line.”
An officer stepped through the door. I looked back at Mr. Forrison for an explanation. His sad face was explanation enough. Something bad was happening, or about to happen. “Sixteens!” He calls,
“First line,” Mr. Forrison says softly.
The officer waves the kids out then another officer comes and takes my group. They lead us down the hallway, out the building, and taken to the second to last farthest building from the rest of the campus. About twenty officers were leading different classes into different classrooms. “Take a seat.” The officer speaks at last.
I was trembling in my seat. The room was cold and dark but the powerpoint on the wall gave the only lighting to the room. “My name is Officer Marcus. You will call me nothing but that. I will be your instructor until graduation. I understand there is a lot of confusion on what’s going on, so the president has sent out a video to make it all a bit clearer.” He presses play on the remote control and a video starts.
They show an army of kids marching just like the band kids but they held up an almost diamond-like flag with white stars, red and white stripes and something blue in the middle. It looked like something out of a Rorsarch test. A typical narrator voice spoke over as generals yelled commands, “By March, America wants the best paramilitary out there. They shall be called Becker’s Youth. For females aged twelve through sixteen we’ll have a special name for them, AGL. American Girl’s League. As for the males aged fourteen through twenty, they will be called BOA. Boys of America. As for why this concerns those not able to participate in Becker’s Youth, we believe that the education and training of those in Becker’s Youth requires certain attention and education that those not able to participate won’t necessarily need. Other then that, learning environments shall be equal. Those participating in Becker’s Youth just know that you are America’s children. Lives like yours should not be wasted.”
“Lives like yours should not be wasted,” I repeat to Zack as I step out of the shower.
“That’s a weird catch phrase…ours should be?”
I walk over to the sink to pluck in my earrings, “That’s what they’re basically saying.” He shakes his head as he pulls on some black slacks. “What have they done at your college?”
“Nothing out of the usual really…except for now a cop stands in the corner of class.”
“And how does your teacher react?” I walk out to the bedroom and slide into my dress.
“A little nervous and disorganized…but I guess he’s always acted that way.”
I sit down and slide on my heels, “Hmm…are you ready?”
“Yeah, let me just grab my keys from the counter.”