Book 3 Untitled
Book 1: Silent Longing
By I. Diaz
Author’s Note: This is book 3 in a 4 book series that I never finished, and wrote between the ages of 14 and 16. It deals with a lot of soap opera-like issues (rape, teen pregnancy, alcoholism, etc) that sprung from watching way too much television (I’m guessing). Also, it is uploaded as I found it, and hasn’t been proofread or altered in any way since I was 14, so there’s potentially a lot of dumb stuff ahead. Plus, it was like year 4 of me speaking English … so …
Alix Morris could swear her heart stopped beating, as she watched Mathew pull her best friend’s body out of the water. She watched him set Jessica down on the sand, away from the threatening waves of the Atlantic Ocean, and kneel down beside her.
It was all happening so fast. Alix didn’t remember walking over to them, but suddenly, there she was, staring down at her best friend’s pale face. “Is she . . .” She couldn’t ask. The world around her was spinning, and she felt herself go numb.
Mathew Collins put two fingers on Jessica’s neck, and left them there for a few seconds. When he looked up, Alix wasn’t sure if he was crying, or if it was ocean water, but he certainly looked like he’d break down in tears at any moment. “There’s no heart beat,” he said, in a low, almost unrecognizable voice.
Alix stared at him. She couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t move. All she could do was stare at him, and watch her entire life crumble before her very eyes.
Mathew shook his head. “I hope this works,” he mumbled, and proceeded to do what Alix could only recognize from last year’s Health class, as CPR.
Mathew lifted Jessica’s chin up with two fingers, and explained something about clearing air passages, but Alix wasn’t listening. She watched him give her mouth to mouth. Count some numbers under his breath. He’d torn Jessica’s shirt open, and was pumping down on her chest.
All the while, Alix stared. Everything was happening in slow motion. She was surprised she hadn’t gone into shock. Or maybe she was in shock.
Mathew continued on, and still nothing happened. The small spark of hope that had built in Alix’s heart, died down as the minutes ticked away.
“Come on, Jessica,” Mathew was saying. Then more counting. More pumping. Still nothing.
He was definately crying, Alix was sure of that now, but he could have been laughing himself into a coma, for all she could’ve cared.
The tears rolled down both their faces. The waves continued to roll in and out of the weathered shore. The cool, summer breeze continued to blow. And still, Jessica did not come back to them.
Roxanne Perez tossed and turned in bed. The memories of the other day still haunted her. She couldn’t sleep, and her bruises ached from when B.J. had hit her.
She hadn’t told Alex about the bruises. If her boyfriend knew about them, he’d certainly go after B.J. Wherever he was.
But, her physical pain was nothing compared to her emotional one. She wanted revenge on B.J. McNair. But she was embarassed about the whole thing. She wanted to hurt him for what he’d done to her, but at the same time, she didn’t want anyone to know she’d been raped by that sonofabitch.
It was almost as if two unseen forces were tearing at her subconscious. It was driving her insane.
Roxanne turned on her side, and winced at the sharp pain that shot through her. Damn it! She choked back tears of frustration, and stared at the glowing red numbers on her alarm clock. It was almost one in the morning. I have to go to sleep, she told herself, shutting her eyes, but all she saw was B.J.’s hateful face, and his powerful hands pushing her down on the floor.
Her eyes flew open, fresh tears pouring out of the sides.
Nina Collins stared. Her mouth flew open, and she looked back and forth between her boyfriend, and the girl that had just stepped out of his apartment. At least they were fully dressed. She’d probably interrupted them before they got busy–or after.
“Nina,” Leslie Thompson said, holding up his hands. “This is gonna sound like a cliche, but it’s not what it looks like.”
Luna, whatever her last name was, smiled sexily, putting her arm around Leslie’s shoulders. “Oh, yes it is.”
Nina snapped. Not only did this girl get her suspended from the basketball team, right before the biggest game of her college career, now she wanted to take her boyfriend, too? Oh, no sir. Nina pushed the girl away from Leslie. “Listen,” she said sharply, staring down at her. “I know what you’ve been trying to do.”
Luna looked unaffected. “What? What have I been trying to do? Satisfy your boyfriend?”
“Oh, that’s it,” Nina snapped, and punched Luna smack in the nose. The girl fell back. Now she was shocked. Blood started pouring from her nose.
“Nina!” Leslie exclaimed.
“Shut up, Les,” Nina said. “This has nothing to do with you.” He was confused, naturally. Nina walked over to Luna, and helped her up. She spoke calmly. “I know it was you spreading those rumors about me at school. I got suspended from the team thanks to you, and now the whole team thinks I’ve been using steroids. But we both know that’s bull.” She turned to Leslie, who was gaping at her. “Would you get me some ice, hon?”
“You’re crazy,” Luna muttered, fixing her black eyes on Nina.
Nina smiled. “You’re calling me crazy? You?” She rolled her light green eyes heavenly, and pointed to the couch. “Take a seat, Luna–if that is in fact your real name–let’s have a little talk. Woman to woman.”
The tunnel continued on and on. It was dark–very dark–and
extremely cold. Jessica shuddered, as a chill crept up her spine. Where was she? she wondered, moving farther into her strange surroundings. “Hello?” she heard someone say. It took her a couple of seconds to realize it was she who had spoken. It certainly didn’t sound like her. Or, at least, she didn’t think it did.
Suddenly, Jessica heard voices. They seemed to come from far, far away, but she continued walking. The voices were familiar, but she couldn’t quite place them. In fact, she couldn’t even distinguish if they were male or female.
She didn’t know how long she walked for, or in what direction she was headed, but she continued on, regardless.
The voices she’d heard began to grow farther and farther away, but Jessica didn’t mind.
Then, suddenly, she saw it. It was a great big ball of light that shone in her direction.
Jessica stared at it in wonder. She felt so at peace as she neared it. As if nothing could ever harm, or hurt her. She felt at home in its presense.
“Hello, Jessica,” it said. But it didn’t have a voice, exactly. It didn’t have a mouth that moved, nor communicated in the way Jessica was used to. Instead, the light seemed to implant its thoughts into Jessica’s.
“Am I dead?” Jessica asked, not really fearing the answer. The peace that radiated from the strange light made her feel so comfortable, that she never wanted to leave.
“You will be if you don’t return soon,” said the light. “And you must return now.”
Jessica shook her head. “I don’t want to go back. There’s nothing for me there. I’d rather stay here.”
“No. It isn’t time for you. People need you back there. Do you hear them?”
Jessica listened. The voices she thought had left, came back. She recognized them now. “Mathew? Alix?”
“They need you, Jessica.”
Jessica suddenly felt sad. It was the first negative emotion she’d felt in the light’s presense. Then she felt even worse. Like all the energy inside of her had been turned off. She felt weak. She could hardly breathe. Then new feelings engulfed her. Frustration. Emptiness. Fear. Why was she feeling this way?
“You are feeling their pain,” said the light. “This is what your friends are feeling, because of you.”
As quickly as they had come, the feelings left her. Jessica stood straight, but felt tears running down her cheeks. “How do I go back?” she asked.
Mathew was getting tired. He’d been at it for more than ten minutes, and still no response from Jessica. His fatigue grew worse, and after a few more tries, he had to stop. Tears of pain and frustration rolled down his cheeks. He couldn’t believe this was happening. Jessica, dead? It was impossible. It had to be a nightmare.
“Why did you stop?” Alix cried.
Mathew tried to catch his breath. “I can’t . . . breathe.” He shook his head. I can’t give up! He started again. A few minutes later, he jumped back, startled. He’d felt Jessica move. Then he watched in amazement as Jessica sat up, and started coughing up water.
“Jessica!” Alix yelled.
Jessica was gasping for air, and then fell back on the sand.
Mathew kneeled down, scooped Jessica into his arms, and picked her up. “We have to take her to the hospital,” he said.
“My car’s over there,” Alix said.
About five minutes later–Mathew was never getting into a car with Alix again–they arrived at the Baldwin Memorial Hospital.
“Do you think she’s gonna be alright?” Alix asked Mathew, as they watched Jessica being taken away in a stretcher.
Mathew sighed. “I hope so.” He smiled gently at Alix, and squeezed her hand. “I really hope so.”
Nina waited for Leslie to come back with the ice. She stared at Luna for a moment, trying to figure the girl out. She was beautiful, no doubt about that, but she seemed fake in a sense. Like the curly brown hair at the top of her head didn’t really belong. And her eyes also looked fake. They held more frustration, than coldness, which made Nina believe that behind her in-control exterior, was a more sensitive, caring interior, that she had trouble letting out.
Out of the corner of Nina’s eye, she saw Leslie walk back into the living room holding a thin towel wrapped around a bunch of ice cubes. He handed them to Nina, giving her a look of pure confusion. She’d have to deal with him later. But for now, she turned to Luna.
“Here,” she said, and handed her the ice. “This will stop the swelling.”
Luna took the ice, and pressed it against her nose. “You didn’t have to hit me.”
Nina considered. “True, but it felt good.” She sat back in the chair, and stared at Luna. “So, do you care to start by explaining why it is you’ve taken it upon yourself to ruin my life? What have I done to deserve this special treatment?”
Luna shrugged. “I don’t have to tell you anything,” she said, coolly. “You don’t scare me.”
It was Nina’s turn to shrug. “I don’t mean to be scary,” she said, though she had to admit that being a little intimidating couldn’t hurt. Especially in a situation like this. “I just want to know the truth.” She leaned forward. “I mean, first you spread rumors about me in school–how you managed to get a doctor report into my school file, remains a mystery to me. Then, I catch you throwing yourself at my boyfriend–both literally and figuratively. Now I find you in his apartment.” She shook her head. “That doesn’t make me feel very good, Lun. In fact, it hurts my feelings.” She leaned back. “So, if you tell me what you want, maybe we can work something out.”
Luna frowned, and stared at Nina. For a long moment, she was silent. “You’re strange,” she said finally.
Nina smiled. She liked the way Luna had said that. She hadn’t meant it as an insult, but more of an amused observation. Maybe she could get through this girl after all.
Claire Jourdam–otherwise known as Luna Rain McGuire–stared at Nina. She had to admit to herself that the girl was interesting. Most girls would have run away, crying. Most girls would be in their room sulking in misery. But Nina Collins was smiling at her, and looking very in-control.
Sucker, Claire thought, smiling to herself. She pressed the ice against her nose again. That hurt like a bitch. She couldn’t deny that the girl was strong. Maybe I wasn’t so far from the truth in telling everyone she was on steroids.
“Well?” Nina said.
Well,what? What do you want me to tell you? Certainly not the truth. You can’t be that naive, Nina. She shrugged. “What do you want to know?”
Figures, Claire thought. “Everyone’s after the truth,” she said. She shrugged again. “There is no truth. There are only truer lies.”
“Alright, then tell me the truest lie.”
Claire laughed, inspite of herself. It was too bad she wasn’t supposed to like Nina. They could’ve become friends. “I can’t.”
Nina frowned slightly. “Why not?”
“I don’t want to,” Claire said simply. “And that’s the truest lie.”
Jessica opened her eyes slowly. For a second, she panicked. “Where am I?” she muttered, so softly that she couldn’t believe the woman next to her heard what she’d said.
“Well, looky who’s up,” the woman said cheerfully. She was a short, plump, ebony-colored woman with short greyish-white hair, and a friendly smile. She stared at Jessica with bright, gray eyes. “You’re at the hospital, hon,” she told her. “I’m Nurse Booth.”
Jessica struggled to sit up. “Hospital? I can’t be at the hospital.”
The nurse smiled. “You’ve been here for quite a while, sweetie. A little longer, and we would’ve considered you dead.” She chuckled at her own joke.
Jessica smiled at the woman. She seemed so nice. The she looked around. She was connected to an I.V. machine, and the thin tube was touching her left arm slightly. She noticed that the room was quite big, and no one else was sharing it. Why did she have a private room? The window next to her told her it was early morning. The sun was burning lazily above. It had probably not fully awaken. She turned back to the nurse, and frowned. “What happened? Why am I here?”
Nurse Booth grinned. “Maybe I should let your friends answer those questions,” she suggested. “They’ve been waiting here for quite a while.”
Jessica frowned again. “Friends?”
Nurse Booth laughed. “Of course friends, hon.” She winked. “The young man is quite a catch. He’s the one who saved your life.”
“Saved my life?” Jessica repeated dumbly.
“Well of course, dear. If it wasn’t for his CPR, you wouldn’t be with us right now.”
The nurse smiled and shook her head. “Would you like to see them?”
Jessica nodded. “Please.”
Alix opened her eyes slowly, and gazed at the clock at the far wall. Her vision was blury for a second, but then cleared. Six-forty-five. She lifted her head from Mathew’s shoulder. “Good morning,” she said, rubbing her eyes. “How long have I been asleep?”
Mathew shrugged. “About half an hour or so.”
Alix winced. “Really? Hm.” She shrugged, and sat up straighter. She looked around the hospital waiting room. She’d grown used to the smell of amonia and alcohol in the air. But the presence of sickness and death in the atmosphere still bothered her. Especially when her best friend lay in one of those hospital rooms. She sighed. “I never thought I’d say this, but I’d rather be in school.”
Mathew nodded. “Yeah, me too.”
Alix looked at him. “Did you call your parents?”
He nodded again. “Yeah, they said to stay here as long as I needed to.” He yawned. “God, I’m tired.”
“Didn’t you sleep?”
Mathew shook his head, and yawned again. “Couldn’t,” he answered.
Alix nodded. “Yeah, I had a little trouble with that myself. I can’t believe I actually slept for half an hour.” Then she yawned. “Why are yawns so contagious?”
“Nobody knows the answer to that,” Mathew said, matter-of-factly.
Alix half-smiled. “Is that a fact?”
Mathew nodded. “They’ve done studies, and yet . . . they don’t know. I read about that once. It was on Unsolved Mysteries, too.”
Alix laughed. What an interesting conversation we’re having, she thought, and smiled to herself. Then she became serious–a state of mind very rarely associated with Alixandra Morris. Her twin sister would have a heart attack. Alix looked at Mathew. “I never thanked you for what you did for Jessica. If you hadn’t been there . . .” She let the rest hang in the air. The actual thought of her best friend dying was a concept she couldn’t handle.
Mathew smiled gently. “You don’t need to thank me, Alix,” he said. “I didn’t do it as a favor. She’s my friend too, ya know?”
Alix nodded. “Can I ask you something? It’s kind of personal.”
Mathew sighed, but nodded. “Go ahead.”
“Do you like Jessica?” she asked. Then she rolled her eyes, as the words left her mouth. “I don’t mean ‘like’ as in ‘do you like her as a person?’ It’s more of a ‘can’t wait to see you naked’, kind of like.” She scruched up her face. “I like to babble. Get used to it.”
Before Mathew had a chance to respond, a short, friendly-looking nurse approached them. “Good news.”
Alix stood up. Mathew did the same.
“She’s awake,” said the nurse. “She’s expecting you.”
Alix didn’t realize she’d been holding her breath. “Oh, thank God,” she breathed.
Mathew sighed with relief.
The nurse smiled. “Whenever you’re ready.” Then she walked away.
Alix and Mathew exchanged a look, and headed in the direction of Jessica’s hospital room. Alix was the second to enter, and she sighed when she saw Jessica. Her best friend looked so different, lying there in the bed. She looked a little pale, but, naturally, a hundred times better than she had when she’d been pulled out of the water. Jessica’s long, black hair, was spread out behind her on the pillow, and her dark blue eyes were surpringly alert.
Alix looked at her uneasily. She had never seen Jessica Heart look so vulnerable.
Jessica smiled at them. “Don’t look at me like that, guys,” she said. “You’re making feel all blushy.”
Alix laughed lightly, and moved closer. “How are you feeling?”
Jessica considered the question carefully. “Strange,” she finally said. She looked around, as if the right words were in the air somewhere. “Kinda like I died and went to heaven, and then was sent back.”
Alix smiled. “You should write a book about it,” she suggested.
Jessica laughed. Then she looked at Mathew. “You’re quiet today.”
Mathew sighed, and then grinned crookedly. “It’s been a shocking past few hours,” he said.
Jessica nodded, and leaned her head back on the pillows. “I’m sorry,” she said softly. Then she laughed sadly. “I’ve been sorry for a lot of things lately, huh?” She looked at Alix, and reached out for her hand.
Alix walked even closer, and took Jessica’s hand. For some reason, she felt like bursting into tears again.
Jessica looked at Mathew for a second, and he nodded, getting the hint. “I’ll be outside,” he said. He stared at Jessica for a second, and then left the room.
Alix watched him leave, and turned back to Jessica.
“I didn’t mean for this to happen,” Jessica said sadly. “I didn’t know what I was doing. I’m so sorry, Alix.”
Alix shook her head, trying hard not to cry. “Don’t be sorry, Jess.”
“But I am.” She closed her eyes. “I really screwed up this time. I can’t believe I was such a jerk.”
“Are you gonna spend the rest of your life being sorry for everything that happens in your life?”
Jessica didn’t flinch, or move, she simply opened her eyes, and gazed at Alix. “This was my fault,” she said. “You can’t deny me the responsibility.” She sighed. “About my parents . . . well, that’s another story. I handled things wrong. Very wrong.” She looked directly into Alix’s eyes. “Do you forgive me?”
Alix knew her eyes were sparkling with tears, but she didn’t care. “I always forgive you, Jess. You should know that by now.”
Mathew stared blankly at the far wall. He was leaning back against the wall to Jessica’s hospital room, thinking stupid thoughts.
“Your turn,” Alix said, opening the door.
Mathew was startled, but nodded, and entered the room. He couldn’t remember ever feeling as nervous as he felt walking toward Jessica.
Her immediate smile, relaxed him somewhat. “Hi,” he said.
Jessica laughed. “Hi.” She smiled. “Alright, what exactly do you say to the person who saved your life?”
Mathew felt himself blush slightly. Then he shrugged. “You don’t have to say anything.”
Jessica considered. “Yeah, but then we’d never speak to each other again, and I don’t think I’d like that very much.”
Now he was definitely blushing. “Uh, how about thank you?” he suggested.
She smiled. “Thank you.”
Jessica grinned. “So, CPR, huh?” Then she laughed again. “Stop blushing, Mathew, you look a tomato. Take a seat.”
Mathew obeyed, and sat down on the chair next to Jessica’s bed. He was trying to contain his embarassement, but it wasn’t working very well. He looked at her uneasily.
Jessica frowned. “I must look like a zombie, huh?”
She looked stunning, as always, but Mathew couldn’t say those exact words to her, or else he’d definitely look like a tomato. But he couldn’t sound nonchallant, or else she’d think he was just trying to make her feel better. So, what he said next was, “You could never look less than beautiful, Jess.” So much for not blushing.
Jessica didn’t blush, though. She wasn’t the type. She was probably used to compliments from guys, but she smiled warmly, and actually looked touched. “That’s sweet of you to say,” she said.
He was relieved that she didn’t press the subject. He wasn’t used to speaking openly in front of girls. Especially the ones he liked. And yes, he now knew, he did like Jessica. And not just as a person.
After they left the hospital, Alix dropped Mathew off at his house, and then drove back to her house. She was so exhausted, she could barely keep her eyes open as she stumbled through the front door.
Her mother looked away from the TV, and turned her head in her direction. “How’s Jessica?” she asked, pressing the mute botton on the remote.
Alix held up a thumbs-up sign. “Surprisingly well for someone who just had a brush with death.” She started toward the stairs.
“I called the school and excused your absense,” her mother told her, as she passed by. “The lady who answered seemed concerned about Jessica’s welfare. Mrs. Williams, or something. She left her home phone number, and asked me to tell you to call her as soon as you could.”
Alix nodded. “Yeah, she’s close with Jessica. God knows Jess has spent enough time at the office.” She smiled. “I’ll call her as later, but for now, I’m going to bed, and waking up in about a week. Good night.” She blew her mother a kiss, and headed up the stairs. Her room was the first door on the left, and she stepped inside.
As usual, her room was cluttered with clothes, and papers, and notebooks, and the other stuff she left lying around. The walls were completely covered with posters of her favorite metal, and hard rock bands. Mostly Aerosmith, of course.
Alix jumped over the pile of clothes by her feet, and threw herself on the bed. She kicked off her sneakers, and pulled herself up to the top of the bed. The second her head touched the fluffness of her pillow, she was asleep.
Mathew wasn’t even a second inside his house, than both his parents, and both his sisters were on him, asking question after question about Jessica. He stared at them, and yawned. “What?” he asked. He was that out of it.
“Oh, you poor dear,” his mother said, grabbing his arm. “Go to sleep, Mathew. We’ll talk later.”
“How’s Jessica?” Sarah, his seven-year-old sister, asked softly.
Mathew sighed to himself. He knew how much Sarah liked Jessica. “She’s fine, sweetie. Still in the hospital, but fine.”
Nina, his twenty-two-year-old sister, sighed with relief. “That’s good to hear. I’m stopping by the hospital a little later.”
“Can I go?” Sarah pleaded.
Mathew’s mother spoke. “I don’t think they’re going to let you inside, Sarah,” she told her.
Sarah frowned sadly.
“How about if you make her a card?” Mathew suggested. “I bet she’d love that.”
Sarah brightened immediately. “Okay,” she said, and ran back to her room.
Mathew sighed, and started toward his own room. “What time is it?” he asked.
“It’s almost eleven,” his father answered. “Why?”
Mathew shrugged. “Just wondering. Why is Sarah home so early?”
“They had some sort of activity day at school,” Nina told him. “She was released early.”
Mathew nodded. “I’m sorry, I’m just really out of it right now. Don’t mind me.” Everyone smiled supportively, and he headed into his room. He couldn’t believe his exhaustion. The whole entire thing didn’t even seem real.
But he didn’t worry about that for long. He dropped on his bed, and closed his eyes, with the image of Jessica clearly imprinted on his mind. He was sure he’d dream of her when he fell asleep. But there was only one way to find that out for sure.
After school, Roxanne walked through the Baldwin High parking lot, and got into her black and teal Mustang GT. She was in a daze. The school was buzzing with news about Jessica. How they had found out before her, was still a mystery.
She pounded the steering wheel of the car, angrily. I can’t believe my best friend is in the hospital, and I didn’t know about it. She pulled out of the parking lot, and headed for the hospital.
Alix hadn’t been in school. She was most likely with Jessica. Roxanne couldn’t believe that Alix hadn’t called her to tell what had happened. That is just wrong.
A few minutes later, she saw the building up ahead, and turned into the parking lot. Once inside, she headed for the desk in the center of the Emergency Room, and waited until the nurse sitting there, looked up.
“What room is Jessica Heart in?” Roxanne asked, trying to hide her impatience.
“Room 110,” the nurse answered.
Roxanne rolled her eyes, looking annoyed. “That’s nice. Would you mind telling me where that is, exactly?”
It was the nurse’s turn to look annoyed. “You just asked for the room number. There’s no need to be snippy.” She stood up, and leaned over the desk. She pointed. “It’s down that hall, and then to your right. She sat back down. “Do you think you can handle that, or would you like a map of the hospital?”
Roxanne rolled her eyes again. “Thank you, very much,” she said, smiling in mock sweetness. She started down that the hall, and then turned right, looking for room 110. A couple of minutes later, she found it. She bit her lip, and knocked softly. She heard Jessica’s voice tell her to come in, so she pushed the door open, and stepped inside.
The room was pretty large, and looked more like a hotel room, than an actual hospital room. Of course, it wasn’t as if Jessica couldn’t afford to buy the entire hospital if she wished.
Roxanne fixed her eyes on Jessica, and sighed to herself. Her friend was lying on the bed, staring thoughtfully out the window. She certainly looked better than Roxanne had expected. The people at school were already clearing their schedules for the funeral.
Jessica turned to look at her, and smiled. “Rox!”
Roxanne walked over to her, and kissed her on the cheek. “How are you doing, girl?” she asked. “I would have come hours sooner, if someone would’ve had the decency to tell me you were here. But, of course, I had to find out from Lynn Hauffman–the little . . .” She smiled, and sat down. “You look pretty good. From what Lynn told me, you were supposedly dying.”
Jessica frowned. “How did Lynn find out?”
Roxanne shrugged. “I think Alix called home to tell her mom what was going on, and of course Rachel had to find out, being Alix’s twin and all, and you know how Rachel keeps everything to herself.” She rolled her eyes downward, to show her sarcasm. “Of course, I didn’t hear a word of it until sixth hour, when Lynn starts dabbing her eyes mockingly, and tells me you’re at the hospital. She wouldn’t tell me why.” She paused and frowned. “Come to think of it, why are you here?”
Jessica shifted uncomfortably in the bed, and sighed. “I went for a swim last night . . . and lets just say I wasn’t in the best condition.”
Roxanne gasped. “Jess, you didn’t? You got drunk and went swimming?”
Jessica nodded weakly.
Roxanne leaned forward, and took Jessica’s hand. “Did you do it on purpose, Jess?” she asked softly.
Jessica sighed again. “If you mean, did I try to commit suicide? The answer is yes.”
Roxanne’s heart stopped. She swallowed hard, and sat back in the chair, letting go of Jessica’s hand. “Oh, God,” she muttered, and tried to choke back the tears burning in her eyes.
“Oh, Rox, please, don’t cry,” Jessica pleaded.
Roxanne stared at her. “Don’t cry?” she asked. “Don’t cry? That’s the least I can do right now.” She wiped away the tear that had escaped her eyes. “Why did you do it, Jess? What’s been going on? First, you stop going to school. Then you start drinking. I find you practically passed out on the floor, talking about your life being hell. I didn’t take you seriously, because I thought it was the alcohol talking. But there’s more to it.”
Jessica looked away. “Things have a way of catching up to you,” she said, softly. So softly, in fact, that Roxanne wasn’t even sure she’d heard correctly.
“I can’t believe you did that, Claire,” Rachel Morris yelled, storming into her room, followed closely behind by Claire Jourdam.
Claire rubbed her left temple. “Can’t believe I did what?” she asked, closing the door behind her.
Rachel turned around, and stared at her best friend with fury in her eyes. “I can’t believe you did any of that! I can’t believe you walked up to Nina and Leslie at the fair and told them all that crap about Leslie being some drunk, womanizing creep! I can’t believe you died your hair, and curled it, just so they wouldn’t know it was you the next time they saw you! I can’t believe you changed your stupid name to Luna whatever, just so you could seduce Leslie with your flirty ways. And I cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, believe that you tapped into the Baldwin University files, using my computer, so you could put a phony doctor’s letter in there, telling people Nina is using steroids!” She sighed. “What is wrong with you?”
Claire remained unaffected. “You used to go along with this, remember? It was you, who showed me how to get into the Baldwin U files, okay? All I did was follow your example.” She turned to leave. “I don’t expect you to understand why I’m doing this, Rachel, but as my best friend, you could at least be suportive.”
“Suportive?” Rachel exploded. “Suportive of this madness? You’re insane, Claire. Totally looney tunes, as Alix would say. I want you out of my house, right now, and I don’t ever want to see you here again!”
Claire shook her head. “Don’t mess with me, Rachel,” she warned. “You know what I’m capable of. Don’t do this to yourself.”
Rachel glared at her. “You disgust me, Claire,” she said. “Get out of my house. And get out of my life.”
Claire shrugged, and opened the door. “Suit yourself, Rachel. It was nice knowing you.” She blew her a kiss, and then walked out of the room, leaving Rachel thinking that maybe she’d made a big mistake in double-crossing Claire. A big mistake.
Alix opened her eyes. Why was her sister yelling? She groaned and rolled out of bed, opening her door. She saw Claire storming down the stairs. Alix frowned. What the heck is all of this about? She walked across the hall to Rachel’s room, and opened the door.
Her sister was standing there looking worried and scared. Alix stared at her mirror-image in confusion. “What in the world is going on?”
Rachel shook her head. “It’s none of your business, Al,” she said, softly. She shook her head, and sighed. “How’s Jessica?”
Alix shrugged, and rubbed her eyes, yawning. “She was fine when I left her. They’re keeping her there for a couple more days, though. Physical examinations, and such.”
Rachel nodded. “Oh, Jade called earlier, while you were sleeping. She wants you to go over Drake’s house as soon as it’s heavenly possible.”
Alix rolled her eyes. “I don’t have time to do this stupid band thing,” she muttered, yawning again. “I want to sleep!”
Rachel shrugged. “I’m just passing on a message, you can do whatever you want. But I don’t think it had anything to do with your little band thing. I think she just wanted to talk to you, since you weren’t in school today, and all.”
Alix sighed. “Whatever.” She walked out of Rachel’s room, and into her own. She stared at her bed longingly, but shook her head. “I better wake up, or else I’ll be a zombie all of tomorrow.” She put her shoes on, brushed her teeth, and left for Drake’s house. She’d just say hi to Drake and Jade, and then head on to the hospital.
Drake Hill frowned. “Huh?”
“I’m telling you, my boobs are lopsided,” Jade Cooper insisted. She was sitting on Drake’s bed, and for some reason, the conversation had gone from an argument on who the best rock band was, to their body parts. Where the transition had occured, she wasn’t very sure, but there it was. She shrugged, and pushed a strand of blue hair, behind one earring-studded ear. “Your turn.”
Drake shifted in his seat, and ran his hand nervously over his dark blonde hair.
“C’mon, Drake,” Jade insisted, grinning. “You’re among friends.”
“It’s small,” he mumbled.
Jade leaned closer. “I’m sorry? What was that?”
“Small,” he said again.
“What’s small?” Jade asked, though she had a pretty good idea what he was referring to. Watching him squirm in embarrassment was the fun part.
Drake rolled his green eyes. “You know, it.”
Jade played dumb. “It? What it? Try complete thoughts here, babe.”
Drake scratched his forhead. “My penis,” he said in a low whisper.
Jade bit her lip to keep from laughing. She leaned back on her elbows. “So, let me see it,” she told him.
Drake stared at her. “Excuse me?”
“I want to see it,” she insisted. “Whip it out.”
Drake frowned. “No way.”
Jade sighed. “I’ll show you my lopsided boobs, if you show me your baby Oscar Myer.”
Drake now looked interested. “Seriously?” he asked leaning forward.
Jade shrugged. “It’s the nineties.”
Drake stared at her for a moment. “Alright, but you go first,” he told her.
“No ways,” she argued. She thought about it for a moment, and then nodded. “We go at the same time.”
They hesitated for a moment, but Drake started lowering his pants, and Jade started taking off her shirt.
Drake was lowering his boxers, and Jade taking off her bra, when the door to Drake’s room burst open, and in walked Alix.
“Guys, I can’t stay long . . .” Alix stared. Her face went from surprised, to shocked, to embarrassed, to amused. She grinned, and leaned against the wall. “Talk about a Kodak moment.”
* * *
“They’re alive?” Roxanne asked, staring at Jessica in both shock and horror. “Your parents are alive.”
“It’s a little more complicated than that, Rox,” Jessica said carefully. “But yes, in a nutshell, they’re alive. Unfortunately, they’re not my real parents.”
Roxanne frowned. “Homo say what?”
Jessica sighed. “Must I talk about this? I was actually feeling cheerful for a while.” She looked at Roxanne’s face, and nodded. “Alright, I don’t feel like going into extreme details, but I’ll give you the outline. My dad was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and was supposed to die within a few months. They didn’t have any children, and he started to freak because, you know, he didn’t have anyone to inherit the business nor the money, so he and my mom got busy–for lack of a better term–trying to make a baby.
“Then, it turned out they couldn’t have any children. So, one day, they were sitting in the clinic, and they heard this couple arguing. My parents started talking to them, and it turned out that they were a young teenage couple, who’d made a mistake, and now were expecting a baby. Except that, they had no money, no job. They weren’t even out of high school, and just to spite their parents, had decided to keep the baby. So, my parents made a deal with them, which involved the exchange of the baby for one million dollars.
“The baby was born. The money was exchanged, and Jessica Leigh Derwood, became the one and only, Jessica Lexy Heart. My father’s tumor magically disappeared, and we all lived unhappily ever after.” Jessica smiled at Roxanne’s expression. “Yeah, imagine what I felt like when I heard that a few days ago.”
Roxanne shook her head. “So, what about the plane crash?”
Jessica nodded. “Oh right. Okay, my parents–the real ones–wanted to blackmail my other parents for what they did. And, you know, it isn’t exactly legal to be buying babies here and there. Especially, you know, a respected family like mine. Things like that don’t usually happen–or at least, if they do, they aren’t publicly announced.
“So, what my brilliant parents did, was fake the plane crash, making the will legal, and inssuring that I was left all the money, and everything. My real parents couldn’t do anything, since my other parents were dead. So, they backed off.” Jessica sighed again. “Of course, my parents weren’t gonna come back until I turned twenty-one, and had full access to the money, but as luck may have it, my real parents died a little while back.”
Roxanne stared at her blankly for a while. “Run that by me one more time,” she said, frowning.
“Have you no morals, people?” Alix asked, shaking her head. She watched Drake turn twenty different shades of red, and pull up his pants hastily. Jade took her sweet time. She had nothing to hide, really.
“It’s not what it looks like,” Drake said.
Alix frowned. “No?” She looked confused. “Oh. So, you were not standing there with your shlong hanging out?” She gestured to Jade. “And she wasn’t half naked?” She considered. “Damn. I’m really going blind. Either that, or I have X-ray vision.”
Drake looked like he wanted to disappear.
Alix grinned again, and waved the whole thing away with her hand. “Don’t worry about it, kids,” she said, mocking the voice of wisdom. “It’s all part of growing up. You must explore, learn new things. Boldly go where all other horny teenagers have gone before.”
Jade shook her head, and sat down on the bed. “You’re sick, Al.”
Alix stared at her. “I’m sick?” She considered. “No. Sick would’ve been, if I stepped in here and said, ‘Damn! You started without me!’ That would be sick. Or, I could’ve also said, ‘Threesome! I got the middle!’ That would’ve been sick, also. But I didn’t say that, did I?” She looked at Drake. “Oh, for crying out loud, get a grip on yourself, man! I’ve seen one of those things before. If I hadn’t, I’d be freaking out and pointing and asking, ‘What happened to you? You should get that checked, man! Does it hurt? Can I touch it?’ ”
Jade burst out laughing, while Drake covered his face with his hands.
Alix rolled her eyes. “Anyways, I just came over to say hello. I’m on my way to the hospital.”
Jade stopped laughing, and frowned. “Why? What happened?”
“Long story,” Alix said. “I’ll tell you the whole thing later.” She waved, and was about to walk out of the room, when she turned around, and looked at Drake. “Don’t worry about the size of it, Draky. Once you hit puberty, it will really get kickin’. ”
Mathew blinked, and looked around the darkened room. What time is it? he wondered, rubbing his eyes. The time on his alarm clock read 6:23 pm. He sat up lazily, ran his hands through his light brown hair, and frowned as he heard footsteps outside the door.
A couple of seconds later, the door opened, and Nina’s silhouette appeared in the doorway. “Mathew?” she called. “Did you wake up yet?”
“Yeah, I’m up,” Mathew told her, tossing the covers off of himself.
“I’m going to the hospital to see Jess,” Nina said. “Wanna come, or do you want to stay sleeping?”
At the sound of Jessica’s name, he brightened. “I’ll go, just give me a few minutes to get ready.”
“No prob,” Nina said, and shut the door.
Mathew stretched, and got out of bed. He went into the bathroom, took a shower, and got dressed. He put on a pair of light blue jeans, a Dockers tee shirt, and his black Nike’s. Then he walked out of his room, and down the hall to the living room, where he found his sister talking on the phone. She nodded to him, and hung up with whomever it was she was talking to.
“Ready?” she asked, grabbing the car keys.
A few minutes later, they were driving down the street. Mathew stared blankly out the window of the passanger seat, lost in thought.
“Are you gonna ask her out?” Nina asked suddenly.
Mathew snapped his head to look at her. “She’s in the hospital, Nina!”
“No kidding, Mathew,” Nina said. “You’re sharp today. I didn’t mean tonight or anything. I meant it as a general question. Are you gonna ask Jessica out?”
Mathew shrugged, and leaned his head back on the carseat. “Maybe.”
Nina sighed. “Listen, Matt, I never meant to be pushy about the whole thing, okay? I mean, if you don’t really like Jessica you don’t have to force yourself to.”
Mathew smiled to himself. “Would anyone really have to force themselves to like Jessica?” he asked.
Nina looked at him out of the corner of her eye. “So, what are you saying?”
Mathew sighed. “I think I might ask her out,” he muttered. “I will probably chicken out at the last minute, but I’m gonna try.”
Nina smiled at him. “If I weren’t driving, I’d probably hug you right about now.”
Jessica sighed. “Can we please change the subject, Rox?” she pleaded. “I’m really trying to stay positive.”
Roxanne frowned and nodded. “Of course, I’m sorry.” She looked around. “Love the room, Jess. You went all out on this one.”
Jessica shrugged. “Quite frankly, I didn’t pick this room or anything. Maybe the doctors liked me.”
Roxanne snorted. “Yeah, but I bet they liked your bank account even more.”
Jessica laughed. “Most definitely, my dear Rox.” She looked over, as the door started to open. Alix stood in the doorway, smiling brightly and holding a couple of bags. When she saw Roxanne, her smile vanished, and was replaced by a look of shock and fear.
“Hi, Rox,” Alix said, moving carefully into the room. “Is that a gun in your pocket, or am I just hallucinating again?”
Roxanne rolled her eyes. “I’ll deal with you later, Al,” she said. “I don’t want to kill you in a hospital. You would be too lucky.”
Alix smiled nervously, and walked over to the other side of the bed. She leaned down and gave Jessica a peck on the cheek. “Feeling better?” she asked.
Jessica nodded. “Much.”
Alix placed one of the bags on Jessica’s stomach. “Knock yourself out, babe. I had to sneak it up here, ’cause I think they want to torture you with hospital food for the rest of your stay.”
Jessica frowned, and opened the bag. “McDonald’s!” she cried.
Alix frowned. “Is that what that is?”
Jessica laughed gleefully, and took out the BigMac, and fries, and soda. “I love you, Al,” she said, unwrapping the burger.
Alix nodded. “Yes, I know,” she said, “and I love you, too, but somehow I know my mom would not approve.”
Roxanne frowned as she watched Jessica eat her food. “Have you eaten?” She paused. “Ever?”
Jessica took another bite, and chewed contentedly. She shook her head, and swallowed. “Actually, I haven’t eaten a thing in like three days.” She scrunched up her face. “Except for that thing they gave me for lunch, which I didn’t really eat, ’cause I thought it would lash out and bite me back if I tried.”
Alix crossed her arms, and leaned back against the window. She looked over at Roxanne. “I did try calling you this morning, but your phone was off,” she told her suddenly. “So, it wasn’t my fault. I tried.”
Roxanne rolled her eyes. “I told you, I don’t want to talk about this now. Calm down.” She eyed the remaining bag. “What’s in there?”
Alix frowned, and looked down. “Oh, this.” She stared at the bag for a second, as though she didn’t remember what was in it. “Clothes, toothpaste, toothbrush, etc.” She looked at Jessica. “I stopped by your house, and picked up a few things. I figure you’d want your own clothes, and stuff.” She shrugged, and placed the bag on the floor beside her.
Roxanne stared at her. “Do you do this often? Visit people at the hospital, I mean.”
Alix looked uncomfortable for a moment. “Well, before my dad died, he was in the hospital for quite a while. So . . . ” She shook her head quickly.
Jessica stared at Alix. It was true, Alix’s father had died from heart failure about a year after Jessica’s parents had supposedly died. Why didn’t she ever think about that? Alix must have known what she was going through all along. I guess I really didn’t change all that much, she thought sadly. My selfishness remained. But, from now on, she intended to fix that.
Alexander Woods tapped his fingers on the long wooden counter of the surf shop. He stared at the clock on the wall. Ten minutes until closing time. This is so boring, he thought, sighing. He wanted to get to the hospital and see Jessica.
“Looking impatient today, Woods,” his boss, Dean Harrison, noted, stepping up beside him.
Alex stood up straighter, running his hands through his short brown hair. “One of my friends is at the hospital. I’m worried.”
Dean nodded. “Go ahead and see your friend,” he said. “I’ll lock up.”
Alex smiled. “Thanks, man. I’ll be in early tomorrow, okay?”
Dean shrugged. “Do whatever, Woods. Do whatever.” He smiled as he watched Alex leave the store.
Alex ran to his jeep, and got in, heading toward the hospital. From what he’d heard at school, Jessica was dying of some weird disease she caught snowboarding in the Alps. Of course, the story in sixth hour, was that Jessica had been abducted by aliens, and subjected to hours, and hours of anal probing. So he wasn’t exactly sure which one was true and which one wasn’t. He chuckled. Where do these people get this stuff? he wondered, stopping at a red light. They’ve probably been reading too much “Weekly World News”.
Alex’s mind then shifted over to Roxanne. He still couldn’t believe she didn’t want anyone to know she’d been . . . he couldn’t say it. If he was ever face to face with B.J. McNair again, he’d kill him. He’d literally beat the living daylights out of the guy, and kill him. He didn’t mind going to jail for it. In fact, he’d welcome the punishment with open arms.
For some reason, his thoughts went back to Jessica. Maybe because the hospital was in view, and maybe because history had a way of repeating itself. Often in the places you least expected it to.
Mathew stepped inside Jessica’s hospital room, followed closely behind by Nina. He smiled, as he saw Alix and Roxanne standing by the bed. “Hey, guys,” he said.
“Hola Mathew,” Roxanne said. “Nina.”
Jessica smiled. “Hey, Mathew. Nina, I didn’t expect to see you here.”
Nina pretended to be hurt. “I can’t believe you think so badly of me,” she said, in mock shock. “I’m hurt, Jess.”
Jessica laughed. “A million apologies to you, Nina. I was so wrong about you.”
“So, how are you feeling?” Mathew asked, stepping closer.
Jessica frowned. “You know, I was thinking of making a little sign reading ‘Fine, thank you, and you?’. That way I can just hold it up everytime I’m asked that question.” She grinned at Mathew. “I’m fine, thank you, and you?”
Mathew laughed. “Fine, thank you.”
“So, when are you busting out of here?” Nina asked.
“Tomorrow afternoon, if I’m a good girl, and don’t cause any trouble, or the day after, if I’m a pain in the butt. Naturally, I’m doing my best to stay here and extra day.”
“It’s her personal goal in life to annoy everyone that steps into her range of vision,” Roxanne explained. “That’s why we love her oh-so-much.”
Nina snapped her fingers. “Speaking of which–” She pulled out Sarah’s card “–Sarah sends you a little something.” She handed Jessica the card.
“Aww,” Jessica said, putting the card over her heart. “She’s so sweet. Can I borrow your sister for a few years?”
Mathew smiled. “You can have her.”
Just as he said that, the door to the room burst open, and in stepped Alex.
“Jess, how are you feeling?” Alex asked, closing the door behind him.
Everyone in the room burst out laughing, and Alex stared at them in confusion.
“What?” he asked, frowning. He looked down to see if his zipper was down. That made them laugh even louder. “You people are weird.” He stepped over to Jessica. “Seriously, how are you feeling?”
“Fine, thank you, and you?”
Everyone cracked up again, and Alex seemed to give up.
Roxanne controlled her laughter. “Don’t laugh at him,” she said. “He’s confused.” She grabbed Alex hands, and pulled him over to her. Alex sat down on the chair, and Roxanne sat down on his lap.
Alix whistled. “Jeez. You people have been going out for like three days, and already you’re getting bu-sy. What is wrong with today’s youth?” she asked, shaking her head.
“Well, well, well,” said a sarcastic voice from the doorway. “If it isn’t the Brady Bunch?”
Everyone turned around.
“Lynn, I didn’t know you cared,” Jessica said, smiling brightly. “Did you bring me flowers?”
Lynn Hauffman snorted, and shook her head, making her long, blonde curls shake from side to side. “My mother happens to be your doctor,” she spit out disgustedly. She shrugged. “She made me come in and say hello. Besides, I was curious to know what stupidity brought you to the hospital. Did you have another nervous breakdown?”
“Get out of this room,” Roxanne told her sharply.
Lynn remained unfazzed. “Shut up, Roxanne. If Jessica wants me out of the room, she can tell me so herself. We were best friends once, you know? I could be concerned about her welfare.” She shrugged. “But of course, I’m not. So, what exactly did you do?”
“I tried to kill myself,” Jessica answered simply.
A look of shock passed over Lynn’s face, and then was quickly replaced by her usual smug look. “Good going,” she said. “Too much pressure at home, Jessie? Couldn’t handle being an orphan?”
“Get out!” Roxanne yelled.
Jessica touched Roxanne’s arm. “Don’t worry about it, Rox,” she said calmly.
Mathew stared at all three girls. He was amazed at Jessica’s coolness. Last time Lynn had made one of her evil appearances, Jessica had run out in tears.
Roxanne chilled out hesitantly.
Lynn rolled her eyes. “Oh, by the way, Jess, thanks for dropping out the election. I really enjoy being president of the student body.”
Jessica smiled. “Well, I’m glad I could do something to make you happy, Lynn.”
Lynn smirked. “Right.” She looked at Alix. “Can I talk to you outside for a moment?”
“What about?” Alix asked.
“You know what about, Alix,” Lynn said, giving her a significant look. “Hurry up.”
Alix shook her head, and followed Lynn out the door.
Mathew frowned. “Why does Alix talk to Lynn so much?” he asked.
Jessica sighed. “Long story.”
“What is your problem?” Roxanne asked, staring at Jessica. “You were actually nice to Lynn. Why?”
Jessica shrugged, and grinned. “Kids, I have seen the light.”
Alix turned to Lynn, and crossed her arms. “Now what do you want?” she asked impatiently.
Lynn smiled with mock sweetness. “What makes you think I want something?”
Alix rolled her eyes. “We had a deal, Lynn. If Jessica dropped out of the election, you handed over the tape.”
Lynn stared at her for a moment. “If you had a tape incriminating two people, would you hand it over so easily?”
Alix sighed. “What is it you want?”
“American History homework,” Lynn answered simply.
Alix stared at Lynn. “You want me to do your History homework?” she asked.
Lynn nodded. “I’m not doing so well in that class, and for some reason you are. So, I want you to do my work for me.”
“Will you then hand over the tape?” she asked.
Lynn considered. “No. But I won`t hand it over to the authorities, either.”
Alix sighed. “Fine. But I wasn’t in school today, so I don’t know what the assignment was.”
“I thought of that ahead of time,” Lynn said, reaching into her jean pocket. “So, I wrote it down for you.” She handed Alix a folded piece of paper. She smiled. “Have fun.” With that, she turned around, and walked away.
Alix muttered as many curse words as she could under her breath, and then walked back into the hospital room. Everyone looked in her direction, as she entered. She grinned. “So, Jess, how are you feeling?”
After the nurse had told the group that visiting hours were over, Mathew had asked if he could stay a little longer, to which the nurse had said yes–but not too much longer.
Jessica wondered why he wanted to remain, since he appeared to be so incredibly nervous around her, but she didn’t mind his company in the least. “So, what may I do for you, Mathew?” She watched him shift uncomfortably in his chair. “You okay?”
Mathew turned toward her, and sighed. “I kind of want to ask you something,” he began.
Jessica raised an eyebrow. “Okay.”
“But I don’t know if I should.”
Jessica nodded. “You have a very big problem then, Mathew.”
“Because you’ve just sparked my curiousity, and now you’re gonna have to ask me anyway.”
Mathew half-smiled, and then bit his lip. “I don’t know how.”
Jessica stared at him. “Okay, so you want me to guess?”
Mathew laughed. “No, please don’t,” he said. He looked at her for a moment, and then shook his head. “Nevermind, Jess.” He stood up from the chair. “I’ll be back tomorrow.”
Jessica frowned, and watched Mathew walk out of her room, wondering what it was he wanted to ask her. She shrugged, and put her head down on the pillows, closing her eyes. She was too exhausted to worry about it.
Mathew felt like punching a wall. He was so pissed off at himself right then.
Nina was waiting for him at the end of the hall, and she frowned as she watched him approach. “What happened?” she asked.
Mathew didn’t answer, he just kept walking.
Nina ran after him, and grabbed him by the arm. “Mathew! What the hell has gotten into you? What did she say? Did she say no?”
Mathew couldn’t help the tears of frustration. “I didn’t ask her,” he said gruffly. “I’m never going to ask her. I’m too friggin’ chicken.”
Nina laughed carefully, and hugged him. “Calm down, Mathew. If you didn’t ask her today, you can ask her tomorrow. It’s no biggie.”
Mathew pulled away from Nina’s embrace. “It’s no use, okay, Nina? I’m the biggest chicken that ever walked the face of the earth. Just forget it. I’ll just accept my fate, and die a lonely old man.”
Nina rolled her eyes. “That’s the spirit, Matt,” she told him. She grabbed him by the shoulders. “Listen to me, Mathew, okay? You have got to get over this. You’ve never had a girlfriend in you life. It’s not a healthy thing. In fact, it’s sad. You’ve got to march back in there, and ask the girl out.”
Mathew shook his head. “For crying out loud, she’s in the hospital. This isn’t the best time to be asking a girl out on a date. Besides, if she says yes, she’ll probably just do it as a favor more than anything else.”
Nina stared at him. “Do you have self-esteem, Mathew?”
Mathew shook his head. “Nope.” He looked at her helplessly. “Can we just go? Please?”
Nina shrugged. “Fine. But as soon as I become a psychiatrist, you’re gonna be my first patient.”
Mathew forced a smile. “I think I’m already your first patient,” he told her.
Nina sighed. “I just don’t get it. What is the big deal? If she says no, you can just move on to another girl, okay? There are plenty of fish in the sea.”
He shook his head. “The ocean isn’t what it used to be, Nina. There aren’t that many fish left.”
Alix scowled as she sat at her desk that night. This was just what she needed. To be doing Lynn’s homework on top of everything else. She was living a soap opera. This is just friggin’ wonderful, she thought, opening her History book. She took out the piece of paper Lynn had given her, and unfolded it. There were about three chapters worth of work to do! No wonder the girl wasn’t doing very well in that class. She didn’t do any work! I was wrong, this is friggin’ wonderful. She sighed, and then stared at the bottom of the page. “NOTEBOOK CHECK TOMORROW!!!”
Alix stared in shock. “Is she nuts?” Alix sighed, and stared at the time. It was already 9:47. Why was it she always left everything until the last minute? She yawned, and stretched. At this rate, she’d be doing this until morning, and she was really exhausted. I must do this for the sake of my freedom, she told herself. Jail is not a perty place to be.
She sighed, and reached into her bookbag, withdrawing from the pocket her trusty tape recorder. She’d taped the teacher’s last lecture, so that she wouldn’t have to read the chapter to know what was going on. Besides, if there was a notebook check tomorrow, there was bound to be a test.
She clicked the play button, and turned on the volume. Her teacher’s voice filled the air. He was talking something about a war in Europe. Hitites? What? She didn’t understand a word he was saying. He’s mumbling, Alix realized, fast forwarding the tape. Maybe he’d start speaking clearly by the end of the tape. She pressed play again, and listened.
” . . . can I do for you, Lynn?” Mr. Cummings’ voice asked. There were a couple of seconds of silence.
“Mr. Cummings, I want to speak to you about my grade,” Lynn’s voice came through. But her tone was mocking, teasing even.
Then nervous chuckling. “Lynn, this isn’t the time nor the place,” Mr. Cummings said. “What if someone walks in?”
“No one’s gonna walk in, Billy,” Lynn said. “I locked the door.”
The sound of a desk being pushed aside.
“Lynn, really,” Mr. Cummings said. “Not here.”
“Come on, I have a few minutes before the election speeches,” Lynn said, in an innocent, almost childish manner. “Besides, you just had your last class of the day. Who’s gonna know?”
Then there was a knock on the door, and the sound of two people pulling apart from a kiss–or so Alix’s mind was led to believe.
Alix stopped the tape. The rest was when she’d come back for her stuff, after going to the bathroom at the end of class.
Alix stared at the tape recorder. That didn’t just happen, she thought. I’m hallucinating again. I didn’t just hear that.
She played the tape over again. And then, after she got over the shock, she picked up the phone.
Jade looked away from her computer, and picked up the phone. “What is it?”
“Jade! Come over right now!”
Jade frowned, and looked at the time on her computer. “Alix, it’s after ten.”
“Jade, we got her!”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
Alix sighed deeply. “You know the tape Lynn is blackmailing us with?”
Jade rolled her eyes. “Gee, Alix, no. I can’t remember such a thing.”
Alix ignored her sarcasm. “Well, you should get a load of what we got on her.”
“Get over here, right now, Jade. You’ve got to hear this!”
Jade sighed. “Why don’t you come over here? I don’t feel like walking all the way to your house.”
“I’m not going to your house. Come over. Please, girl, you won’t regret it.”
Jade rolled her eyes. “Fine. But give me a couple of minutes.”
Jade shook her head, and hung up the phone, turning back to the computer screen in front of her. She shrugged at the story she was writing. Hell, I’m stuck anyways. She shut off the computer, and walked out of her room. “I’m going out!” she yelled, and without waiting for a response, walked out of the house.
She stared up at the sky for a moment, checking to see if there were any UFOs in the area. There weren’t. Damn, she thought, starting down the street, I was hoping to get abducted before getting to Alix’s. She shrugged. Maybe tomorrow.
A few minutes later, she stepped up to Alix’s front door. She was about to ring the doorbell, when the door burst open. An excited Alix stared back at her.
“You won’t belive it!” Alix nearly yelled. Then laughed. She pulled Jade into the house.
“If you’re about to tell me that you’ve finally lost the last of your few remaining marbles, I’ll believe it.”
They started up the stairs, and entered Alix’s room.
“Alix,” Jade said, “calm down. You’re going postal on me.” She frowned. “You don’t have a gun around here, do you?”
Alix turned around, and smiled, picking up the little tape recorder from her desk. “Listen to this.”
Jade rolled her eyes, and sat down on Alix’s bed. “What is it? The long lost Aerosmith song?”
Alix grinned. “That would be so cool,” she said. Then she shook her head. “But no.” She turned up the volume, and pressed play. “Listen.”
Zachary Woods sat at his desk that same night. He ran his hand nervously over his blackish-brown hair, and stared down at what he’d written.
When I first saw you that night at the beach, I wanted
so much to talk to you., but I didn’t know what to say. You
were sitting there so pensive, so lost in thought, that I was
afraid to disturb you. But I thought that if I didn’t say some-
thing soon, you’d leave, and I’d never see you again.
So, I lied. I pretended to be someone I’m not just
so I would have enough courage to speak to you. My name
is not really Jeremy. It’s Zack. I’m Alex’s little brother. I’m a
Sophomore at Baldwin, and for the past couple of weeks I’ve
done everything in my power to avoid you at school.
I didn’t mean to lie to you. I’m really sorry. I hope that
you can find it in your heart to forgive me, and we can still
Zack shook his head, and crumpled up the piece of paper. I can’t give this to her, he thought, throwing the paper into the garbage can. She’ll think I’m some sort of dork. He sighed. Who am I kidding? I am some sort of dork.
He sat back in his chair, and stared at the wall in front of him. Love was torture. How could he tell the girl he loved that he had lied to her? And on top of that, how could he tell her how he felt about her?
Zack sighed, and got up from his desk. He looked at the time on his watch, and frowned. It was 11:07. Where was Alex?
“Rox,” Alex began, “have you changed your mind about keeping the B.J. thing a secret?”
Roxanne looked at him. “Alex, we’ve been through this before, okay?” she asked. “He’s gone. He can’t hurt me anymore. Just drop it.”
Alex shook his head, and leaned back against the side of Roxanne’s car. “I don’t get it, Rox. The bastard belongs in jail. He shouldn’t get away with this. If it were anybody else, you’d be the first to say that charges should be pressed.”
Roxanne bit her lip, and sighed. “It’s different when you’re the victim, okay? You wouldn’t understand.”
Alex looked at her sadly, and took her hands in his. “I’m sorry, Rox,” he apologized. “I just hate him for what he did. I can’t help it.”
Roxanne stepped closer to him. “I hate him, too,” she said softly. “But I just can’t spend the rest of my life worrying about it. I just want to move on.”
Alex ran his finger down her cheek. “Do you trust me, Rox?” he asked.
“What do you mean?”
Alex sighed. “I don’t want you to turn against me. I know how something like that can mess you up. Would you like to break up? Have some time to yourself?”
Roxanne stared at him. “You don’t want me any more, do you?” she asked. “You think I’m disgusting.”
Alex frowned. “What? Of course, not Rox! I love you more than you’ll ever know. I just don’t want you to get all weird around me, because you’re afraid I’ll do something to you.”
Roxanne wasn’t listening. She was walking away. “Forget it, Alex,” she said, starting up her driveway. “You don’t have to worry about it anymore. Move on to another girl, if you want. I don’t care anymore.” She ran into her house, and shut the door.
Alex blinked. “What just happened here?” He ran up to the door, and rang the doorbell. Then he remembered it was broken. Damnit! He didn’t bother knocking. It wouldn’t do any good. Roxanne was locked in her room by now. He leaned against the wall, and closed his eyes. This wasn’t happening.
Jessica opened her eyes, and frowned. “Why am I in a garden?” she asked softly. She heard laughing, and turned her head.
“Good morning, Jessica,” the nurse standing beside her said. She smiled. “You must have a lot of friends.”
Jessica looked around. Her room was covered with flowers, and balloons, and presents. She stared at everything for a moment. “Where did all of this stuff come from?”
“They just keep coming in,” the nurse answered, with a shrug. She turned back to Jessica. “The doctor will be in shortly, and she’ll let you know when you can go back home.”
Jessica nodded, and watched the nurse leave. She shook her head, and picked up a basket of flowers. She took out, and read the card.
Hope the aliens treated you well.
Jessica frowned. Who’s Tommy Bishop? And what aliens is he talking about? she wondered. She shrugged, and put the card back in the little envelope. She pulled out another.
When you get back to school, you must
tell me everything about your dinner with Elvis.
I’m so jealous!!
What is wrong with these people? Jessica put the card back, and shook her head. She stared at the envelope that leaned against the telephone on the table. With hesitation, she picked it up, and opened up the envelope. The card was pink and blue and had the picture of a white carnation. The words “Get Well Soon” were printed across the top. She opened it up to read the inside.
We know you don’t want anything
to do with us right now, but we couldn’t not come and see you. I’m sure you’re
thankful that you were asleep.
We are so sorry, Jessica. We never
thought what we did would affect you
the way it did. Please, please, find it in
your heart to forgive us someday. We
want more than anything to become a
But, for now, we will be leaving
for Europe tonight. Remember, we’re not officially alive. We would like to keep
away from the publicity as long as
If you’re ready to talk to us, Jessica,
the number of the hotel we’re staying at
is at the bottom. The plane doesn’t leave
until 8:30 tonight.
We love you.
Mom & Dad
Jessica stared at the card in her hand, and sighed. Then she reached over, and picked up the phone.
“Oh, Ly-nn,” Alix called sweetly.
Lynn was talking to a group of her friends, and she turned around, annoyed by the interruption. When she saw Alix, she rolled her eyes dramatically, and whispered something to her friends, which made them burst out laughing.
“Lynn, we need to talk,” Alix said, walking up to her. She was in too good a mood to let Lynn’s little followers get to her.
Lynn crossed her arms over her chest, and stared at her. “What do you want, little slave girl? Did you do what I told you to do?”
Alix grinned. “Actually, no, I didn’t.”
Lynn frowned. “Excuse me?”
Alix pulled her away from all of her friends, and smiled brightly. “You know, I was sitting there on my desk, and I was about to start on the mother load of work you bestowed upon yours truly, but suddenly, God spoke to me.”
“What are you talking about?”
Alix pulled out a tape from her back pocket. “I suggest you listen to this. If you don’t talk to Mr. Fidgestein and schedule another election, this tape is gonna be played on the morning announcements.”
Lynn stared at the tape. “You must be crazy if you think I would do something like that. I don’t care what you have on that tape.”
Alix laughed. “You will when you hear it, Lynn,” she assured her. She laughed again. “You will when you hear it.” She smiled at Lynn, and then walked away, feeling better than she had in a long time. “Sweet revenge,” she said outloud to herself. “Sweet, sweet revenge.”
Alex opened the door to Jessica’s hospital room, and stared. Her room was covered with flowers, and balloons, and a bunch of other stuff. Not that it surprised him any, since Jessica was the most popular girl in school, but still.
“Alex, what a pleasant surprise,” Jessica said. She frowned. “What time is it?”
Alex closed the door, and walked over to her. “It’s a little after three. I came directly after school.”
“That’s persistance,” Jessica said, smiling. “Where’s Rox?”
Alex bit his lip, and sat down. “That’s kind of what I wanted to talk to you about.”
Jessica looked at him expectantly. “Why? Is something wrong with her?”
Alex nodded. “It’s kind of hard to explain, and I promised her I wouldn’t tell anybody, but she needs help, and she’s not listening to me. In fact, she doesn’t even want to talk to me. She didn’t come to school, and when I tried to call her, she hung up on me.” He shrugged. “Besides, I think you could get through to her.”
“Alright, what’s the problem?”
Alex hesitated. “She got raped by B.J.”
Roxanne channel surfed absentmindedly. She was feeling so depressed that not even the fact that Ace Ventura was on, cheered her up. Jim Carrey usually did the trick. But she was beyond depressed. She was at the bottom of a bottomless pit, and she had no motivation to climb back out. None whatsoever.
The phone on her nightstand rang. She made no attempt to pick it up. It rang again. She rolled her eyes. The third time it rang, she reached over, and shut off the ringer. I don’t want to talk to anybody, she thought to herself. She focused on the TV. A tampon commercial was on. Why am I watching this? she wondered, changing the channel. Barney and Friends, great. Infomercials. Fruitopia. IBM, wonderful. She rolled her eyes, and shut off the TV. The silence started to get to her, so she turned on the radio. Elton John was singing “The Circle of Life.”
“Oh, that’s a good one,” Roxanne said outloud to the ceiling. “God has a sense of humor.” She shook her head, and changed the radio station. Madonna’s “Live to Tell” was on. Much better, Roxanne said, sliding down in bed, and shutting her eyes. Much, much better.
Jade caught up to Alix. “Hey, what did she say? What did she do? Did she listen to it?”
Alix shrugged. “I have no clue. All I know is that she wanted to meet us here after school. Let us pray for the best.”
“Alright,” Lynn said, walking up to them. She was holding the tape in her hand. “Alright. How much do you guys want for this?”
Jade smiled. “You can have it for free, Lynn. We have plenty more where that came from. Including the original.”
Lynn looked impatient, and held up the tape. “Listen. This is serious stuff. This isn’t some sort of joke.”
Alix shook her head. “We didn’t say it was, Lynn. But you blackmailed us, so we blackmail you. It’s the natural course of the world.”
“If I give you back the stupid tape, will you get rid of this?” Lynn asked.
Jade and Alix exchanged a look, then shook their heads at Lynn.
“How about this?” Lynn proposed. “I won’t show the tape to anybody. You don’t give this tape to anybody. We forget the entire thing? And we’re all even?”
Alix stared at her for a moment. “Okay. But first, you have to do a few things for us.”
Lynn rolled her eyes. “What?” she snapped.
“Number one: you schedule another election, so that Jessica can compete, and beat your sorry ass off the SGA. Number two: you quit hassling Jess, or any of my friends. Number three: you keep your friends away from us, too. And number four: if you ever do anything to make me, or any of my friends feel bad, or feel angry, this tape is on the morning announcements. Do we have a deal?”
Lynn hesitated, but after a few minutes, she nodded. “Fine.” Then she walked away.
Jade looked at Alix and smiled. “Justice prevails,” she said.
Alix grinned. “Good has triumphed over evil. You have learned a valuable lesson here today, my child.”
Nina stepped into her coach’s office. This time she was worried. Now what is she gonna do? Kick me off the team for the rest of the season? She sat down, and tapped her fingers on her knee. God help me.
Coach Gray stepped into the small office, and smiled at Nina. She sat down at her desk, and folded her arms. “I owe you an apology, Nina,” she said. “It seems that someone’s been messing with the school’s files. But the person has been found, and is being taken care off immediately.”
Nina frowned. Luna actually turned herself in? “So, what does that mean?”
Coach Gray smiled again. “Welcome back to the team, Nina. I guess you’ll be playing tomorrow’s game after all.”
Nina stared at her coach. “Seriously?”
“I mean, unless you have something to confess?”
Nina shook her head. “Of course not, coach! I can play tomorrow’s game?”
Coach Gray nodded. “Go change for practice, Collins. Lets see if you’ve still got it.”
Nina got up from the seat, still in shock. I guess that girl isn’t as bad as I thought. She walked over to her locker, and started changing for basketball practice. She was going to show the world how good she really was.
Rachel stared at the computer screen before her. She was trying to write another stupid essay for her English class, and Alix didn’t have anything even remotely related to the subject, saved away in one of her files.
Rachel tapped the keys absentmindedly, and wrote a bunch of nothing on the screen. Half of it didn’t make any sense. How come Alix has all the creative genes in the family? She shrugged, and tried coming up with something interesting. The essay was supposed to be about being trapped inside a bomb shelter for ten years. What would I do if I were trapped in a bomb shelter for ten years? she wondered. Kill myself, probably.
She rolled her eyes, and got up from the desk, as she heard the doorbell downstairs. Saved by the bell, she thought, leaving her room. She walked down the stairs, and across the living room
When she opened the door, she frowned. Two police officers were standing there. “May I help you?” she asked.
One of the police officers flashed a badge. The other stared at her for a moment.
“We’re looking for Rachel Morris,” the first one said.
Rachel froze. “That would be me,” she muttered.
The second one stepped forward, and took out a pair of handcuffs. “You are under arrest. Anything you say may, and will be used against you in a court of law . . .”
Alix stepped into the hospital, grinning from ear to ear. Things were starting to pick up in her life. She saw Jessica, and smiled. “Hey, I just heard you’re breaking out of here.”
Jessica simply nodded.
Alix frowned. “What’s wrong?” she asked.
Jessica shook her head, and suddenly smiled. “Nothing.” She stared at her for a moment. “You look cheerful.”
Alix laughed, and walked closer. “Today just keeps getting better and better. We finally got Lynn back. She won’t be hassling us anymore. You can rest assured that there is a rainbow after the rain.”
Jessica looked at her, an amused expression on her face. “Okay.”
Alix sat down, and looked around. She whistled. “Geez. What happened? Balloon World have a goint-out-of-business sale, and and you bought all the remaining merchandise?”
Jessica grinned. “Something like that.”
Alix stared at her for a moment. “Something’s wrong.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Your eyes,” Alix said, leaning closer, “they look very troubled, my dear. Remember, I am very wise in my ways. Speak to me, child. I shall listen with noble ears.”
Jessica sighed. “I talked to my parents.”
Alix sat back. “And what happened?”
“They’re leaving for Europe tonight, but they promised to stop by the house later, and say goodbye. They’re not ready to admit to the world that they’re really alive.”
“And how does that make you feel?”
Jessica smiled. “What are you? My shrink?”
Alix nodded slowly. “Yah. I told you, I am wise in my ways. Answer the question.”
Jessica licked her lips, and shrugged. “I guess it makes me feel a lot of different ways. I’m kind of relieved that they’re giving me some time and space to think things through–rationally this time. It makes me feel kind of bad to think that they’d leave the country a day after their daughter–or sort of daughter–commits suicide and almost dies. It makes me feel a little worried that they might never come back. It makes me feel kind of lonely in a way.” She shrugged again. “I don’t know. I guess it’s complicated to explain. Maybe things will be clearer after I see them tonight.”
Alix nodded. “Speaking of which, when do you get out of here?”
“As soon as the chauffer gets here with the limo.”
Alix whistled again. “Going all out? A limo? I don’t think I’ve seen you riding a limo since . . . well, a while ago.”
Jessica half-smiled. “The ‘before days’?”
“Yeah,” Alix agreed, grinning slightly, “The ‘before days’.”
Claire shook her head, as she watched her best friend being led into the police car. Should’ve never messed with me, she thought. Should’ve never messed with me.
Claire shrugged, and kept walking down the sidewalk. Her strawberry blonde hair swinging behind her as she walked. It had been fun being a brunette, but that wasn’t her natural color. It didn’t fit her as perfectly as did strawberry blonde. Now she felt like her old self again.
She watched the police car drive off down the street. Probably headed toward Baldwin University. Claire wasn’t really worried about her best friend. Rachel was only sixteen-years-old. What could they do to her? She was a goody-two-shoes at school. Had pretty much above average grades. She wasn’t going to Juvy for something so minimal. In fact, she’d just stand in front of a judge, smile her innocent little smile, and she’d be out with a little warning.
Claire sighed. She wasn’t about to send her best friend to jail for calling her a psycho. I’m not that crazy, jeez!
She just wanted to scare Rachel a little bit. Show the girl that Claire was not someone to be messing with. Besides, Claire had gotten Nina off the hook, hadn’t she? I’m not a bad person, she told herself. I liked Nina. She was a cool human being, so I decided to give the girl a break. Besides, now that she thought about it, Leslie wasn’t even her type. She would very easily give up her pathetic attempt to win the guy over. It was not helping her self-esteem in the least. She preferred just riding the year out.
Claire nodded in agreement. Let’s just see what the wind blows my way.
Jessica stared up at her mansion, as Maurice, the butler, helped her out of the black stretch limo. The house seemed so strange, and distant to her for some reason.
“Welcome home, Miss Heart,” Maurice told her gently.
Jessica smiled, feeling guilty. For the past few days she’d been treating everyone in the mansion like crap–something she, nor they, were used to. She’d have to apologize as soon as she was strong enough to stand up on her own. “Hello, Maurice. You can stop with the formalities. I’ve regained my sanity.”
The old butler smiled gently, his baby blue eyes sparkling with amusement. “It’s a pleasure to have you back, Miss Jessica,” he said.
Jessica laughed softly. She was feeling awfully weak. “That’s better, Mau,” she said. “That’s better. Maybe in another eighteen years you’ll be able to call me Jessica, like everyone else.”
Maurice helped her to the door. Once inside, she noticed the entire household was waiting in the foyer. The cooks; the maids; the gardeners; everyone was standing around.
A chorus of “Welcome back’s” echoed through the air. Jessica noticed that they, too, seemed a little tense. They probably thought she’d snap at them or something. Jessica smiled, and waved. “Thank you, thank you,” she said. “You’re all too kind. Autographs will be signed in my bedroom after six o’clock.”
That broke the tension. Her personal maid, Rosa, stepped forward. “We’re glad you’re back, Miss Jessica,” she said shyly.
Jessica nodded. “Not as glad as I am to be back,” she said, grinning at the soon-to-be sixty-year-old woman in front of her.
About ten minutes later, Rosa had helped her into bed. Her room was on the third floor of the mansion, and was ironically, one of the smaller rooms in the house. But the reason she’d chosen it, was because the balcony outside, faced the ocean, and had the easiest access to the beach below.
The room itself was huge, by normal standards. There were French doors to her left, leading to the balcony. To the right of the doors, was a black leather couch facing a matching wall unit. On its shelves was a big screen TV, a set of Encyclopedias, and many, many books. There was also a small coffee table in front of the couch. The wall itself was painted to simulate a sunset.
To the left of the French doors, was her desk, on which stood a computer, complete with CD Rom, laser jet printer, and all the other technological goodies she could think of adding to it. Another set of Encyclopedias lined a shelf.
Directly in front of her were the double doors leading into the room, and to their right, another couch, and another wall unit with more books. That wall was painted black, with thousands of twinkling stars, and a huge, glowing full moon in the center.
To her left, was a small basketball court, with the wooden floors and everything. The wall behind the hoop was painted so that it showed an almost real view of a basketball court.
A couple of wooden steps led up to Jessica’s king-size waterbed, which leaned against the back wall. There were matching nightstands on either side of the bed, and there were also two doors on either side of the wall. One led to the bathroom, and the other to the huge walk-in closet. That wall was painted to simulate the ocean depths. Brightly-colored fishies lined the blue-green tones of the wall.
Jessica loved her room. It was the only place in the entire house in which she felt a sense of belonging.
Rosa moved about the room making sure everything was in order.
“Rosa,” Jessica called.
The old woman walked over to her immediately, and smiled her warm, friendly smile.
“I’m sorry for yelling at you before,” Jessica told her honestly.
Rosa looked shocked, but then shook her head. “There’s no need to apologize to me, Miss. You’re the boss.”
Jessica sighed. “Being the boss does not give me the right to treat people badly. You have been with me my entire life, Rosa, and you’ve seen me change from a little kid, to a snobby teenager, to a totally depressed teenager, to a not-so-snobby teenager, back again to a depressed teenager, to an out-of-control teenager, and then to a lying-in-bed-because-she-just-tried-to-kill-herself-and-is-too-weak-to-get-up teenager. So, please accept my apology, because otherwise I’ll be feeling guilty for the rest of my life.”
Rosa smiled, and patted Jessica’s hand. “You worry too much, child,” she said. “You worry too much.” She started toward the door, but turned around as her wrinkled hand touched the knob. “You’re a good person, Miss Jessica. You may not think you are, but you are. Your friends all look up to you because you are open and compassionate.” She paused. “Don’t let the past ruin your future. It’s really not worth it.” She smiled again, and walked out of the room.
Jessica frowned, and stared at the spot where Rosa had been. She leaned her head back against the pillows and closed her eyes. The past is but memories. And the present, their threatening reflection.
“We’ve already contacted your mother,” a tall, ugly-looking woman in her late sixties told her. A deep, permanent frown was set above her icy blue eyes, and her wrinkled mouth was set in a straight line. Her thinning grey-white hair was pulled back from her face, and made her features all that more visible. The woman leaned back against her tall brown leather chair. A thick, mahogany desk stood between them.
Rachel shifted uncomfortably in her seat, while her green eyes traveled over the small office. Her gaze landed on the woman, whom she assumed was the dean of admissions here at Baldwin University. The little wooden slab on her desk read: “Mrs. Wordsworth”. Under it, in smaller lettering, the word “Dean” was written. I guess that settles it.
“So, Morris,” Mrs. Wordsworth said sharply, “do you enjoy going around changing school files? Do you do it at your high school? Is that why you have such outstanding records?”
Rachel looked at her, trying her best not to be intimidated. “I have never changed a file in my life,” she said. Liar, she scolded herself. “I earn my grades.” At least that was the truth.
Mrs. Wordsworth snorted. “Right.” She leaned forward, the chair squeaking with complaint under her weight. “Nina Collins is one of our most respected students. To think she was wrongly accused of drug addiction, and suspended from the basketball team is not a minimal thing. Fortunately, we got tipped in the right direction, and were able to figure out what was happening.” The woman sat back. “People like you are a menace to society.”
Rachel remained calm. “I didn’t change Nina’s file. The file was altered from my computer, but it was not me, and I was not there to stop it. So, you can yell at me, and punish me, and press charges if you want, but I am innocent, and I’ll find a way to prove it.”
Mrs. Wordsworth grinned wickedly. “And how do you intend to do that?”
Rachel flinched. “Well, I don’t know. But I’ll find a way. I’ll find a way.”
Alix stepped into her house, and frowned. “Hello!” she yelled. “Anybody in da house?” She shut the door, and started walking toward the stairs. She stepped into Rachel’s room. “Hey, Rache–” She frowned again, and looked at the computer. It was turned on, but Rachel wasn’t around. “Rachel!” Alix turned around walked across the hall to her room. It was empty. She checked her mother’s room. Empty as well. “Hello!” she yelled, heading back down the stairs. She checked the kitchen, the garage–the car was still there, so Rachel couldn’t have gone far. She wouldn’t leave the computer on.
Alix sighed, and sat down on one of the stools against the kitchen counter. She looked around, and then saw the blinking light of the answering machine. She reached across the table top, and pressed the play button.
“Alix,” her mother’s voice said, “I hope you get this, honey.” Her tone suddenly changed. “Your sister got arrested, and I have to go down to the University to see what’s going on. Something about computers. There’s leftovers in the fridge. I have no idea when we’ll be home. Eat something. I love you. Bye.”
Alix stared at the answering machine as it rewinded. “Say what?” she said outloud. She shook her head, as though to clear it, and started back to her room. Once there, she fell backwards on the bed, and stared up at the poster of Steve Tyler conveniently posted on the ceiling. “My sister got arrested.” Then she grinned. “Today is turning out better than I ever dreamed possible.” She laughed gleefully.
The ringing chimes of the doorbell echoed through the room. Alix sat up on her elbows. “Come in!” she yelled at the top of her lungs. Maybe it’s some kind of uncool psychopath. She considered the possiblity, and then grinned. Cool.
A couple of minutes later, the bedroom door opened, and Jade stepped inside.
“Jade!” Alix cried happily.
Jade stared at her for a minute. “What’s wrong with you, Al? You’re flipping out.”
Alix laughed. “I’m just happy. Rachel got arrested!”
Jade frowned, pushed a bunch of stuff from Alix’s desk onto the floor, and sat down on it. She leaned her head against the wall behind her, and crossed her arms. “Your sister? What did she do?”
Alix shrugged. “I have no idea.” She stared at Jade, and grinned. “So . . . what did you and Draky do after I left?”
“Alix, shut up about that, okay?” Jade warned her.
Alix gave her a significant look. “You can tell me, Jade. I won’t tell anyone.” She leaned forward. “So? How how was it? Was it strong enough for a man, but pH balanced for a woman?”
Jade frowned. “Huh?”
Alix stared at her. “You and Drake.”
“We didn’t do anything,” Jade told her.
“Yeah right! You don’t expect me to believe that, do you, Jade?”
Jade shrugged. “You can believe whatever you want, Alix.” She looked around the room thoughtfully. “Let’s go to the mall.”
Alix stared at her for a moment, but then shrugged. “Fine. Let’s go to the mall. I don’t have any money, though.”
“I don’t care,” Jade said, following Alix out of the room. “It’s not like I was expecting you to buy me lunch or something. What kind of girl do you think I am?”
Alix grinned. “I don’t think you want me to answer that question, Jay. Did you bring your car?”
“What car? I don’t have a car. I’m a deprived child.”
“Fine. We’ll take mine.” They got into the VW Beetle and started toward the Baldwin Falls Mall.
Their conversation during the drive focused mainly on an argument over what radio station to listen to. Alix had a sudden fixation on country music, and Jade kept flicking Alix’s forehead and changing the station back to metal.
When they finally stepped inside the air-conditioned walkways of the shopping small, they quit arguing, and started looking around.
“Okay, so now what?” Alix asked.
Jade shrugged. “Lets walk around,” she suggested. “What else is there to do at a mall?”
The two of them started down the crowded mall, until they spotted a bookstore, and entered. Jade went straight for the Science Fiction section, and Alix walked over to the magazine rack. She picked up a PlayGirl magazine, and tried to peer inside the plastic covering, with no success.
“I hate it when they do that,” a voice said behind her.
Alix whirled around, and then frowned. “You read PlayGirl?”
Jeremy grinned. “Oh, yes. The guys in there are so sexy. They make me so hot.”
Alix handed him the magazine. “Well, then here,” she said. “You look like you need this more than me.”
Jeremy took the magazine, looked at it, and then handed it back. “I already have that issue.”
Alix smiled, and put the mag back in its place. “Good. I’ll just borrow it from you, then.” She stared at him for a second, looking at him for what felt like the first time. His dark brown hair reached the line of his jaw, and covered part of his eyes. Which was a shame, really, since he had gorgeous light brown eyes. He was about four inches taller than her, making him about 5’6″, and was kind of on the skinny side, but not to the point of being bony. Alix had never really noticed how attractive he really was. Not drop-dead gorgeous or anything, but he had a boyish charm. “So, what Fate brings you to the bookstore at this particular time, on this particular day?”
Jeremy stared pensively at the magazine rack, then returned his gaze to her. “I was looking for a book.”
Alix nodded slowly, as though his words held deep, powerful meaning. “This is a good place to start looking for such a thing, yes. Just a book in general, or is there really one called A Book?”
Jeremy considered the question. “You know, I bet there is a book called A Book.”
Alix smiled and noticed he was holding something. “Which one’s that?”
Jeremy suddenly looked terrified. “What? Oh this? Um, this is a . . . this, um . . .”
Alix grabbed the book. A Hundred Thousand Baby Names. She looked up. “Jer, I had no idea.”
Jeremy blushed deeply. “It’s not what you think.”
Alix shrugged, and flipped through the book. “Too bad.” She grinned. “This is cool. I should get one of these.” She looked at him. “Not that I’m, you know, but just to have one. Not that I’m worried I’m gonna need it any time soon, or anything. ‘Cause, you know, unless I’m the next Virgin Mary. I’m not saying I am a virgin, and I’m not saying I’m not. I’m just . . . you know, babbling.” She rolled her eyes, and turned back to the book. She frowned, and looked up. “Why do you have this, anyway?”
Jeremy pushed his hair out of his face, and shrugged. “To write.”
“Thanks, that clears it all up. Care to be more specific, or is this one of those games in which I have to complete the sentence?”
“Alright, complete the sentence.”
Alix bit her lip thoughtfully. “Okay, to write . . . the next Bible?”
Jeremy shook his head.
“To write . . . a letter to your granny telling her the names of all your pretend boyfriends?”
Jeremy smiled, but shook his head.
“To write . . . your very own telephone book?”
Jeremy shook his head again.
Alix threw her hands up in the air, and let them fall back to her side in an attempt to look frustrated. “I give up.”
“I just use it to think of names whenever I start a story, or a novel, or whatever I’m writing. It’s very helpful.”
Alix considered. “I never thought about that. Where can I find one of those?”
“The maternity books,” Jeremy answered, turning halfway to point at a section of the bookstore. “Here, I’ll show you.”
They started walking down the little passageways beetween bookshelves, when all of a sudden, Jade popped out of nowhere, and fell in step beside Alix.
“Hey, Jer,” she said. “Where are we headed?”
“Maternity,” Alix told her, excitedly.
Jade frowned. “Okay. Why?”
Alix stopped walking, and grabbed a hold of Jade’s hands. Looking into her eyes, she said, “Good news, Jade. I’m having your baby.”
Jessica tossed and turned in bed. Dreams about her troubled past came back to haunt her. Memories she’d hidden and buried, resurfaced into the present, and she struggled to find a peaceful, restful sleep, with failing results.
Her dark blue eyes opened slowly, and adjusted to the waking world. The rays of a now dimming sun, penetrated through the French doors, filling the room with an eerie light.
Jessica reached over, and flipped the light switch. The huge room flooded with illuminating light.
Directly in front of her, the bedroom doors opened, and Rosa stepped inside.
“Oh, good, you’re awake,” Rosa said.
“Your parents are here, Miss Jessica,” Rosa announced. “Should I let them in?”
“Oh, please,” Jessica told her.
A few minutes later, a tall, well-built man in his late forties stepped into the room. He was wearing a white Polo shirt, tucked into black slacks. His eyes were his usual green, and sparkled with love and excitement.
Behind him, a tall, slim woman walked in. She had silvery-blond hair down to her shoulders, and pale blue eyes. She wore a simple, yet expensive-looking cream-colored dress. Diamond earrings, with a matching necklace, bracelet, and ring, completed the outfit. She, too, looked excited and happy.
Mitchell and Desiree Heart stared at their eighteen-year-old daughter expectantly. Jessica was sure she saw a flicker of hesitation in her parents’ eyes.
“You can come in,” Jessica told them easily. Her tone was gentle and inviting.
Her parents walked over to her bed, and each took a turn in kissing Jessica’s cheek.
“How are you feeling, darling?” Desiree asked, genuine concern in her pale blue eyes.
Jessica smiled. “Pretty good.” She frowned. “You changed your hair, Mother.”
Desiree looked embarrassed for a moment. “Well, being a brunette didn’t really fit me, darling. I’m a natural blonde. And now that the truth is out in the open, there is no reason to pretend.” She gave her daughter a significant look.
Mitchell smiled. “We’re so glad you agreed to see us before we left.”
Jessica nodded slowly. “I didn’t want to dwell in the past.”
Her parents exchanged a look of surprise.
“Does that mean you’re ready to allow us back into your everyday life?” Mitchell asked carefully.
Jessica considered the question. “We’ll see,” she said. “I’m still trying to adjust to, you know, the truth.”
“Oh, that’s fine,” Desiree agreed quickly. “We won’t rush you, Jessica. Take all the time you need.”
Mitchell nodded in agreement. “You’ve gone through enough. We won’t pressure you.”
Jessica sighed. “How long will you be in Europe?”
They exchanged another look.
“We really don’t know, Jessica,” Mitchell admitted. “A few weeks at the very least.” He frowned. “Of course, we’ll keep in touch as much as you’d like, and whenever you want to see us, we’ll rush right over. This is all for you, Jessica. You have control of the situation. Take as much, or as little time as you wish.”
Jessica stared at her parents. It was amazing how easily they lied to her, even after everything that had happened. They weren’t going to Europe for her; they were going because they wanted to travel; see the world. But she wasn’t going to argue.
“Speaking of which,” Desiree said suddenly, looking at the gold watch on her wrist. “We really must get going. We’ve decided to leave a little earlier.”
Jessica nodded. “Taking one of the private planes?” she asked, though the answer was obvious.
Mitchell laughed. “Of course, Jessica,” he said, leaning down to kiss her goodbye.
Her mother did the same, and they started for the door. “We’ll keep in touch,” she promised, blowing Jessica a kiss from the doorway.
“Be good, Jessica,” her father told her.
And then they were gone.
Jessica stared at the closed doors for a moment, not really feeling anything. She’d seen her parents going, more than she’d seen them coming, but still, she never got used to their departures. She knew now, that even if they weren’t her biological parents, they had raised her, given her everything she could ever want. And, on occasion, they even gave her love.
She stared around the silent room, trying to decide what to do. She knew what she should do, but for some reason she was stalling. Then, she sighed again, and picked up the phone. She had to talk to Roxanne. It couldn’t, and shouldn’t wait another minute.
Roxanne picked up the vibrating beeper from her nightstand. I should have turned this sucker off, too. She looked at the message, and sighed. It was Jessica. She bit her lip. If there was one person she was willing to talk to, it was Jessica. But she didn’t know if she really wanted to.
After a few more minutes of hesitation, she picked up the phone, and dialed Jessica’s number. Jessica picked up on the first ring.
“Rox?” Jessica asked.
“Yeah, it’s me. What can I do for you, Jess?”
Jessica seemed to hesitate. “Can you come over?”
Roxanne bit her lip. She really didn’t feel like leaving the house, but she also didn’t want to neglect Jessica. Not now, not ever. “Why?” she asked, hoping the reason would motivate her.
“No reason in particular. I just wanted to talk to you. We haven’t talked in a while.”
That’s for sure, Roxanne agreed. She considered the proposition, and decided a talk with her best friend couldn’t hurt. “Alright, Jess. I’ll be over in a few.”
“See you then.”
“Bye.” Roxanne clicked off the phone, and stared at it for a moment. Then she got up from the bed, shut off the radio, which was now playing some Weird Al Yankovic song. Something about Santa going crazy. Roxanne shrugged, and walked out of her room. Her mother was in the kitchen preparing dinner. “I’m going over Jessica’s.”
Her mother stared at her. “Roxanne, you’re grounded, remember? Besides, you’re supposed to be sick.”
Roxanne rolled her eyes. “Mom, my best friend just tried to commit suicide, do you want me to neglect her in her hour of need?”
“Jessica did what?”
Roxanne bit her lip. Her mother didn’t know exactly what had happened. Oops. “Can I go?”
“Yeah. Yeah. Go. But come back early. You and me are gonna have a little talk the second you walk in that door.”
Roxanne nodded. “Okay, Mom. See you later.” She walked out of the house, picking up her little bookbag purse, and car keys. A few minutes later, she was driving down the road toward Jessica’s mansion.
I don’t know what I’m doing, she thought, stopping at a red light. I mean, I know I’m driving. I know I’m going to Jessica’s. But other than that, I have no idea what I’m doing, or what I’m going to do. I don’t have Alex anymore. I don’t have B.J.–the . . . Okay, no need to use profanity, Rox. You can get over this. You will survive.
She sighed, as the light turned green, and she continued onward. The sight of palm trees eventually gave way to a clearing in the scenery, and she could see the ocean very clearly. Jessica’s mansion was a little farther down the beach.
Maybe I should try the Jessica tactic and kill myself. That wouldn’t be so bad. Of course, I wouldn’t drown myself. That would be horrible. Maybe sleeping pills or something. That would work. No?
Roxanne rolled down the window, as she came to a stop beside the guard at the Heart Mansion.
“Rox,” the guard greeted her, tipping his cap. The tall, iron gates before her began to open. “Good afternoon.”
“Good afternoon, Benny,” Roxanne told him, and started down the long road toward the actual mansion. Tall trees lined the side of the road, and continued on until the mansion finally came into view.
Roxanne parked the car in the circular driveway, and got out, sticking the keys in her pocket, and grabbing her purse. She walked toward the front door, the pieces of gravel crunching under her weight, and rang the doorbell.
A few seconds later, Maurice, Jessica’s butler, opened the door. He bowed curtly. “Welcome, Miss Roxanne.”
“Hey, Maurice. How’s it going?”
“Very well, Miss.” He looked embarrassed for a moment. “I must apologize for not letting you in the other day. Miss Jessica gave out strict orders not to let anyone into the house.”
Roxanne shrugged. “No problem, man. I understand. Can I go up?”
Maurice nodded, and closed the door.
Roxanne started across the foyer and up the grand stairs toward the third floor. She turned to the left, and walked down a long hallway, to the last set of double doors on the right. As usual, she didn’t bother knocking. It was Jessica after all.
“Hey, Rox,” Jessica called from the bed.
Roxanne smiled, and closed the door behind her. She walked over to the bed, and shook her head. “Boy, aren’t we lazy today?”
Jessica grinned. “Actually, that’s the reason I called. I want you to help me get out of bed. I tried talking to Rosa, but she started shaking her head and saying, ‘No. No way. I’m not getting you out of bed. Se me cae la muchacha y tengo que llevarla para el hospital de nuevo. No mi hijita, no. I’m not moving you, chica. Do you want something to eat? I can get you that.’ So, I need you to help me out of here.”
Roxanne laughed. “Love your little imitation.” She eyed Jessica for a moment. “Are you sure you want to get out of bed?”
Jessica sighed. “Okay. Seriously, I need to go to the bathroom really badly. So if you could help me get up, I’d be very grateful.”
“Oh, so that’s what you wanted me for,” Roxanne said, pretending to be offended. “Just for that, I should let you pee all over yourself.”
“Thanks, Rox. Now help me up, before your wish comes true.”
Roxanne laughed, and helped Jessica up into a sitting position. “It’s a good thing I work out,” she stated. “I think you’ve put on a few pounds. You’re going on a diet after this, Miss Jessica.”
Jessica started to laugh, but then grimanced. “Don’t make me laugh!”
Roxanne smiled. A few minutes later, she had Jessica sort of walking.
Jessica turned to her, as they approached the bathroom door. “Now, I know we’re best friends. And I know we’re close and everything, but I think this is something I need to do on my own.”
Roxanne stepped back, and let Jessica walk into the bathroom by herself. “If you fall, and you can’t get up, let me know!” she called, leaning against the closed door.
“Very funny!” Jessica yelled back.
Roxanne smiled to herself, and walked across the room. She picked up the basketball, and shot it toward the hoop. It missed. This is not my sport, she realized. Then she shrugged, and threw herself on the waterbed. She loved bobbing up and down.
The bathroom door opened, and Jessica stepped into the room. “Whew! That felt so good.”
Roxanne sat up on her elbows, and stared at Jessica. “Would you like a cigarette?”
Jessica grinned. “Ha ha.” She started walking toward the other side of the bed. “I need to change my clothes. Walking around in my PJs is not cool, man.”
Roxanne watched Jessica. “Silk boxers and a tee shirt are not technically PJs.”
Jessica stopped at the closet door, and turned to her. “If you sleep in them, they automatically become PJs.”
“That’s the wrong attitude!” Roxanne argued, as Jessica stepped inside the closet. She rolled off the bed, and jumped over the two steps to the actual floor. Then she walked over to the closet, and leaned against the doorway. Jessica was standing with her back to Roxanne, staring blankly at her clothes. “Think you got enough?”
Jessica didn’t turn around. “I should give this stuff to charity, or something. I don’t wear most of it.”
“I’ll take it,” Roxanne suggested. “I don’t mind.”
Jessica nodded. “Knock yourself out.” Then she whirled around. “What did I give you for your birthday?”
Roxanne stared at her. “A car.”
Jessica thought about it. “Oh. Right.” She pointed to the clothes. “Take whatever you want. Whenever you want. It’s yours. I haven’t worn most of it anyway.” She picked out a pair of jean shorts, and a white baby tee. She started to put them on. “So, how are things with Alex?”
Roxanne froze. Reality crashed down on her. “Um, he’s fine.”
Jessica turned around. She’d finished changing. “Why do you say it like that?”
Roxanne stared at her. “Like what?”
Jessica shrugged, and started out of the closet. “Like you don’t mean it.”
Roxanne let Jessica pass. “Why wouldn’t I mean it?”
Jessica turned to face her, and looked at her gently. “Why don’t you tell me?”
Alix stared at the french fry in her hand. “Hm. Ode to a french fry.”
Jade looked up from her sandwich. “Huh?”
Alix cleared her throat. “Oh, suculent fry. You look so tasty. So, ripe. So ready to eat. My mouth waters in your presence. Oh! Sweet, sweet torture! How I long to touch you. To eat you. To chew you. To taste you. Do you know that I want you so? No. You are too innocent to understand my longing. Too young to fully grasp the concept of my desire. But oh! I cannot wait a second longer.” Alix popped the fry into her mouth, and chewed contentedly. She looked at Jade, who was gaping at her.
Jade frowned, and moved her chair away from Alix. “You’re seriously freaking me out, Al.”
Alix smiled, and picked up her Dr. Pepper. “Ode to Dr. Pepper?”
Jade shook her head. “Don’t even think about it,” she warned.
Alix shrugged, and took a sip. She looked around the crowded food court. “So, what now? Jeremy left. We have no male companionship. That sucks!”
“Why don’t you get some male companionship?” Jade suggested. She gestured to a guy sitting by himself a few tables away. He was reading a book, and taking occasional sips of coffee. “Like that guy. He looks lonely.”
Alix turned around in the chair, and looked at the guy. She considered the possibility. “He looks interesting enough.” She got up from the chair.
“Where are you going?” Jade demanded.
“To talk to the guy. Duh.” Alix rolled her eyes, and walked over to him. Without asking if she could, she sat down across from him. “Whatcha reading?”
The guy looked up from his book, and frowned. Then he closed the book, and handed it to her.
The Art of Homicide. Alix read the name on the cover, and nodded. “Oh, cool! I’ve been trying to get the first edition.”
The guy stared at her as though she was crazy. “Huh?”
Alix nodded, and flipped through the book. “Yeah, I have the second one. It’s really cool. Has really awesome pics.”
“Uh, I have to go,” the guy stammered, getting up from his chair, and almost falling backwards. “See ya.”
“Wait! Your book!”
“Keep it!” The guy ran off.
Alix shrugged, and walked back to Jade. She threw the book on the table, and sat down.
“Damn, girl, you sure have your way with guys” Jade said, watching the guy run across the food court. She turned back to Alix. “So, what happened?”
“I don’t know. I was trying to make conversation, and then all of a sudden, he runs off, and gives me his book.”
Jade frowned, and picked up the book. “The Art of Homicide?”
Alix shrugged. “I told him I had the second part, and I guess he was anxious to find it or something. I could have lended it to him, if he wanted it that badly, but oh well. It was sweet of him to give me this one, though.”
“Are you serious?”
Alix rolled her eyes, and grabbed the book, taking off the book jacket. She nodded, and handed it back. “See?”
Jade stared at the book. “One Thousand Ways to Satisfy a Man.”
Alix nodded. “I saw the title at the top of the pages when I was flipping through it.” She looked around. “Any other guy you want me to try?”
Jade was busy reading something in the book. She looked up suddenly. “Huh?”
As if on cue, a tall, blond-haired guy with brown eyes approached their table. He smiled sexily at them. “Hello ladies. I must say, you girls are the hottest chicks in this mall.”
Alix frowned. “How do you know that?” she asked him. “Did you take a poll or something?”
The guy winced.
Jade shook her head, and looked at Alix. “That was what’s called a line, hon. Usually, they follow it up with ‘Wanna go back to my place.’ It’s a sex invite.”
Alix nodded. “Oh, I get it.” She scrunched up her face.
“What is she doing?” the guy asked, frowning at Alix.
“Trying to blush,” Alix answered. She sighed. “Oh, well. Didn’t work. Try another one of those so-called lines on us.”
Jade nodded. “Yeah, but this time, make it come alive. Hm. Maybe if you move your hands more.”
The guy started walking away. “You guys are weirdos,” he said. “Lesbian weirdos. I’m outta here.”
Alix grinned. “Scaring guys is such a rewarding thing.” She picked up her Dr. Pepper, and took a dramatic sip.
Jade smiled. “Amen to that.”
Rachel rolled her eyes, and concentrated on the view outside the passenger seat window. She was desperately trying to block out her mother’s yelling from the seat next to her, but it wasn’t working very well.
“I cannot believe I had to leave work, to find out my daughter was arrested,” her mother was saying. Every now and then, she pounded the steering wheel for emphasis. “And you. I mean, if anything, I expected something like this from Alix, but not you, Rachel.”
I’m not listening, Mom, Rachel thought. I can’t hear you. I am not here. I’m somewhere else. Beating the crap out of Claire.
“And what is this going to do to your school record?” her mother went on. “There’s no way you’re applying to Baldwin U after what happened here today.”
Did I have any homework? Rachel wondered. What did we have to do in Pre Cal?
“You have ruined your life,” her mother told her. “You have ruined any chances of ever becoming something. You’re going straight to your room, and you’re gonna think about what you did.”
Rachel was smiling sexily at a guy in a red convertible. Damn. That guy’s fine. What a smile. I would die happy right here and now.
“Rachel, are you listening to me?” her mother demanded.
Rachel snapped her head to look at her mom. “What? Oh, yeah, I’m listening. I’ve ruined my life.”
“You’ve ruined your life!” her mother exploded. “You’re gonna be living at home for the rest of your life. Then you’re gonna end up marrying some alcoholic bum who will beat you up, and abuse you. But you’re not going to divorce him. Oh, no! You’re gonna stay with him forever because you can’t get a job . . .”
What’s today? Wednesday? The Real World is on tonight. Gotta tape it.
The car came to a stop in their driveway, and Rachel got out, followed close behind by her mother.
“Go straight to your room,” her mother told her, opening the front door.
Rachel stepped inside the house, and went up to her room. Once there, she collapsed on the bed, and shook her head. I’m gonna kill Claire. She’s gonna pay for this. I’m gonna make her pay. She sighed, and stared up at the ceiling thoughtfully. The question is: How?
Mathew sat in front of his computer, and waited to see if he had any mail. He didn’t. I wonder what’s up with Dreamer? He sent her a quick E-mail saying hello, and then shut off the computer.
“Mathew!” Nina yelled excitedly, stepping into the room.
Mathew jumped back, startled. “Jesus, Nina. Ever hear of knocking?”
“I’m back on the team! I get to play tomorrow’s game!”
Mathew brightened. “That’s great! How did it happen?”
“I guess she turned herself in,” Nina answered. “Either that, or she got caught. The awesome part is that I’m back on the team!”
Mathew laughed. “I’m happy for you.”
Nina leaned against the side of his desk, and stared at him. “Why don’t you invite Jessica to the game tomorrow?” she suggested.
“Listen, Mathew,” Nina began, “it’s perfect. It won’t sound like you’re really asking her out on a date. You’re just asking your friend if she wants to go see your sister play basketball at the U. If she says no, then it just means she really doesn’t feel like watching me play. And I can be the one feeling rejected.”
Mathew considered. It did seem like a good idea. “Okay, I’ll call her a little later.”
Nina smiled. “Good.” She ruffled up his hair, and walked out of the room.
Mathew sat back in the chair, and sighed, crossing his arms against his chest. He thought about what Nina had said, and nodded to himself. It really seemed like a good idea. So it settled. I’ll call Jessica and ask her to the game.
Jessica stared at Roxanne, hoping she’d tell her everything. Alex had made her promise not to let Roxanne know that he’d said anything, so Jessica had to be careful in what she said.
Roxanne frowned. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Jess.”
This is going to be hard, Jessica realized. It’s going to be very hard. “I’m just saying you sound like something’s bothering you,” she told her, walking over to the black leather couch, and sitting down. “I thought maybe things weren’t going very well.”
Roxanne shrugged, and sat down next to Jessica. “Why wouldn’t they be?” she asked, leaning over to pick up the remote control. She turned on the tv.
Jessica sighed to herself, and took the remote from Roxanne, shutting off the TV. “Spill it,” she said.
Roxanne stared at her for a long moment. “What are you talking about?”
“Something’s up,” Jessica said simply. “I know there is. You’re acting differently.”
“I’m acting differently,” Roxanne stated, thoughtfully. “How do you figure?”
Jessica shrugged. “You just are. Especially when I mention Alex’s name.”
Roxanne shifted in her seat.
This isn’t the right approach, Jessica realized. Damn it, remember what it was like. “Rox,” she said, even gentler. “You can trust me.”
Roxanne glared at her. “He told you didn’t he?”
Jessica froze. “He who? Told me what?”
Roxanne laughed bitterly, and stood up from the couch. “Alex told you what happened with B.J.”
Jessica stared at her. “Something happened with B.J.?” she asked.
Roxanne started pacing. “Don’t play dumb, Jessica Heart. You’re the worst liar in the face of the earth.”
Roxanne was right. There was no sense in pretending. “Alight, Rox. Alex told me what happened.” She stood up. “He’s concerned about you.”
“Why?” Roxanne exploded. “Why is he concerned about me? It’s over. It’s done with. Can’t I just move on with my life?”
Jessica shook her head. “It’s not that easy.”
“What the hell would you know about it?” Roxanne yelled. “You don’t know what it’s like! You weren’t there! You have no idea what it feels like.” She was crying now.
Jessica tried to remain calm, but memories started pouring back on her. Minutes, hours, day, weeks of self torture. Of self loathing. It started in denial. Then went on. “Rox, please don’t do this to yourself. You have to tell someone else. You have to tell your parents. You have to get help.”
Roxanne stared at her as though she was crazy. “What the hell are you talking about, Jessica? Just stay out of it, okay? It’s none of your business. You don’t know anything.” She sat back down on the couch, and started sobbing. “You don’t know anything.”
Jessica sighed, and sat down next to her best friend. “If you don’t tell someone else, you’re going to regret it,” she told her gently.
Roxanne shook her head. “I can’t tell anyone! My parents will kill me. And everyone else will be disgusted. Alex already is. He doesn’t want me anymore! Some people won’t even believe me. They’ll just think I made it all up.”
Jessica put her arm around Roxanne’s shoulders. “That’s not true.”
“Yes it is!” Roxanne yelled. She nodded. “Yes it is. I know it is. You don’t know anything, Jess. You don’t know what it’s like.” She shook her head. “You don’t know.”
Jessica choke back her tears. “Please, Rox. Tell your parents. They can help you. If you keep it inside, you’re gonna regret it.”
“How the hell do you know that?” Roxanne snapped.
Jessica swallowed hard. Her last date with Julian came pouring back. The yelling. The screaming. The cursing. And then . . . She looked at Roxanne. “Because when it happened to me, I didn’t tell anyone. And now I regret it.”
Jessica stood at her balcony, watching the sun set over the horizon. She’d conviced Roxanne to talk to her parents. Things would work out for Rox, of that she was sure.
As for herself, she had to swallow the past and move on. It was much too late to do something about it. Much too late.
The sky above her was turning into a magnificent array of colors. Pinks and yellows and purples and blues and oranges, all reflecting over the ocean. Beauty was everywhere. Especially in the present. But the past . . . the past was another story. And her past in particular was darker than a moonless night.
Jessica had told Roxanne one of her deepest secrets, but the other one was to remain a hidden shadow forever. If anyone were to find out, she would lose Roxanne’s friendship. That couldn’t happen. Not now, not ever.
Jessica thought back to the night Julian raped her. Ironically, it wasn’t a sad memory. Somewhere, in the back of her mind, she’d always believed she’d deserved it. But she hadn’t lied to Roxanne in saying she regreted not telling anyone. That, she did.
She sighed. It didn’t matter anymore. The past was the past. She had to get over it.
Jessica stared at the sunset for a few more minutes, and then walked back into her room. She sat at her computer, and turned it on. A few minutes later, she was signed on to America Online.
“You have mail!” the computer sang out.
Jessica clicked the little mailbox icon.
MoonDustXT I beg you, help me!
Jessica clicked on the first letter.
It’s Amber. You remember me, right? You COUSIN.
You have to get me out of this hellhole. Please.
I’ll do anything you ask. I’ll clean your house. I’ll wash your windows. I’ll be your best friend. HELP MEEEEE!!! This is HELL. I’m forced to speak French constantly. I’m surrounded my the snobs of the underworld.
Uh-oh. I have to go before Mrs. Darth Vader claims
to be my father, and makes a glowing sword out of her
yardstick. I love you.
Jessica bit her lip. It was her fault her cousin was in some private school. She’d have to help her, definitely. She nodded, and clicked on the next letter.
Hey. Remember me? We haven’t talked in a
while, Dream. I miss our conversations. Let me
know if you’re okay. Talk to you soon (hopefully).
Jessica smiled, and wrote him back.
I’m really sorry. A lot has been happening
in my life(and believe me, that’s an understatement), so I haven’t really been online much. A million apologies. Will you find it in your heart to
forgive me? Let’s talk soon let me know
Jessica sent the E-mail, and went over to the chat area. She entered a Lobby, and stared at the coversations.
Galacticca: hey people
GoingCraZ: I remember my last life
JMeNJRee: the aliens ARE coming
MsticDream: welcome to Eternity
Money4Meee: I loooooooooove money. Anyone
rich in here?
VDrEaMeRV: Cool, there’s another Dreamer in
Dreamer: hey, VDr, how’s it going?
FrenchFry: FIFI . . . FIFI . . .
VDrEaMeRV: Oops. I gotta go. Later, Dream
Instant Message from ShyGuy
ShyGuy: I found you at last!!!!
Dreamer: Hey SG! I was hoping you’d
come online today
ShyGuy: I guess it’s your lucky day
ShyGuy: I got your E-mail. I know
what you mean about a lot of
things happening lately.
Dreamer: And these are supposedely
the best years of our lives
ShyGuy: Scary thought, huh?
Dreamer: Tell me about it. So what
have you been up to?
ShyGuy: Well, today I’ve been trying
to get enough nerve to ask a girl
out . . . it’s not working.
Dreamer: How come?
ShyGuy: I’m too shy
Dreamer: Aw. That’s sweet. Girls like
Dreamer: No, seriously. I love shy guys
ShyGuy: Why, Dreamer, are you coming
on to me?? :O
Dreamer: LOL. Yes.
ShyGuy: I’m blushing.
Dreamer: Do you like that girl a lot?
ShyGuy: Yeah. She’s a wonderful person
Dreamer: She’s a lucky girl. You really
shouldn’t be afraid of asking her
ShyGuy: Can’t help it. Everytime I
even think about it I get all woozy
Dreamer: Aww. What are you afraid of? If
she says no, then maybe it’s just
not meant to be
ShyGuy: That’s what I’m afraid of
Dreamer: Do you think she likes you
ShyGuy: I think that happened in one
of my dreams. In real life . . .
I don’t know.
Dreamer: Don’t be afraid,Shy. Just be
you? Anyone special in your life?
Dreamer: Not really.
ShyGuy: Are you a ShyGIRL?
Dreamer: You could say that, I guess
ShyGuy: Would YOU say that?
Dreamer: I don’t think I’m shy, but I’m
not outgoing either. I think it
just depends what mood I’m in.
ShyGuy: So, what are you doing for
the rest of the day?
Dreamer: Good question. I have no idea.
ShyGuy: Take some Pepto Bismol and and
attempt the impossible
Dreamer: You should go do that now. Not
the Pepto part (don’t exaggerate, man!)
But you should go ask her out.
ShyGuy: Girls can be so pushy
Dreamer: Of course. How else would men do
ShyGuy: Ha ha. Alright. I’ll talk to you
later, then, Dreamer.
Dreamer: Okay, Shy. Let me know how it went
with your girl
ShyGuy: She’s not mine, yet.
ShyGuy: Thanks, Dreamer. You rule
Dreamer: And don’t you forget that
Jessica smiled at her conversation with ShyGuy. Whoever that girl was, Jessica envied her.
Mathew shut off the computer, and walked over to his bed. He lied down on his side, and stared at the phone. After sufficient stalling time, he picked it up, and pressed Memory One. His heart felt like it wanted to jump out of his chest.
Mathew sat up. “Hi, Jess. How are you feeling?”
“Much better,” she answered.
Mathew began to panic.
“So, what can I do for you, Mathew?” Jessica asked.
“Oh, um, I was just wondering if you wanted to go to Nina’s basketball game with me tomorrow?” Mathew blurted out quickly. “It’s supposedly the best game of the season.”
Mathew’s heart skipped a beat. “What?”
“I said sure. Sounds like fun.”
Jessica laughed. “You’re funny, Mathew. Of course, seriously. I wouldn’t lie to you.”
“Oh, okay.” He laughed. “I’m a little out of it today, sorry.”
“No problem, man. I understand.”
Mathew looked around, trying to find a way to keep the conversation going.. “Oh, so when did you get out of the hospital?”
“Hm. Good question. Sometime before five.”
“I guess you weren’t enough of a pain then?”
Jessica laughed. “I know. I failed my mission in life. What am I going to tell my children?”
Mathew laughed, and lied back in bed. “How many children are you planning on having?”
“I’m not sure,” Jessica admitted. “Two, maybe three. Not one, though. Being an only child is not cool.”
“Seriously? I thought being an only child was the best thing in the world? No little sisters to annoy you. No big sisters to boss you around.”
Jessica laughed. “Hey, I’d take your sisters anytime. Nina is awesome, and Sarah is the cutest thing in the world.”
“What about me?”
“Alright. If you want to be my sister, too.”
Mathew laughed. “No!”
“Hey, you’re the one who suggested it. What was it you told me once about you wearing your mother’s clothing and singing the National Anthem on the roof of your house?”
Mathew laughed again. “Thanks for bringing back the memories.”
“Anytime. So, how many children are you planning on having?”
“Well, unless science makes some sort of breakthrough in the next few years, none.”
Jessica cracked up. “Sorry. Mental picture.”
Mathew smiled. “I don’t want to know.”
“You’re right. You don’t.” There was a pause while Jessica talked to someone else. “Mathew, you there?”
“Listen, Alix is here, and she’s being her usual, annoying self. Can I call you back?”
“Okay, I’ll call you back. Bye.”
“Bye.” Mathew clicked off the phone, and stared at the receiver in his hand. He’d not only asked Jessica Heart out for tomorrow night, he’d also held an actual phone coversation with her. He smiled to himself, and replaced the phone. Then he lied back, staring at the ceiling. I might be the biggest dork that ever walked the face of the earth. But I’m a dork with a date.
Jade sat down on the beach, and stared out at the crashing waves ahead. The summer breeze picked up her hair, and blew it all over her face, reminding her that she needed a haircut very soon. Maybe she should shave her head. That would make a statement. Yeah, “Look at me! I’m a lesbian, and I’m not afraid to show it!” She smiled at the thought, and continued to gaze ahead.
Most of the sun had disappeared behind the faraway horizon, and all that remained were a few dimming rays of sunlight, that seemed to turn the sky into a spectrum of lights.
Jade liked sunsets, but only because the sunset gave way to the night. And the night was a window into space. And she loved space. She loved the stars. She loved the moon. She loved it all. It gave her a sense of belonging. A sense of hope.
“You look pensive,” a voice said behind her.
Jade didn’t bother turning around. “It’s better than sitting here looking like a bimbo.”
Drake sat down beside her, and hugged his knees to his chest. “I don’t think you’re capable of looking like a bimbo. The blue hair, nosering, and beautiful array of earrings kind of kills the possibility.”
Jade turned her head to look at him. “You look like a bimbo.”
Drake made a sad puppy face, and ran his hand over his dark blonde hair. “You’re being stereo typical.”
“I just call ‘em as I see ‘em,” Jade said, with a nonchallant shrug.
“That’s not fair.”
Jade laughed. “Alright, alright. Whatever. I didn’t say you were a bimbo. I just meant that you have that air about you.”
Drake nodded thoughtfully. “What would you call that air?”
“Bimbistic. Sounds like some sort of cheap elastic.”
Jade laughed. “Okay, then you have cheap elastic air.” She looked up at the sky. The moon was now visible.
“So, what are you doing out here? Gazing up at the stars? Making a wish?”
“I guess you could say that,” Jade answered, nodding thoughtfully. “Making a wish at the stars.”
“So what are you wishing for?”
Jade looked at him for a moment, and turned back to the blazing stars above. No one had ever asked her what she wished for. In fact, she didn’t really know herself. Did she wish for happiness? Did she wish for love? Did she wish for both? “What do you wish for?” she asked, turning the question on to him.
Drake remained silent for a moment, staring straight ahead. Jade looked at his profile for a moment, and wondered what it was about him that made her feel so comfortable. After a long moment, Drake spoke, “That’s a hard question.”
Jade shook her head. “No, what’s hard is the answer.”
“How long have we known each other?” he asked suddenly, turning towards her.
“A couple of days I think,” Jade answered, shoving away the strands of blue hair that kept blowing in her face. “Why?”
“It just feels like we’ve known each other for a while, you know? Do you feel that way?”
“Maybe we knew each other in another life,” Jade suggested, grinning. “Maybe we were Mr. and Mrs. Roach.”
Drake laughed gleefully at the thought. “That would be pretty cool, actually. Mr. and Mrs. Roach. Which one was I?”
“You were Mrs. Roach.”
Drake nodded. “Of course. And you were Mr. Roach.” He seemed to absorb the idea. “Did we have little baby roaches?”
“Thousands of them.”
“Whoa. We were pretty busy then, huh?”
“You have no idea.”
Drake sighed dramatically. “Those were the days.” He grinned. “You know, I never really got to see your lopsided boobs.”
Alix bobbed up and down on Jessica’s bed for a few minutes, enjoying the feeling. “This is fun,” she said after a while. “This should become a carnival ride or something.”
Jessica leaned her head over the arm of the couch, and looked at Alix. “That’s not a bad idea, Al. You should write them a letter telling them so.”
“I think I will.” Alix rolled off the bed, and sat down on the loveseat across from Jessica. “So, how are you doing? I mean, you’re not going to be . . . you know, like before, are you?”
“Nah. I gave up on depression.” Jessica shrugged, and turned off the TV. “I’m going out with Mathew tomorrow night. He invited me to Nina’s basketball game.”
Alix’s jaw dropped in an exaggeratedly attempt to look shocked. “I can’t believe it,” she said, shaking her head, “Hell actually froze over in my lifetime. That is so cool.” She looked at Jessica, who was looking semi-annoyed. “You’re going out?”
“I mean, it’s not really a date or anything. I’m just going to a basketball game at the U.” Jessica shrugged again, looking uncomfortable. “I’ve gone out with him before.”
“Calm down, Jess,” Alix told her, leaning forward. “I’m your best friend, okay? I’m supposed to make a big deal about stuff like this. Especially since you haven’t gone out with anyone since Julian.”
“Maybe I’m a lesbian,” Jessica suggested dryly.
Alix smiled. “Wouldn’t that be something?” Then she frowned. “Are you?”
Jessica nodded. “Yep. And I’m in love with you, Al. It’s out in the open. I can finally sleep at night.” She shook her head mockingly. “You should’ve never brought me McDonald’s.”
“Very funny.” Alix grinned. “So, are you excited about your date tomorrow?”
“It’s not a date.”
“I bet he would disagree with that.”
Jessica started playing with the remote control in her hand. “What are you talking about?” she asked finally.
“I’m just saying that I think Mathew Collins has the hots for a certain Miss Jessica Heart.”
“That’s ridiculous. I’m not Mathew’s type.”
Alix snorted. “Okay, so who is Mathew’s type?”
Jessica shrugged. “I don’t know. But not me. I’m not anybody’s type.”
“I thought you’d given up feeling sorry for yourself?”
“I’m not feeling sorry for myself. I’m just being honest. And honestly, I’m not anybody’s type.”
Alix bit her lip. Why was it Jessica always shut herself up whenever anyone mentioned Julian, or dating, or anything related to the topic? The girl hadn’t had a date in almost a year. And it wasn’t like she didn’t have offers. God knew she’d had enough of those. “Is Mathew your type?” she asked suddenly.
The question caught Jessica off guard, and she stared at Alix for a long time. “I never thought about it that way,” she answered finally.
“Do you like him, Jess?”
Jessica looked down at the remote control in her hand. “I don’t know.” She shook her head slightly. “I really don’t know.”
“I told my parents,” Roxanne said softly.
Alex turned around from his locker. Roxanne’s voice had startled him. He stared at her silently, waiting for her to say something else.
Instead of speaking, Roxanne moved forward and hugged him. “You were right,” she whispered sadly.
Alex hugged her tightly, closing his eyes. When they finally pulled apart, he stared into her eyes, searching for her feelings. “What did they say?”
Roxanne sighed. “A lot of screaming, a lot of remorse, apologizing for leaving me alone.” She shrugged. “I don’t think they knew what they were talking about. My father insisted on calling his lawyer, even though I told him not to. I don’t know. I’m just glad it’s out.”
“How do you feel?”
“A little better,” she admitted. “Telling my parents didn’t change what happened, but at least I don’t have to keep hiding it.” She scrunched up her face. “They’re sending me to a shrink. And I have a doctor’s appointment next week.”
Alix nodded mutely.
Roxanne bit her lip, and stared at him for a moment. “I’m sorry for snapping at you the other night. I was more screwed up than I thought. I know you were just trying to be sensitive to my feelings. I’m sorry.”
“You don’t have to apologize.”
“Yeah, well.” She shrugged. I promise not to get all weird on you. That is, if you still want to go out with me.” She stared at him expectantly.
As a response, Alex stepped up to her, and kissed her lightly on the lips.
Roxanne smiled. “You know, I’m mad at you for telling Jessica what happened.”
“She’s a horrible liar,” Roxanne explained. “And not all that perceptive, so it wasn’t that hard for me to figure out how she found out.” She looked at him in mock anger. “So, if you want to make it up to me, you’re gonna have to kiss me a little better than that.”
Alex grinned, and proceeded to do as he was told.
“Awww,” Alix breathed, staring at Alex and Roxanne. “They look so cute together.”
Jade followed Alix’s gaze, and squinted. She sighed dramatically. “Oh! You’re right.” She sniffled. “Hold me.”
Alix half-smiled, and leaned back against the wall behind her. She started looking around Baldwin High. As usual, it was extremely crowded. People of all shapes and sizes were walking up and down the halls, talking excitedly, and calling to people they saw on the other side of the school. It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Alix looked down at her watch, and stuck out her tongue. “This thucks.”
“Bell’s about to ring. I hate school.” She closed her eyes, and started tapping the heels of her black and white Converses together. “There’s no place like home . . . there’s no place like home . . .”
“I don’t think that’s gonna work very well, Al,” Jade said, shaking her head in mock disapproval. “You need Airwalks.”
“Shut up, Jade, I’m trying to concentrate here–there’s no place like home . . .”
“Told ya it wouldn’t work.” Jade shrugged. “I’m off to see the Evil Witch of the West. Later.”
Alix watched Jade walk away, and sighed. “I don’t want to go to class,” she said outloud, in an exeggaratedly whiny voice. “No me gusta Child Care.” She stood there for a couple more minutes, and then unglued herself from the wall. She headed across the school toward her first hour class. “You piece of shoe,” she told some short, freshman-looking kid walking by her.
The kid stared at her with a face that clearly meant: “Get away from me you friggin’ weirdo.”
Alix was so busy laughing, and making weird faces at the kid, that she ended up running smack into someone. She looked up, embarrassed. “Sorry.”
“Hi, Alix,” Jeremy said, looking a little awkward. “Fancy running into you here.”
Alix frowned, and stared at him. “I didn’t know you went here,” she said.
Jeremy shrugged. “Where else would I go?”
“I don’t know,” Alix admitted. “You just don’t look like the school-going type. I kind of thought of you as an annoying beach bum.”
Alix shrugged, and then frowned. “Whatever. I better get going.”
Jeremy nodded. “See ya.”
Alix watched him walk away, and stepped into her class. She sat down in her usual seat, near the back, and propped her feet on the seat in front of her.
“Hey, Alix,” Claire said, coming up beside her. “Where’s Rachel?”
“Hi, Claire. Rachel had to go back to Baldwin University to appear before the board or something stupid like that. She’ll be home later today, if you want to call her.”
Claire frowned. “Why does she have to go to B.U.?”
“She didn’t tell you?” That was strange. Rachel told Claire everything. Whatever. “She tapped into the University’s files or something, and the dummy got caught. I’m not sure what the details are, ’cause I didn’t care enough to ask.”
“You’re a good sister.”
Alix grinned. “You think so too?”
Claire smiled, and went to sit down in her seat. Alix took out her pen, and started doodling on her folder. Her mind started drifting, as it usually did when she was in class.
Jessica had a date with Mathew tonight. That was an interesting concept. If Jessica started dating Mathew, it would be the breakthrough of the century. By tomorrow everyone would be talking about it. The most popular girl dating Mathew Collins. It wasn’t that Mathew and Jessica didn’t click, but she could see how the general population of Baldwin High would be confused.
Everyone thought of Jessica as an outgoing, kind of out there girl. She was beautiful, she was funny, she was popular. Mathew, on the other hand, was the new guy. He was quiet, and shy, and handsome in a boyish way.
Alix thought about them as a couple, and nodded in approval. From an outsider’s view, Jessica Heart and Mathew Collins would probably clash, but knowing Jessica the way she did, and knowing Mathew the way she did, Alix could definitely see how they went together.
She just hoped that Jessica got her feelings together, and figured out what she wanted.
Jessica stared down at the AP History book in front of her, and she yawned. She was so tired. The only reason she’d even come to school was because she’d been absent for the past three days. She was going to have a pile of homework as it was.
She really shouldn’t have come. It was only first hour, and already she was ready to go home. She’d probably end up leaving by lunchtime.
She rubbed at her temples with her forefingers. What a headache, she thought miserably. The words on the page seemed to mesh together, and the teacher’s words sounded more like Chinese than anything else.
Jessica sighed, and sat back in the chair. She stared blankly at the wall. The truth was, she was scared to death of going out with Mathew. She knew she’d gone out with him before, but something had her thinking that this time it would be different. That something was most probably Alix. Jessica rolled her eyes. She shouldn’t be nervous. It wasn’t like the last time. It wasn’t at all like the last time.
She closed her eyes, and thought about Julian. It had been her fault, not his. Or, at least, she was to blame for causing his outrage. If she hadn’t done what she did, Julian wouldn’t have turned on her. Julian wasn’t the type. And neither was Mathew. That’s what scared her the most.
Of course, she wasn’t like that anymore. She’d changed, hadn’t she? She wouldn’t do what she did again. She would never do that again. Ever. She’d learned her lesson the hard way, and now she’d have to live with it for the rest of her life. And no one could ever know. No one could ever find out. Especially Roxanne.
A science fiction story, Alix repeated silently. The woman wants me to write a sci-fi story? Who does she think I am? Jade? Alix turned her head, and looked at Roxanne, who was drawing little hearts in a piece of paper. Young love. She smiled, and looked over to her right, were Jessica was sitting. Jessica was busy writing the story. Alix shrugged. I better get crackin’, then. She took out a piece of paper, and started writing.
The year is 2198, and the world, my world, your world,
is in chaos. Humanity is on the verge of extinction, and the
few of us who remain have sought refuge in the attic of an old, broken-down home. Our lives will soon perish from the
horror of this once so beautiful earth, and from the diaries
of my great ancestors I have gathered enough information to escape into my own memories of the world as it was not so long ago.
If I close my eyes and concentrate, I actually manage to block out the noise of total destruction taking place outside. And in the refuge of my thoughts, I see a time when people ruled the world, and had control over their lives, a time where technology was still to be discovered, and dreams of an advanced future were taking place in the hearts of those foolish enough to believe that dreams didn’t eventually turn into nightmares. I suppose if these people had realized what would happen, hu- manity might have been saved.
But now, now it’s just too late.
Alix stopped writing, and reread the couple of paragraphs on her paper. Where in the world do I get this stuff? she wondered, frowning at her words. She shrugged, and leaned back in the desk, looking around the room. Heads were down, pens were moving, papers were being crumpled. Just another normal day in Creative Writing.
She stuck the story in her folder, and took out her poetry notebook. She didn’t feel like writing a story. She was in a poetic mood. She gazed around the room once again, and opened the notebook to a blank page.
Fallen victim to the pain
Of the endless falling rain
Dripping down the window seems
Stealing my most cherished dreams
Hard I hope, and long I pray
For the sun to shine my way
But my prayers stay in vain
Swallowed by the falling rain
So here I stand saying goodbye
To a most selfish, mocking lie
And as my blood spills on the walls
The rain outside no longer falls
Alix frowned at the poem. Jeez, now I sound suicidal. She shook her head, and turned the page. She should try a love poem, or something.
He came to me in a dream, I think
I doubted he was real
He bound together all my doubts
And showed me how to feel
I didn’t know what love was
I frowned upon its birth
I didn’t grasp the concept of
Togetherness on Earth
But he just came and smiled at me
A smile so warm and free
That nothing in this evil world
Could touch or bother me
He was a shadowed mystery
A stranger in the night
Someone to hug, and show me love
Someone who’d hold me tight
I wonder where he came from
This angel of the dusk
I don’t know what it is I feel
Is it love, or is it lust
He’s everything I wished for
My sunshine in mid-June
My burning stars, acompanied
By such a lonesome moon
I used to run, I used to hide
From love of any form
But now that I have learned to love
I feel my soul reborn
Alix rolled her eyes, and closed the notebook. I have got to get a life. I don’t have a boyfriend, and yet I’m writing love poems. That is really pathetic.
What was even more pathetic was the fact that immedietly after she thought that, her mind went back to Jeremy.
That was sad.
“Mathew, are you going out with Jessica?” Sarah asked, sitting at the edge of his bed.
Mathew, who was lying down on his back, attempting to read a book, looked at his little sister. “Yes, I am,” he answered, placing the open book on his stomach.
“Is she gonna be your girlfriend?”
“I really don’t know, Sarah. That all depends on whether or not she likes me back.”
“Do you think she does?”
“I don’t know, but maybe I’ll find out tonight.”
“Oh.” Sarah was silent for a moment. “Why wouldn’t she like you back?”
Why did seven-year-olds like to ask questions? “Well, it could be a lot of reasons. Maybe she doesn’t think I’m attractive. Maybe she thinks I’m boring. Maybe she doesn’t like the way I talk. Maybe she thinks I laugh funny–”
“You do laugh funny!”
Mathew looked offended. “That really hurts my feelings, Sar.” He made a sad puppy face, which made Sarah laugh. “Is that why you don’t like me?”
“I like you, Mathew.”
“No you don’t. You think I laugh funny.”
“But you do!”
Mathew sat up, not caring that the book had falling off his stomach, and closed by itself. Then he pulled Sarah back on the bed, and started tickling her. “Take it back!” he told her.
Sarah was giggling uncontrollably.
“Am I interrupting something?”
Mathew froze, and turned his head to look at the doorway. Jessica was standing there, looking amused. Sarah sat up, and immediatly ran over to Jessica.
“Hey, Sarah,” Jessica said, kneeling down to hug the little girl. “How have you been?”
“Mathew was tickling me, because he doesn’t want to admit that he laughs funny.”
Jessica laughed, and looked at Mathew who was moving his index finger in a wide circle around his hear, while mouthing, “She’s crazy.”
Sarah turned around just then, and put her hands on her hips. “I am not!” she yelled.
“Sarah!” Mrs. Collins called. “Get over here and clean this mess you left in the living room!”
Sarah groaned, and waved to Jessica, then left.
And so, Mathew was alone with Jessica in his room. He had no idea what to say.
“I like your room,” Jessica said, looking around. “I didn’t get to see it the last time I was here.” Her gaze rested on him. “I’m sorry for coming unannounced.
“That’s alright.” Mathew pointed to his desk chair. “Care to sit down?” He watched her move across the room, with the sinking feeling that she was about to break their date. “So, what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?”
She seemed to consider the question carefully. “I was bored,” she answered finally. She looked embarrassed for the first time since Mathew had met her.
Mathew grinned. “Oh, and I’m the most exciting person in town, huh?”
“Pretty much, yeah.” She smiled, and looked around the room. “So, where’s that new Nintendo game you wanted to show me?”
Zack stared at his reflection in the bathroom mirror. “Alix, I’m not who you think I am,” he said, staring into his eyes. “I’m not Jeremy. I’m Zack. Zack Woods; Alex’s brother. No, not your brother. Alex with an E.”
He rolled his eyes, and scratched the back of his head. “Alix, I lied to you. My name’s not Jeremy–it’s Zack. I’m Alexander Wood’s little brother.” He groaned. “Alix, I think you’re cool.” A pause. “Alix, I think you’re beautiful.” Another pause. “Alix, I love you.” He sighed, and hit the side of his head against the wall. “Alix, I’m a total dork, why do you even bother?”
“Usually, it works better when you’re talking to a real person,” Alex said, walking past the bathroom.
Zack groaned again, and left the bathroom, following his brother down the hall to their room. “Alex, I’m screwed.”
“You know why! I lied to Alix. She thinks I’m this cool, mysterious person. And I have to tell her that I’m not. And she’s going to hate me, and never speak to me again.”
“I still can’t believe you have the hots for Alix. Of all people, Alix.”
“What’s wrong with Alix?”
Alex shrugged, and sat down at the edge of his bed. He started taking off his shoes and socks. “There’s nothing wrong with her. Alix is a wonderful person. It’s just that I can’t picture the two of you together.”
“Why?” Zack wondered, crossing his arms against his chest, and glaring at his brother.
“You’re too different.”
“What’s that got to do with anything? Opposites attract, remember?”
Alex looked up, and stared at Zack for a long moment. “Truth is, I can’t picture you with anybody. You’re my little brother. You’re supposed to be whining about how girls have cooties and stuff like that.”
“Alex, I’m fifteen-years-old.”
“Whatever, okay? I’m going to take a shower, because I’m going to the Baldwin U basketball game with Roxanne. It’s the biggest game of the season. You do whatever you want with Alix.” He started out the door, but turned around halfway. “Alix is not who she appears to be.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“I just mean that Alix seems very outgoing, and very loud, but she’s really kind of shy in her own way. Kind of like you.” Alex paused. “She’s more sensitive that you think, so when you do tell her the truth, and when you do tell her how you feel, be considerate of her feelings. Worry more about how you’re going to tell her, than how you think she’ll react to the news. More than likely, she’ll surprise you.”
Zack watched his brother leave the room, and then walked over to his own bed. He sat there for the longest moment, trying to figure out what to do.
Alix was all he thought about. She was in his songs, she was in his thoughts, she was in his dreams. She was everything to him, and it was pathetic, and it was sad, but he couldn’t help it. He’d never felt like this before.
Zack lied back on the bed, and stared up at the ceiling. He’d been staring at that ceiling so much lately, he had it pretty much memorized. Love’s a curse, he thought. It doesn’t become a blessing until you’re able to share it.
The ringing phone interrupted his thoughts, and he rolled over on the bed to pick it up. “Yeah?”
“Hi, Zack.” It was Roxanne. “Is Alex there?”
“Yeah, but he’s in the shower. He’s making himself all pretty for you.”
Roxanne laughed. “So, Zack, what are your plans for the evening?”
“I’m probably gonna sit here and whine about my pathetic, non-existant love life.”
“That sounds like fun. Listen, why don’t you come to the game?”
“Nah, I don’t think so.”
“Yeah, I’m not much into basketball; thanks anyway.”
“Alright. Well, tell Alex that the game’s at 7:30, so he better hurry up.”
“Bye.” Zack shook his head, and replaced the receiver. He scribbled Roxanne’s message on the little notepad next to the phone, and grabbing his trusty notebook, left the room.
“Wow,” Alix breathed.
Alix stared at Jessica with a mixture of both surprise and amusement. “It’s just that I’ve never seen you so nervous before in my life. You look just about ready to have a nervous breakdown or something. Calm down, Jess.”
Jessica stopped pacing, and sat down on the couch next to Alix. “I’m not nervous,” she said. “Just impatient.”
“Yeah, whatever.” Alix opened the TV guide on her lap, and started looking at the listings.
“Okay, look,” Jessica said suddenly. “I admit, I am a little nervous.”
Alix stared at her, her mouth hanging open in mock surprise. “No way!”
“It’s been a while since I’ve gone out with someone.”
“Jessica, you’re going to a basketball game at the University. That’s like the lamest date in the universe. If he were taking you out to dinner, and then up to a Florida landfill to gaze down at the pretty lights, then you’d have reason to be nervous. As it is, you’re going to be sitting on a bleacher, squished between Mathew and Roxanne. Unless you have a perverted mind, that’s not very kinky.” Alix paused and considered. A slow smile spread across her face. “Okay, that is pretty kinky.”
“You need a boyfriend really badly, Al,” Jessica stated, frowning at her best friend. “I’m not kidding. You’re freaking me out.”
Alix grinned. “Why, thank you, Jess. I didn’t know you cared.” She went back to the TV guide. “So, when’s Romeo picking you up?”
“Quarter after six.”
Alix looked up, and squinted to see the time on the VCR. “It’s only 5:56. Calm down, little woman.” She stared at Jessica for a moment. “I’m glad you’re going out with Mathew.”
Jessica nodded mutely.
“Seriously. You need to get out. See the world. Experience the joys of . . . Okay, you’re right, I do need a boyfriend.” She rolled her eyes, and got up from the couch. “I’m outta here.”
“Where are you going?”
“Home. You know, like E.T.? Except, I don’t have to phone beforehand.” She smiled. “Everything’s gonna be okay. Just breathe in, and breathe out.”
Jessica laughed. “Go away.”
Alix started toward the balcony. “Fine. If you’re gonna be like that.” She waved, and walked down the steps to the beach.
The wind was picking up, and to Alix’s dismay, kept blowing her hair all over her face, making it hard to see straight ahead. Eventually, though, she managed to catch her hair in an scrunchy. Ha ha ha! I am all powerful, she thought proudly, as her view cleared of any loose, annoying strands of brown hair. I can beat you!
Ironically, the wind stopped blowing right then. “You think you’re funny, don’t you?” she yelled at the air. “Well, you’re not! You’re a pain in the buttocks!” She frowned. “Oh, lordy, lordy, Lord. I’m going crazy. I am talking to the wind. I could be on Oprah. Yes, baby! I’m going places in the world.” She shook her head. “I have no idea what I’m talking about.”
Alix stopped walking, and stared straight ahead. Then she started walking again. “Whatcha doing?”
Nika Schmid looked up from her painting. Her long, light brown hair was hanging down to her lower back, and her brown eyes stared at Alix curiously. “You’re not Rachel,” she said, in her deep, Australian accent.
Alix raised an eyebrow. “How do you know that?”
“I don’t know. You just don’t talk, or walk, or dress like Rachel. So, I’m guessing you’re . . . Alix?”
“Yep. That would be me.” Alix looked at the canvas in front of Nika. It was a painting of the sunset. “That’s pretty good.”
Nika smiled shyly. “Not really. It could be better.”
“I don’t think so.” Alix sat down on the sand, and hugged her knees to her chest. “So, Nika, where have you been? I haven’t seen you around school lately.”
“I’ve been around.” She went back to her painting.
They sat in silence for a few minutes. Alix stared at the crashing waves in front of her. “Can I ask you something?” she said after a while.
“Do you believe that there’s someone for everybody?”
Nika stopped painting. “I don’t know. Why?”
“Nevermind.” Alix stood up. “See you later, Nika. Catch you in school.”
Alix started down the beach again, wondering why she’d asked Nika that question. Then she saw the answer. He was sitting against a palm tree, an open notebook on his lap. His dark brown hair, was, as usual, falling into his eyes, and he had to push it back from time to time.
Jeremy looked so deep in thought, that Alix didn’t know whether or not she should disturb him. So, instead of just walking up to him, she kept walking straight, hoping that he’d notice her. This is so childish.
To her utter annoyance, Jeremy, either didn’t see her, or chose to ignore her. But she had to salvage enough dignity not to turn around, and walk up to him. That would be pathetic. And she was not pathetic. She was childish, and she was immature, but she was not pathetic–or, at least, she wasn’t ready to admit that she was. Besides, she didn’t really care about Jeremy. She was just hallucinating again.
“Go Nina!” Jessica yelled, along with everybody else in the huge gymnasium. The Baldwin University basketball team was beating their opponents by four points. And only two minutes remained of the fourth quarter.
Nina Collins, number ten, had control of the ball. She passed it to another player, who faked, and passed it back. Nina went for a three-pointer, and made it without sweat. The ball flew swiftly through the net, making the score 108-101.
The sound of sneakers screeching echoed through the air, as the players ran to the other side of the court. The opposing team made a three-pointer themselves, and the score was back to a four-point difference.
A loud bell rang, making some people jump up, startled.
Number sixteen from B.U. fouled number three from Lincoln University. The L.U. girl got two foul shots, which she made instantly. The game was back on, and the score was now 108-106.
Jessica stared up at the clock. A minute and ten remaining. On the court, Nina had the ball again. She passed it to someone, who passed it to someone else, who took a shot, and missed. The play was back on L.U.’s side.
Number three of L.U. took a shot, and made it. The score was now tied.
Baldwin University called time-out.
“Having fun?” Mathew asked her.
Jessica nodded. “This is very exciting, man! I love basketball.”
Mathew laughed. “Well, I’m glad I asked you to come.”
Jessica was about to say something, but the time-out ended, and the game went on. For a moment, though, Jessica blocked out the game, and the noise, and started noticing how close she was to Mathew. To her surprise, the realization of what was going on didn’t bother her. In fact, she found it strangely comforting.
For the past few months she’d been scared of going out. She hadn’t minded hanging out with her guy friends, or going out as just that, but as soon as any guy had shown romantic interest in her, she froze up inside, and ended it right there.
Jessica knew that the situation had been different with Julian. It hadn’t been that he’d just turned on her one night. That would have been stupid, considering the fact that they’d been dating for about three years.
But after that incident, she didn’t feel like she deserved anyone’s love. She’d betrayed herself, and she’d betrayed her boy friend, and she’d betrayed her friend. She felt that any guy who was foolish enough to care about her, would only end up getting hurt.
The truth of the matter was, she didn’t trust herself. She didn’t trust herself at all.
Jessica looked over at Mathew for a moment. Would falling in love change things at all? If Mathew loved her, and she loved him back, would it make a difference? Would it?
“This bra is comfortable,” Jade stated, nodding thoughtfully. She was sitting next to Alix in front of Rachel’s computer. The two of them where attempting to write a book together, but so far, pointless conversation seemed to keep them from doing so.
“Seriously,” Jade insisted. “It feels like I’m wearing nothing at all.”
“Uh-huh.” Alix rolled her eyes heavenly. “You’re worse than me, Jay. At least I don’t go around telling everybody about my lopsided boobs.”
“You have lopsided boobs, too?”
“Yes, Jade. In fact, I only have one boob. How’s that?”
Jade made a face. “Freaky.”
Alix rolled her eyes. “Okay, so, back to this book. What’s it about again?”
“Okay, vampires. We need a main character. Gimme a name.”
Jade reached over, picked up the baby name book Alix had bought the previous day, and started flipping though it. “Euclea?”
“Sounds like some sort of acid.”
“A vampire named Ruperta?”
“Okay . . . um, Xenia?”
Alix nodded. “That’s cool. I like that.” She bit her lip. “How are we gonna do this?”
Jade shrugged. “Write something.”
Something. Ha ha. I have no idea what to write, Jade!! This is soooo stupid. I can’t write about no vampires. What am I supposed to write? Okay.
Ahem . . .
Darkness. It’s more than just a word. It’s my home. I’m cooking in the kitchen with Dinah. And then I sucked her blood. HA HA HA. You know why? Cuz I’m a vampire. That’s write, little friends. I VANT TO THUCK YOUR BLOOD!! I’ve got a tasty apple for you to eat. Come here, little one.
Wow. I’m in dire need of a dentist appointment . . .
Is that what you want me to write, Jay?
Jade took the keyboard from Alix.
Very funny, Alix. Okay, let’s try again.
You can do it, man. I know you can.
Alix hesitantly took the keyboard back. She stared at the screen thoughtfully for a minute or two, and then started typing.
“Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.”
Darkness has been my companion for the past two thousand years. It is all
I know. It is all I understand. Sunlight
is alien to me now.
I know everything. I’ve seen every-
thing. I have no idea why I’m writing this. Maybe I’m a bored vampire. Or else
my friend is forcing me to write this.
Maybe if I threaten to suck her
blood, she’ll leave me alone. Although,
I have a feeling she’d enjoy it too much.
She’s ENGLISH, so . . .
Jessica stepped away from the shore, just as a small wave came crashing down on the sand. Her clothes got splashed anyway, but she just laughed it off. She looked at Mathew. “So, what are you thinking?”
“Nothing in particular.” He smiled. “Did you have fun at the game?”
“Yes I did. Basketball is always fun for me. Especially when a friend of mine makes the winning shot.”
“I’ll tell Nina you said that.”
“Uh-huh. I see. So she’s the other woman.”
Jessica shook her head mockingly. “Yes. I didn’t want to be the one to tell you, but Nina and I have been seeing each other for about five months.”
Jessica laughed. “You’re starting to sound like Alix!”
“I’ve always wanted to be like Alix.”
Jessica smiled, and stared up at Mathew, as they continued walking along the shoreline. There was something about him that made her feel safe. He was easy to fall in love with. If things had been different, Jessica was sure she’d already be head over heels. But as things stood right now, she wasn’t sure what she felt.
Mathew had been a nervous wreck all night. From the second he’d jumped in his car to go pick up Jessica, to the second the basketball game ended, his stomach had been in knots. But ironically, now that he was walking beside Jessica, alone at the beach, he didn’t feel nervous anymore. In fact, he felt strangely at ease.
They walked in silence for a few minutes, listening to the crashing waves. The wind picked up, and rustled through the palm trees, making a strange melodic sound.
“Do you want to go for a swim?” Jessica asked all of a sudden.
Jessica grinned mockingly. “You’re not scared, are you?”
Mathew stared at her for a moment, and then ran into the water. The water was freezing cold, but he didn’t care. When he resurfaced, he saw that Jessica was still on the shore. She was laughing. Mathew pushed his hair back with his hand, and waved to Jessica. “The water’s wonderful!” he yelled, laughing gleefully.
A few seconds later, Jessica joined him in the water. She shrieked. “This is cold!”
“Pretty much, yeah,” Mathew agreed.
Jessica splashed him.
“Hey! What was that for?” he asked, splashing her back.
“For not telling me the water was cold!” Jessica laughed. Then she stopped laughing as Mathew started swimming toward her.
“Aaaaaaaaargh!” Jessica yelled, and started swimming away. She turned around, and held up her hands. “Okay, let’s compromise.”
Mathew stopped swimming, and stared at her expectantly. “Okay.”
In response, he was splashed continously with water. He turned around, so the water wouldn’t hit him in the face. When the splashing stopped, he turned around, but Jessica was nowhere to be seen. He frowned, and was suddenly pulled underwater.
When Mathew resurfaced, and opened his eyes, he saw Jessica starting to swim away. Fortunately, she was still close enough for him grab her arm.
Jessica shrieked as Mathew pulled her toward him. Before he knew it, she was standing directly in front of him. Inches between them.
Mathew’s heart was beating so hard he thought it would explode. He stared at her face. Little droplets of water fell from the tip of her nose onto the ocean, causing little rings of water. Her dark blue eyes looked black in the darkness of the night, and she was smiling brightly. But her smile started to fade.
“I lied to you before,” she said softly.
They were so close that Mathew could hear her breathing. She seemed to be just as out of breath as he was. He stared into her eyes. He could get lost in them very easily. “When did you lie?” he asked, his voice a near whisper.
“When I went over your house today, my intentions were to break off the date.”
Mathew blinked. “Oh.” He paused. “So what made you change your mind?”
“Seeing you,” she answered.
Mathew felt her arms go around his neck, and her body press against his. Now her face was even closer. Their lips almost touching. He wrapped his arms around her waist, and pressed his lips to hers.
And suddenly, the water didn’t seem so cold anymore.
Alix looked at the time on her alarm clock. It was after midnight. Who in their right mind would come over at this hour? She was gonna let Rachel, or her mother answer, but then she thought maybe Jade had forgotten something. She’d only just left about fifteen minutes ago, so it was possible.
Alix rolled off the bed, and walked downstairs. She threw open the door, expecting to see Jade standing there, but when she looked outside, there was nobody there. Confused, she stepped out of the house. The street was dark and silent.
This is like one of them horror movies, she thought, walking back in her house. That’s when she noticed the envelope taped to the front door. It read: ALIX in permanent black ink. She frowned, grabbed the envelope, and closed the door.
Once she was back in her room, she threw herself on the bed, and ripped open the envelope. There was a piece of paper inside. She unfolded it, and read what was written.
Do you belive in love at first sight? I sure didn’t. I didn’t
believe in love at all, actually. I wanted to, but it never felt like
something that would ever happen to me, so I didn’t give it much
thought. Unfortunately for me, now that’s all I think about now.
But do you know what the worst thing about love is? It’s
never what you expect it to be. You expect two people to look at
each other one day, and realize they’re in love. It’s not that easy.
Especially when one of the two is keeping a secret from the other.
I love you, Alix.
I’ve never said that before. Actually, I still haven’t said it. I
just wrote it. This way I don’t have to worry about freezing up,
and not saying what I have to say. And I HAVE to say what
I have to say. Otherwise, I won’t be able to sleep tonight
worrying about it.
Do me a favor, and look up Zackary Woods in last year’s
yearbook. Don’t turn this page over until you’ve looked him up.
Alix groaned, but walked over to the desk, and took out last year’s yearbook. Why did this guy want her to look up Zachary Woods? Who in the world was Zachary Woods, anyway? she wondered, looking in the index for the name. Wasn’t that Alex’s little brother? She’d never met him, but she’d heard Alex say something about his brother once or twice.
The kid’s picture was on page 187, and she flipped over there. She skimmed the rows until she saw the name, and then ran her finger across the black and white pictures. When she saw Zack’s picture, the yearbook almost fell from her grasp. Oh, my God! She stared. Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God. She snapped the yearbook shut, and walked back to her bed, where the piece of paper was waiting.
Hesitating only a moment, she flipped it to the other side.
I’m sorry, Alix. I didn’t mean to lie to you. I didn’t mean
for you to see me as somebody else.
Or maybe I did. Maybe I just wanted to impress you with
mystery. I didn’t want you to know who I was because I was afraid
you wouldn’t give me the time of day.
Please believe me when I say that I’m sorry. I know this may
not mean much to you right now, but know that I’m seriously, and
hopelessly in love with you. I can’t get you off my mind. In
fact, I’ve stopped trying, because honestly, I don’t want to get
you out off my mind.
I love you,
Zachary Jeremiah Woods
Alix finished reading the letter. And then read it a second time just to make sure she’d read everything correctly. She sighed. There was only one thing she could do.
Jessica stared at her reflection in the bathroom mirror. She’d blow dried her hair, and now it fell down her back in silky black strands. Her blue eyes looked brighter than usual. She didn’t have to think very hard to figure out why.
She shook her head, and left the bathroom, walking out onto the balcony to gaze up at the stars. For the past half an hour, all she could think about was Mathew’s kiss. It kept nagging at her. She’d kissed plenty of guys before, but this felt different. It felt powerful somehow.
Jessica didn’t know what she felt. She knew that she loved Mathew’s company. She loved talking to him. Being around him. Going out with him. Looking at him. Laughing with him. Kissing him, she added. But did she honestly care about him as more than just a friend?
Jessica’s fingers went to her lips, where Mathew’s had so recently been. She thought back to how he’d held her, and how he’d made her feel. How he’d kissed her so very gently, as though he feared his kiss would make her disappear. She remembered the love in his eyes. The feel of his body against hers.
She sighed and leaned against the railing. The cool breeze blew through her hair, messing it all up, but she didn’t care. Her gaze rested on the moon above her.
Ten months of fearing a relationship. Ten months of dodging every single guy that crossed her path. Ten months of self-loathing; of self-hatred. Ten months of utter loneliness. Ten months of hidden secrets. Ten months of silence. Ten months of lies.
A single tear rolled down her face. She didn’t deserve Mathew’s love. She would only end up hurting him in the end.
The only problem was . . . that now she loved him back.
Zack stared at the crashing waves in front of him. He was leaning back against a palm tree, his legs hugged to his chest, the wind blowing through his hair.
It was already close to 1:00, but he didn’t care. He was prepared to stay there until sunrise. Maybe the birth of a brand new day would brighten his spirits, and wash away his pain.
Alix had read the note by now. He was sure of it. She knew who he was now. It was all over. She’d never speak to him again.
Zack froze. Then he turned his head slowly. Alix was standing behind him. And for a moment, he thought he was hallucinating. “Alix?”
“In the flesh,” she answered, sitting down beside him. “What’s wrong with you? You look like you just saw a ghost, or something.”
“I’m just . . . surprised.”
“That makes two of us, doesn’t it, Zacky?”
Zack looked down at his hands. “I’m sorry.”
“Oh, well. You did it in the name of love.”
He was thankful for the darkness, that way Alix couldn’t see how badly he was blushing. Then he sighed. “Do you hate me?”
Alix laughed. “Yes. I sneaked out of my house in the middle of the night, walked all the way here to the beach, and spent about twenty mintutes trying to find you, just so I could let you know that I hate you.”
“You’re not mad?”
“Mad about what? You lying about your name? Not telling me you were Alex’s brother?” She shrugged. “I wish you’d told me the truth from the very beginning, but it’s really no big deal.”
They sat in silence for a long moment, listening to the crashing of the waves, and the sound of the wind.
Zack smiled after a while. “So I guess you’re not scared of sitting here in silence with me anymore.”
“Are you kidding? You’re a little sophomore. I can kick your butt now.”
Zack laughed. “In your dreams. I’m still taller than you.”
“Yeah, by like four inches. Besides, I’m drinking milk, and someday I’m gonna grow up to be–”
“A four-hundred-pound, transvestite, alcoholic, ex-convict?” Zack put in.
“No, that’s gonna be you in a few years. I’m gonna be the next Cindy Crawford, remember?”
“Nah, you’re prettier than Cindy Crawford.”
Alix arched an eyebrow. “Are you trying to suck up to me, Zacky?”
“Yep. Is it working?”
In response, Alix leaned over, and kissed him quickly on the lips. Then she pulled back so suddenly, that Zack was afraid he’d done something wrong.
Even with the moon hiding behind dark clouds, Alix appeared embarrassed. “Sorry,” she said softly, looking slightly away from him. “I’ve never done that before.”
Zack reached over with his hand, and touched her cheek lightly. Alix turned her head so that she was looking straight at him. Her eyes searched his, and suddenly their gazes locked. Zack’s heart was beating so loud, he was sure Alix could hear it, but he didn’t care.
Zack closed his eyes, as their faces drew closer. He felt the outside world disappear as their lips met for the second time. The waves ceased their noise. The wind stopped blowing through the trees. His worries melted in the warmth of their kiss.
The forever echoing sound of the first hour bell, rang through the hallways of Baldwin High. A simultanious groaning sound seemed to radiate throughout the school, as groups of teenagers said their goodbyes and seperated from each other.
“TGIF,” Alix said brightly, watching everything with a gleeful, almost giddy expression. “Backwards it would be FIGT. In some countries, maybe that’s slang for Fig Newton.”
“Yeah, whatever,” Jessica said dismissively. She was scanning the myriad of people, obviously looking for someone. “Have you seen Mathew?”
“Oh, yah! What happened last night on the date?”
Jessica was preoccupied with searching the crowd, but she answered anyway. “We went to the game. We saw the game. We cheered. Baldwin University won. Nina made the winning shot. Mathew and I took a walk along the beach. We went swimming. And then we . . .” Her voice trailed off.
“And then you wha-at?” Alix demanded, grabbing Jessica’s arms.
“Nothing. Oh, by the way, I’m leaving the country for a day or two.”
“Hello? Did I give you permission to change the subject? I don’t think so. What did you do?” Alix frowned for a moment. “You’re doing what?”
“I’m flying to Paris to get my cousin out of that fancy private school. Then I’m bringing her back here for a few days until my grandparents send for her back. Now that everything’s out in the open, Amber has no reason to stay in that school, and I’m telling my grandparents just that.”
Alix shook her head disapprovingly. “You’re crazy.” She rolled her eyes heavenly. “So, when do you leave?”
“As soon as I find Mathew, and say goodbye to him, I’ll be on my way.”
“What if you don’t find him?”
“Then you give him this.” Jessica handed Alix a folded piece of paper. “It explains everything.” Then she snapped her fingers. “Here’s the play you wrote. Tell Mathew to give it to the Drama teacher for me.”
Alix stuck the note in her pocket, put the play in her bookbag, and arched a questioning brow at Jessica. “So what did you do?”
“We kissed, okay?”
Alix shrieked with excitement. “Details!”
Jessica sighed, and handed Alix another folded piece of paper. “I anticipated that request, so I wrote you this. Give it to Roxanne afterwards. Then the two of you can bask in the glory of my reborn lovelife.”
Alix grinned at the paper in her hand. “I’m framing this when I’m through.”
Jessica laughed. Then looked around the nearly deserted halls. “You better get to class.”
“It doesn’t matter. My teacher thinks I was literally dropped on my head as a baby, so she takes pity on me. She’s a little wacko.” Alix shrugged. “It’s kind of fun, though. Yesterday, I fell on the floor and started spazing out. I never thought Child Care would be so exciting. Today they’re bringing some of the little kids from the daycare down the street.” Alix smiled wickedly. “I wrote the coolest children’s story. It’s about this monster that feeds on the minds of little kids. And I already volunteered to read it in front of the class.”
“You’re sick, Alix. The story does have a happy ending, though right?”
Alix nodded solemly. “Of course. At the end of the story, the monster eats the minds of all the kids in the world, and since there are no more kids left, he starves to death. Jade drew these really awesome pictures. Lots of blood and gore.”
“Like I said, you’re sick, Alix.”
“I know. Isn’t it wonderful?”
Jessica laughed. “Yes. It is wonderful.” The tardy bell rang through the now silent school. The two of them stood alone. “Well, I’m leaving. The plane’s already waiting, and I don’t want to get there very late.”
Alix sighed. “Be careful, Jess. When are you coming back?”
“Hopefully tomorrow night.” Jessica leaned down slightly, and hugged Alix. “Take care. Don’t forget Mathew’s note.”
“I won’t.” They pulled apart, and Alix watched Jessica walk away toward the parking lot. She whispered a prayer under her breath, and then made her way to her first hour.
A few hours later, Jessica was flying over the Atlantic Ocean. She didn’t usually travel using the family’s private jet, but she wanted to get to Paris as soon as possible, and this was the easiest way.
She stared out the window, at the endless blue ocean below, and the puffy white clouds outside. Then she closed the window curtain, and moved away from the window. She hated flying. Ever since her parents’ supposed plane crash, she’d been terrified of even looking at planes, but she wasn’t the type to let her fears stand in the way of what had to be done.
Jessica looked around the plane. It was pretty big, and looked even bigger now that no one else was in it. Just the pilot, the co-pilot, and a flight attendant that was walking over to her just at that moment.
“Can I get you anything, Ms. Heart?” the flight attendant, Maretta, asked. She was a tall, slim, blond woman in her mid-thirties, who was obviously not in the mood to be flying today. Her light blue eyes gazed at Jessica annoyedly.
“No, thank you, Maretta,” Jessica answered, smiling politely. She knew Maretta from way back when, and the woman was always on her case for some reason. Of course, Jessica had never been a sweet little girl to begin with. “I’m fine.”
“Of course you are,” Maretta said, walking away.
Jessica rolled her eyes, and leaned back against the seat. She’d been in the air for about three hours, and there was still a while to go. Why does Paris have to be so far? she wondered, closing her eyes. Why couldn’t it be Paris, Texas, or something? That wouldn’t be so bad.
The plane started shaking, and Jessica’s eyes flew open.
There was a small buzzing sound as the pilot’s voice came through the intercom. “Sorry about that, Ms. Heart, but it’s pretty cloudy in this area.”
Jessica nodded. If I don’t have a heart attack by the time this flight is through, it will be a miracle.
She shook her head, and closed her eyes again. She hoped Mathew had gotten her letter. She’d tried to explain everything as best she could, so she hoped he would understand. She couldn’t very well leave without telling him why. Mathew, you kiss awful. I can’t stand the sight of you, so I’m packing up and leaving the country. She shook her head, and smiled at the thought. Right.
Jessica took a deep breath. She’d already planned everything out. She’d go to Paris. Get her cousin. Go back to Florida. Then she’d tell Mathew how she felt. She nodded, and then sighed. Hopefully–if he felt the same way, and they got together–she’d be able to put the past behind her.
Mathew sat in his sixth hour class, Drama. He’d given the teacher Alix’s play, and she was busy reading it, so everyone was pretty much on their own.
He looked around the classroom for a moment, and his gaze rested on Jessica’s desk. It was empty. He reached into his pocket, and took out the note Alix had given him. He’d just gotten it a few minutes before class, so he hadn’t had a chance to read it.
Mathew unfolded the piece of paper, and read what was written.
If you’re reading this, then I figure that
I wasn’t able to find you this morning, in order
to tell you in person.
You see, my cousin has been sent to a
private school in Paris, because of the whole
mess with my parents (long story), so I’m
flying over there today to get her out. I know
it sounds a little strange, but I’ll explain it
better when I get back, which will be most
likely tomorrow afternoon.
I hope you’re having fun at school. Ha
ha ha ha ha ha ha Haaaaa!! (sorry)
See you when I get back.
PS: Thanks for last night. I had a wonderful
Mathew stared at the letter for a moment, and then folded it back up, sticking it in his back pocket. So now Jessica was in Paris. He sighed. At least it gave him a little more time to work up the courage to tell her how he felt.
Mathew still couldn’t believe he’d kissed her. He grinned at the memory. He had kissed Jessica Heart. Him. A guy who hadn’t had a girlfriend in his entire life–not an official girlfriend, anyway. He had kissed the most popular, and most beautiful girl in all of Baldwin High.
“Class,” Ms. Jacobs said, bringing Mathew down from Cloud 9. She held up Alix’s play. “Jessica’s friend has written a fabulous play.”
“If Alix wrote it, it’s gotta be psychosville,” Mitsi Honey chided from her seat in the back row.
Mathew rolled his eyes. Mitsi Honey was Lynn Hauffman’s best friend, and a bimbo all the way. Her name fit her perfectly.
“Well, it is pretty strange,” Ms. Jacobs admitted, “but it’s pretty interesting, indeed.”
“What’s it about?” a girl named Jafi Dilfarro asked, from the seat next to Mathew’s.
Ms. Jacobs sat on her desk, and flipped through the script in her hand. “It’s about this girl who dies, and then is sent back to earth with a mission. The mission is to save this other girl’s life. If she accomplishes the mission, she goes to heaven. Otherwise, she goes to hell. But meanwhile, she falls in love with her guardian angel.”
Everyone started talking amongst themselves all of a sudden, and the teacher had to silence them.
“Anyway,” Ms. Jacobs continued, “I’m gonna print copies of this to give to all of you on Monday. And I’ll have all the parts chosen by then.” She looked over at the clock on the wall, then she stared straight at Mathew. “Mathew, may I speak to you for a moment? The rest of you . . . do whatever.”
Mathew got up from the desk, and walked overt to the teacher, who was writing something on a pass. “Here,” she handed the pass to Mathew, “go find Alix Morris, wherever she is, and bring her back here. I want to get to know my new assistant director.”
Alix dribbled a basketball, and shot it at the basket. The ball missed the rim, the backboard, and pretty much the entire target area completely. “I’m getting closer!” she yelled gleefully.
A few people sitting off in the bleachers stared at her for a moment, then went back to their own lives. Jade, who was lying on her back along the length of the first bleacher, clapped and cheered.
“You go girl!” she yelled.
Alix took a bow. “Thank you. Thank you.”
“Have you read this?” Roxanne asked, holding up Jessica’s note. The one explaining everything that had happened on the date with Mathew.
Alix nodded, and bend down to pick up the rolling basketball. “I especially like the way she addressed the letter, ‘Dear nosy people I call my best friends.’ It was a nice touch. Full of warmth and compassion.”
“I still can’t believe Jessica hooked up with Mathew,” Roxanne said, shaking her head.
“I think they look good together,” Alix told her, getting ready to shoot the ball again.
“You look like you’re constipated,” Roxanne commented, staring at Alix. “Anyway, I didn’t say Mathew and Jessica didn’t make a cute couple; they do. I’m just saying it’s kind of surprising.”
Alix shot the ball. This time it went over the backboard, and landed in the bleachers, missing some girl’s head by a few inches. The girl stood up, and started yelling cuss words at Alix,
“I think it’s romantic,” Alix said thoughtfully, totally ignoring the girl. “It’s like one of them romance novels. You got the shy, innocent virgin, who’s rescued by a gorgeous, yet amazingly single, knight. Then the rest of the book goes in detail about the girl losing her virginity to the gorgeous, yet amazingly single, knight. Although, I think it’s the other way around in this case.”
“It’s weird, though,” Alix said. “I mean, Jess hasn’t had a boyfriend since Julian. That was back in the stoneages. Like a year later she decides to get herself a boyfriend.”
Roxane shook her head. “I don’t think she decided this.”
“What do you mean?”
Roxanne sighed. “Well, you do know what happened with Julian, right?”
“How am I supposed to know? Everytime I bring up Julian, or something even remotely close to the subject, the girl goes off to la la land.” Alix raished an eyebrow, and stared at Roxanne. “Wait. Do you know what happened with Julian?”
Roxanne shrugged. “I’m just saying that Jessica didn’t decide to fall in love with Mathew. In fact, I have a feeling she was trying to avoid it.”
“Because she’s messed up about guys.”
Alix crossed her arms. “Huh?”
Roxanne rolled her eyes, and stepped closer to Alix. “Because Julian raped her,” she whispered.
Alix’s eyes grew wide, then she cussed under her breath. Then she frowned, and shook her head. “But that doesn’t make any sense. Jess had been going out with Julian for like three years. She told me a few months ago that they’d already slept together. Why would he rape her?”
Before Roxanne could respond, they were interrupted.
“Hey guys,” Mathew said, walking up to them.
Roxanne and Alix exchanged a look, and then grinned at Mathew.
“Well, hello there,” Alix said cheerfully. “What brings you to the gym?”
“Ms. Jacobs sent for you.”
Alix frowned, and then remembered about the stupid play she wrote for Jessica’s Drama class. She was kinda hoping the teacher would hate it, so she wouldn’t have to suffer the embarrassment of forty people reading her play. “Let me guess. She hated the play, and wanted to tell me so in person?” she asked hopefully.
“Actually, she loved it,” Mathew answered, grinning. “You’re gonna be her assistant director.”
Jessica entered the large, expensive hotel room, and looked around. She nodded at the bellboy, and he put her bags down.
“Will zat be all, Madame?” he asked, in his deep French accent.
Jessica nodded. “Yes, thank you.” She tipped the young man a whole bunch of weird looking money. She had no idea their value, but he seemed more than pleased with what she’d given him.
“Good night,” he said, bowing slightly. Then he left the room, closing the door behind him.
Jessica looked around the room, and grinned. “Cool.” She walked over to the window, and drew open the curtains. A gorgeous view of Paris lay ahead. It was already about 10:45 pm, Paris time, though it sure didn’t feel like it. She looked at her watch, to see what time it was back home. Four-thirty.
She turned her back on the window, and walked over to the bed. She found the remote control for the TV, and turned it on, frowning at the people speaking French. “Okay.” She changed the channels, until finally, she found an English-speaking one, which was showing some X-rated movie.
Jessica watched that for a few minutes, raising her eyebrows at the extremely graphic scenes, and then changed the channel back to some black and white French movie. “If I only had a brain,” she sang to herself. Then she changed the channel. “There’s got to be something besides that other . . . thing.” She lied down on her stomach, and held the remote control in front of her. “C’mon. How about something in Spanish? I speak that. I failed French, okay? I don’t speako Frencho.”
She rolled her eyes, and shut off the TV. She reached over, and picked up the phone. When the guy on the other end answered, she said, “Yeah, I’d like to order some room service.” The guy, fortunately, spoke some Engish, so she didn’t have much of a problem. Unfortunately, the menu was in French, so she had no clue what to order. In the end, she told the guy to surprise her with something interesting.
She rolled over on her back, and stared at the ceiling. This is so much fun. I wonder what everyone’s doing back home?
“Left hand on green,” Drake’s ten-year-old sister, Kris, read off.
Jade, Alix, Drake, and Zack reached over to put their left hands on one of the green circles.
“Jesus, Drake, don’t touch me there,” Jade cried out.
“Who’s knee am I leaning against?” Alix asked.
“It’s not a knee,” Drake told her.
“Ew, gross!” Alix cried, moving slightly away.
“Right foot on yellow,” Kris said.
“Who the hell came up with this game anyway?” Zack asked, reaching over with his right foot to touch the yellow circle. “Mr. Pretzel?”
“Damnit, I’m going to fall,” Alix complained. “Who’s Mr. Pretzel?”
Drake cried out. “I am.”
“I think you mean Gumby,” Jade said.
“Left foot on red.”
“Are you nuts?” Drake asked.
“Oh, that’s better,” Jade said, sighing with relief.
“Ow. My hernia!” Alix cried.
“Drake, would you mind keeping your butt out of my face?” Zack asked.
“Blue-eu mooooon,” Alix sang.
“Right foot on green.”
“I can’t move my right foot,” Jade said. “I forgot where I left it.”
“Couldn’t we just do the hokey pokey?” Zack asked. “It’s easier.”
“Ay caramba!” Alix cried, as she toppled to the floor, bringing everyone down with her. “Pain!” she yelled as they fell on her.
Kris shook her head. “This is getting too kinky for my tastes,” she said, getting up. “I’m outta here.”
“You’ve been talking to my sister, haven’t you?” Drake asked Alix, rolling over.
“Jade,” Alix started, “you’re sweet and all, but could you please get off me.”
“I will as soon as Zack gets his leg off my stomach.”
“Oh, sorry,” Zack apologized.
When the four of them managed to disintangle themselves from each other, they put away the game, and stared at the game-filled closet.
“What do you want to play now?” Drake asked.
Alix looked at her watch. “I have to go,” she said, shaking her head. “It’s my turn to make dinner at my house.”
“I’ll walk you,” Zack offered.
“Okay.” Alix waved to Drake and Jade. “See you later guys. Oh, if you want to come over for dinner, I’m planning my specialty: spaghetti.”
“I’m there,” Jade told her. “It’s meatloaf night at my place, anyway.”
“Sounds cool,” Drake said.
Alix grinned. “Kiwi. I’ve never cooked for my friends before.” She waved again, and followed Zack outside. They started walking in silence down the street. “You’re gonna help me cook,” she told him.
Zack looked at her, frowning. “Excuse me?”
“Yep. You and me. Cooking spasghetti.”
Zack laughed. “Okay. Spasghetti it is.”
Alix stepped in front of Zack, and started walking backwards, facing him. “This is cool.”
“Why are you walking like that?”
“This way I get to look at you,” Alix answered, grinning. “Talk man. Say something.”
“Okay. Good. Now say Alix is the most wonderful person in the whole entire world.”
“Alix is the most wonderful person in the whole entire world.”
“Good boy!” She slowed down, until Zack was a few inches in front of her.
Zack put his arms around her waist, and put his forehead agaist hers. He looked into her eyes, and smiled. “You look like an alien from this close up.”
“You do too.” Alix laughed. “This is cool.”
Zack closed his eyes, and kissed her gently on the lips. When they pulled apart, he hugged her tightly. “I’m never letting you go,” he whispered.
“I have no problem with that, except, it’s gonna get complicated when one of us has to go to the bathroom or something.”
Mathew looked up from his book, as Nina entered the living room, wearing dressy pants, and a matching sleeveless vest thing. “You look pretty tonight. Where are you going?”
Nina grinned. “Out, with Leslie. We’re celebrating last night’s game.”
Mathew nodded. “You deserve it, sis. That was a heck of a game you played last night. Leslie must be so proud.”
“Yes. Tears sprang to his eyes.” She looked around the living room for a moment. “Have you seen my black shoes?”
“Yeah, I borrowed them last night to go dancing at one of those clubs. Along with one of your skirts. Oh, and I took some of your make-up too.”
Mathew’s father stepped into the room at that very moment, stared at his only son, and then walked back down the hall, shaking his head.
“Dad! I was just kidding!” Mathew leaned over the back of the couch, and stared down the hall. “Dad!”
Nina shook her head. “It’s no use, Matt. At the rate you’re going, you’re gonna have to bring Jessica over here, have sex with her loud enough for him to hear, and then marry her. Otherwise, he’ll keep thinking you’re gay.”
Just then, the doorbell rang.
“That’s Leslie,” Nina said. “Open the door and entertain him, while I go find my shoes.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Mathew swung his legs to the floor, put his book on the coffee table in front of him, and then walked over to the door. He opened it up, and grinned. “Hey, Les, come on in. Nina’s looking for her shoes, so it’ll be a few hundred years before you see her again.”
“I heard that!” Nina called from her room.
Leslie smiled, and stepped inside the house. “Hola, Mathew. I saw you and Jessica at the game last night. Any sparks?”
Mathew closed the door. “Just like you to go right to the heart of matters,” he teased. “Did I ever mention you and Nina are extremely perfect for each other?”
“It’s just like you to change the subject.” He grinned. “And no, you never mentioned it before, but now that you have, I greatly appreciate it.”
Nina popped out her room, and started walking down the hall. She was smiling brightly. “I found my shoes,” she cried, happily, grabbing her purse from the kitchen counter.
Mathew sighed with relief. “Thank God. I was getting so worried.”
“Just the thought of losing them,” Leslie said, shaking his head in mock sadness. “The pain! The agony!” He turned to Mathew. “Hold me.”
Nina rolled her eyes. “You guys are hopeless.” She kissed Mathew’s cheek. “Have fun watching Nick at Nite reruns.”
“Oh, definitely,” Mathew said. He grinned, and shook Leslie’s hand. “Take her of her, man. Or I’ll have to come after you in the middle of the night. And I really don’t want to miss I Love Lucy.”
“Do you live alone?” Drake asked, looking around Jade’s house.
“With my aunt,” Jade answered, closing the front door.
“Jady, is that you?” a woman in her early forties said, stepping out from the kitchen. “Oh, hello there,” she said to Drake. “I’m Fifi, Jade’s aunt.”
“Nice to meet you,” Drake said politely.
“We’re going up to my room,” Jade announced, grabbing Drake’s arm. “Then we’re going to Alix’s for dinner.”
Aunt Fifi nodded. Then she started running her hand through Drake’s hair. “Oh, that’s soft. Is it real?”
“Yep. I condition.”
Aunt Fifi seemed to like that. “What a pleasant young man.” She smiled, and started dancing around living room. “La la la la la la la la la la la . . .”
Jade pulled Drake up the stairs, and finally let him go when they entered her bedroom.
“Sorry about that,” Jade apologize, gesturing to the door. “My aunt’s looney tunes.”
Drake shrugged. “She seems fun.”
“Oh, she is. She’s a wonderful woman. Sit down wherever.” Jade leaned against a bookcase. “See, back in London, my parents thought I was kind of strange.” She pointed to her blue hair, earrings, and nose ring. “So, they figured that by living with my crazy aunt, maybe I’d learn a lesson.”
“That doesn’t sound very nice of your parents.” Drake sat down on her bed.
Jade shrugged. “I don’t care, really. I mean, I don’t get along with my parents very well, anyway. So, I’m kind of glad they sent me away.”
“Do you miss London?”
“Well yeah,” Jade admitted. “I do. But I’m only supposed to stay here until I graduate.”
“Then you go back?”
Jade nodded. “Then I go back.”
Drake nodded slowly, and started looking around Jade’s room. There was a small desk across from him, and on it was a cool-looking laptop computer connected to a laser jet printer. To his left was a tall bookcase, filled from top to bottom with books, books, and more books. Then to his right was a window, with a huge telescope hanging out.
The walls around the room were covered with posters of space, and aliens. There were a couple X-file posters. And then one poster that didn’t seem to match the rest: a life-size picture of Jerry O’Connell taped to the door. “You like Jerry?”
Jade turned halfway around to look at the poster, and grinned slightly. “Just a little.”
“Let me guess, you’re obsessed with aliens?” Drake asked.
“Sure. They’re my family. Soon they’re coming to take over humanity, and I get to go home.” Jade nodded defiantly. “I’ll put in a good word for you.”
“Thanks.” Drake smiled, and gestured to the telescope. “So what can you see through that thing.”
“Well, yesterday I got to see my next door neighbor’s twenty-year-old son taking a shower.” Jade grinned mischieviously. “But usually you can see the stars and that kind of thing.” Jade turned off the lights, and suddenly a bunch of glow-in-the-dark stars appeared in the ceiling.
Jade walked over to him, and took him by the hands. “Here.” She led him to the telescope. “Go ahead.”
Drake hesitated a moment, and then put his eye to the lens. “I can’t see anything.”
“Try opening your eye.”
“Oh.” A pause. “Oh, cool. Oh, my God it’s a UFO!”
“Where?” Jade pushed him away from the telescope, and looked through it. “I don’t see it!”
Drake grinned. “Gotcha.”
Jade started punching his arm. “That wasn’t funny, you dinkus!”
Drake laughed, and grabbed a pillow to defend himself. “It was a joke. You know, ha ha?”
Jade tried grabbing the pillow from him, but Drake was too strong. He pulled it back too hard, lost his balance, and fell on the bed. Jade landed right on top of him.
“Sorry,” she said, trying to get off him.
Drake pulled her down, and then rolled over, so that now he was on top of her. He stared down at her face.
Suddenly, the door to Jade’s room burst open, and Aunt Fifi walked in. She turned on the lights, and stared. “Oh, my,” she said.
Drake froze, and jumped up and away from Jade. “Uh . . .”
Aunt Fifi shook her head. “The girl should be on top,” she said. “It’s better that way.” She walked over to the small closet, opened the door, and took out a few hangers. She turned around, and nodded. “When I was your age I had gentlemen callers in my room all the time.” She sighed at the memories. “But I was always on top.” She smiled brightly. “Have fun. But try to keep it down.”
Drake watched the woman leave the room, and turned to Jade who was smiling at him.
“Dinner?” she suggested.
“What the hell is this mess?” Rachel asked.
Alix and Zack stopped laughing, and looked over at Rachel.
“Hey, sis,” Alix said, and pointed with the spaghetti sauce covered spoon at Zack. “This is Zack. Zack, my twin sister, Rachel.”
Zack stared at Rachel. “You guys are identical.”
“Wrong!” Alix cried. “We’re as different as night and day. My sister now has a crime record. I only have about forty or fifty detentions. Besides, she’s a dork.”
Rachel rolled her eyes. “Nice to meet you Zack. It’s nice seeing Alix having guys over. We were beginning to wonder about her.”
Alix snorted. “Oh, please. You’re one to talk.”
“You better clean this mess up before Mom gets here,” Rachel said, ignoring her sister’s last comment.
“Mom called about ten minutes ago, and said she was pulling an all nighter at the office. So it’s just you, me, Zack, Drake, and Jade.”
“Actually, it’s just you, and the nerd patrol. I’m going to the library to study, and then I’m grabbing something to eat at Subway or something.” Rachel grabbed her purse, and walked out of the house.
“She seems sweet,” Zack said.
Alix shrugged. “She’s just in a bad mood, ’cause she got arrested the other day, and now Mom’s too ashamed to even talk to her.” She turned to the stove. “Mmm. That smells good.”
“Let’s just hope it tastes good, too.”
“Why shouldn’t it?” Alix asked, starting to wipe off the counter with a towel. “We’re gourmet chefs, right?”
“Oh, absolutely,” Zack agreed, opening the fridge to stick the sauce back inside. “We’ve just made the best spasghetti ever.”
They heard the front door squeak open
“Hello!” Jade called. “Anybody home?”
“In here!” Alix yelled.
A few seconds later, Jade and Drake appeared.
“Hey, that smells pretty good,” Drake said, leaning against the wall. “When do we eat?”
“As soon as you two set the table.” Alix started handing them napkins and forks. “Knock yourselves out.”
About ten minutes later, the four of them were sitting at the dining room table, eating the spaghetti. Jade and Drake sat side by side, and across from them, Alix and Zack.
“This isn’t half bad,” Jade said.
“I told you people, spasghetti’s my specialty,” Alix said. “In fact, it’s the only thing I can cook. Aside from like, toast or a sandwich or something bread-related.” She shrugged, and then listened for a moment, as the phone rang a second time. “Damn phone.” She got up from the table, and walked over to the phone in the kitchen. “Jell-O,” she said into the receiver.
“That’s a new one.”
“Jess!” Alix yelled. “Hey! How’s Paris?”
“Boring,” Jessica answered. “Too many people speaking French. On top of everything, it’s like midnight over here, and I feel like it’s six.”
“Aww. Poor Jessie. She’s all screwed up with the times and everything. My heart goes out to you, kid.”
“Ha ha. So, what have you been up to?”
“I got to cook spasghetti for Jade, Drake, and Zack.”
“I don’t know Drake. Zack? Zack as in Alex’s brother?”
“Yep. We’re sort of an item now.”
“Jess, are you there?”
“Oh, yeah. Sorry, I thought I heard someone knocking on the door. I was hoping it was my midnight snack, but no such luck. So, you and Zack, huh? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Well, I wasn’t really sure I hadn’t imagined it. You know how I am.”
Jessica laughed. “Sure do.” She paused. “Wow. I can’t believe little Alix has a boyfriend. That’s a first.”
“Must we dwell on the subject?” Alix asked, half-annoyed. “Speaking of boyfriends, though, yours was lookin’ mighty fine today. You better hurry, and come back before one of them perty gals snatches him up.”
“I don’t have a boyfriend. If you mean Mathew, he’s not my boyfriend.”
“Right. Still in denial, huh?”
“Oh, look. My food’s here. I gotta go. Darn. Talk to you tomorrow, Al.”
Alix half-smiled. “Yeah. Yeah. Whatever. You’re coming back tomorrow, right?”
“That’s the plan.”
“Alright, chica. See you tomorrow then.”
“Say hi to Zack for me. I love you.”
“I love you, too. Hurry back before you go all French on us.”
“Very funny. Bye.”
“Bye.” Alix smiled, replaced the receiver, and walked back into the dining room, where Drake was balancing a garlic roll on his nose. Alix frowned, and shook her head. “I swear. You people freak me out.”
“I thought I’d find you here.”
Rachel looked up from the book she was reading, and shook her head, without turning around. She knew perfectly well who that was. “I’m going to kill you.”
Claire laughed, and sat down on the chair beside her. “No, you’re not,” she said.
Rachel stared at her former best friend. “You went too far, Claire. You went way too far. I can’t believe you’d do that to me.”
Claire sighed, and tapped her long, black-polished nails on the wooden desk of the nearly deserted library. “I can’t believe that you can’t believe it.” She sighed again. “Look. I know what I did to you was a little extreme, but I had to find a way to get Nina out of the mess I got her in. And besides, you had it coming. Don’t tell me you’re Little Miss Innocent, Rachel Morris, because I know you’re not.”
“After all the crap you’ve put me through, now you’ve just decided to give up on Leslie?”
“For now, my dear Rachel. Just for now.” Claire nodded slowly. “I’ve decided to take a vacation for a while. Besides, I’ve sort of bonded with that Nina character. She’s pretty interesting.”
“You’re unbelievable,” Rachel said, shaking her head disgustedly. “Just leave me alone, Claire. We’re not friends anymore. Friends don’t get each other arrested.”
“What decade are you living in, Rachel?” Claire smiled, and got up. “It’s the nineties. Trust nobody but yourself. That’s my advice to you.” She touched Rachel’s shoulder gently, and her gray-green eyes seemed to soften. “I’m sorry.”
Rachel watched Claire walk away, and then turned back to the book she was reading. Trust nobody but yourself. For now, she was actually gonna consider taking Claire’s advice.
Jessica yawned, and stared at the huge wooden desk in front of her. She hadn’t slept all night, and now, unfortuantely, exhaustion was beginning to catch up to her. The clock on the wall read 8:46am, which translated to 1:46am, Florida time.
Jessica yawned again, and looked around the office. There was a file cabinet behind, and to the side of the desk. A window directly in front of Jessica, which showed the cloudy Paris sky. And a bunch of houses in the distance.
The walls of the office were covered with diplomas, medals, and certificates of excellence.
The door behind Jessica opened, and a short, slim, tired-looking woman in her late sixties, stepped inside. She smiled warmly. “Hello, Jessica,” Mrs. Rainer said, shutting the door behind her. “How nice to see you again, dear.”
Jessica stood up, and smiled. “I still cannot believe you’re the one who runs this school.”
Mrs. Rainer patted Jessica’s shoulder. “I’ve come a long ways the past few years, Jessie.” She nodded to the chair. “Please sit down. Let’s talk.”
Jessica sat down on the chair, and watched the old woman walk around the desk. Mrs. Rainer had been her private tutor back in the days when Jessica had refused to attend regular school. Even when Jessica had been the biggest snob on the face of the planet, Mrs. Rainer had stood by her all the way. And because of that, Jessica had always admired the woman. “You’re looking good, Mrs. Rainer.”
“Don’t I always, Jessie?” The old woman’s eyes saddened for a moment. “I know it’s a little late, but I’m very sorry about your parents. It was such a tragedy.”
Jessica was about to say something, but decided against it. Instead, she nodded. “Yes. Yes, it was.”
Mrs. Rainer smiled again. “So, going right to business. You’re here to pick up your cousin, right?”
Jessica sighed. “Mrs. Rainer, I had a whole entire speech prepaired to convince whoever I was up against to let me take my cousin with me, but since it’s you, I’ll skip the b.s. What do I have to do to get Amber out of here?”
“Well, usually I would need your grandparents to come here themselves, and sign a few papers. Either that, or have them give me a call. But, this is a little different. Why, exactly, do you want to take your cousin out of school?”
“My grandparents wanted to get her out of the house, because of some secret business they didn’t want Amber getting involved with. I think that’s wrong. Amber should be back home, where she belongs. Not all the way on the other side of the Atlantic, trying to make friends in an all-girls private school!” Jessica leaned forward. “Mrs. Rainer, please let me take Amber home.”
“What do your grandparents have to say about this?”
Jessica sat back. “My grandparents have no compassion for other people. Only for themselves, and for their money. They’re taking care of Amber, only because her own parents are too busy traveling, and seeing the world, to take her of their only daughter. If I told my grandparents that I was here, taking Amber out of school, they wouldn’t care. Just as long as no one found out what was happening. Because, after all, everything I do, reflects on the Heart name.”
“You sound very bitter, Jessica,” Mrs. Rainer noted, frowning slightly.
“I’m just telling it like it is, Mrs. Rainer. It’s gotten to the point that I’m actually ashamed of my family.” She shrugged. “Money is only money. There are people in the world, starving to death, while my family, and other family’s like mine, are taking what they have for granted. I’m not about to forget what’s important. I already forgot it once.” She stared defiantly at the old woman. “I want my cousin.”
Mrs. Rainer sat back in the huge leather chair, and stared at Jessica for a long moment. Then a slow smiled spread across her wrinkled face. “Room 429. She’s already packed, and ready to go.”
Jessica knocked softly on room 429, and held her breath, as someone’s footsteps echoed through the door. A few seconds later, the door opened to reveal a blond-haired girl, about fifteen-years-old, with light blue eyes, and a warm, friendly smile. Her eyes brightened when she saw Jessica.
“Jess!” Amber cried, and threw her arms around her cousin. “I can’t believe you’re here!”
Jessica hugged her back, and laughed, as they pulled apart. “What? You think I’d leave you here? I wouldn’t want you to have too much fun, now would I?”
“Oh, right,” Amber said, rolling her eyes. “Please, Jessica, a few more days and I would be a full-pledged lesbian. I need guys!”
“You’re fifteen, Amber. Calm down.” Jessica laughed. “But don’t worry. There are plenty of guys in Florida.”
Amber’s eyes brightened even more. “I thought you were taking me back to Midnight Island?”
“Are you kidding? The grandparents don’t even know I’m here. Were you expecting me to just drop you off at their doorstep? I don’t think so. You’re coming home with me. It’s been a while since I’ve spent some time with my favorite cousin.”
Amber smiled, and pushed a strand of blond hair away from her face. “Did I ever tell you that you rule?”
Jessica considered the question. “No, but you can expand on the subject on our flight back to America. Get your stuff. We’re outta here.”
Outside, a black stretch limosine waited patiently. The chauffeur held the door open for them, and then put Amber’s luggage in the trunk. Soon, they were headed toward the airport.
“I still can’t believe you’re here,” Amber said, staring at Jessica, from across the way. “I feel like this is a dream, or something. How long has it been since we last saw each other.”
“Last Christmas,” Jessica answered, smiling to herself. Her cousin hadn’t changed at all. She was still full of smiles, and bubbling with excitement. It was hard being depressed around Amber Dryden. She was the type of person who you could just sit and watch, and never get bored.
“Right. Wow. It’s been a while, huh? Jess, I swear, you look so good. I’m so jealous. You look like one of those supermodels. Right off the cover of Seventeen.” Amber frowned. “Why are you looking at me like that.”
Jessica shrugged. “It’s just that you haven’t changed a bit since I last saw you.”
“Well you sure have changed,” Amber chided. “You talk normal for a change. None of that refined rich girl crap. Grandmother would have a heart attack. And your eyes, they don’t look as gloomy and dark as they used to.” She grinned. “There’s a guy, isn’t there?”
Jessica blinked. “Huh?”
“I knew it!” Amber cried excitedly. “What’s his name? No! Let me guess. It’s probably something exotic like . . . Xylon. No? Um. Okay, is it something strange like Warwick, or Gaylord? Ooh. That’s such a neat name. Gaylord. I love it! I’m naming my kid Gaylord.”
Jessica had to laugh. “What have you been smoking, Amber?”
“Smoking? Nothing. I don’t smoke. Do you smoke? You shouldn’t smoke, Jess. It’s bad for you. It turns your lungs extra crispy. This girl in my school back on the Island, she smoked so much, her teeth turned like toxic waste green, or something. It was gross. But, anyway, back to the guy. What’s his name?”
“Mathew,” Jessica admitted.
Amber nodded. “Mathew.” Then she shook her head. “Do you think he’ll mind if I call him Gaylord? That is just so cool!”
“You’ll have to ask him,” Jessica answered.
“Oh, I will, don’t worry. Oh, look! It’s the airport. That was a quick ride. What airline are we flying?”
“Heart Airs,” Jessica joked.
Amber nodded. “Cool. I love the family jets. They’re neat.”
The limosine entered a section of the airport reserved for private owned planes only, and finally stopped in front of a white and silver jet. The chauffer opened the door for them, and Jessica and Amber stepped out of the limosine.
Maretta appeared at the top of the stairs, looking annoyed, as usual. “The plane’s ready, Ms. Heart.”
“Thank you, Maretta,” Jessica called. “You’re a peach.” She turned to Amber. “Ready?”
They climbed the stairs, and entered the plane. Maretta was standing there, an obvious fake smile on her face. “Welcome to your plane,” she said. “The exits are where you last left them. The seatbelts should be fastened. If you don’t know how to fasten a seatbelt, then you’re a moron. There are lifevests under your seats. Follow the pretty instructions, and you’ll be just fine. If you have any questions, make sure it’s a life or death situation, and then, as a final resort, call me over. Have fun and enjoy your flight.”
About eight hours later, back in the States, Mathew knocked on Nina’s door. There was no answer. He knocked again. Louder this time. Still no answer. He frowned, and opened the door. Nina was not inside.
Mathew glanced at his watch. It was after one. She’d probably gone out. He shrugged, and started down the hall. His mom was in the living room, watching TV. She glanced up as he entered.
“Hi, honey. How nice of you to wake up.”
Mathew smiled, and walked over to the kitchen. “I couldn’t sleep last night,” he answered, opening the fridge, and taking out a carton of milk. “Is there any cereal?”
“There are Corn Pops in the cupboard. Why couldn’t you sleep?”
Mathew grabbed the cereal box, along with a bowl and a spoon, and sat down at the kitchen table. “I don’t know,” he answered finally. “I guess I wasn’t tired. Hey, Mom, did Nina go out?”
“I didn’t see her leave,” his mother said, walking into the kitchen. “I don’t think she came home last night, though.”
Mathew raised both eye brows, and dug into his cereal. “Ooh. Nina’s been a bad girl.” He looked at his mother curiously. “Aren’t you worried?”
“Nina is twenty-two years old. She can do whatever she wants. If she wants to spend the night at her boyfriend’s, that’s her business, I’m not going to say a word.” She paused, and half-smiled. “Now, if her father finds out . . .”
Mathew laughed, and took another spoonful of cereal. “At least Dad won’t think she’s gay.”
“Honey, your father’s just worried about you. You rarely go out with girls, and when you do, then you insist that they’re just your friends.” She raised an eyebrow. “Like that Jessica girl. She was really sweet.”
Mathew shook his head, and finished off his cereal. He washed the bowl and spoon, put everything away, and kissed his mother’s cheek. “I’m gonna go take a shower.”
“You do that, honey.”
Mathew walked back to his room, and stepped into the bathroom. After taking a shower, he dressed in black basketball shorts, and a Miami Heat basketball jersey. Then he walked out of his room, and left the house through the back door. The beach was just a few yards away.
Mathew looked up at the sky, and smiled to himself. It was completely clear, and sunny. A beautiful day in the neighborhood. He shook his head, and started walking down the beach, with no particular destination in mind.
He ran his hand through his hair, and started looking around. The beach was totally crowded with people of all shapes and sizes. Women in bikinis that left little to the imagination–not that he was looking. Little kids running around and yelling. A few off at the shoreline, making sandcastles. Men drooling at the sight of all the women with the itsy bitsy bikinis. People sunbathing. People in the water. People playing Frisbee. People playing Volleyball. People yelling. People laughing.
Mathew smiled. It was definitely a beach day.
“Hey, Mathew!” someone called.
Mathew frowned, and started searching the crowds. Finally, he saw Alix waving frantically. He started in that direction.
“Hey, Matty boy,” Alix cried, looking up at him, while shielding her eyes from the sun. “Hey, could you move a little to the right. A little more. A little–right there! Gracias, chico.” She pointed to the guy sitting beside her. “This is Zacky boy.”
Mathew leaned over, and shook the guy’s hand. He looked to be about eighteen or nineteen-years-old. Alix sure got around. “What grade are you in?”
“Tenth,” Zack answered, a little shyly.
“Doesn’t he look old for his age?” Alix asked, looking over at Zack. She smiled, and started squeezing Zack’s cheeks. “He’s Alex’s baby brother. Aww.”
“Really? You’re Alex’s brother? That’s pretty cool.” He looked past Alix and Zack, to the distant, solitary beach about half a mile away. “Do you know if Jessica’s back yet?”
Alix nodded. “Yep. She’s back.” She grinned. “I heard about your exciting game of tonsil hockey the other day.”
Mathew snapped back to Alix. “Excuse me?”
“Don’t play dumb, Mathew Collins, you know very well what I’m talking about.”
Mathew felt the blood rush to his face. “Um, I’m gonna get going now,” he said.
“Right. Right. Go visit Cinderella.”
Mathew waved. “Nice meeting you, Zack. Later, Alix.” He started walking down the beach again, toward Jessica’s mansion. He didn’t know exactly what his excuse would be for dropping by, but he just wanted to see her. Jessica had only been gone a day, and still he missed her like crazy. This love stuff was really pathetic.
It took him about ten minutes, but finally he started up the back stairs of the mansion. The stairs ended on a cement deck, where the huge pool was located. There was another staircase up ahead, which led to Jessica’s bedroom. He started in that direction.
“Hey!” someone called.
Mathew turned around, startled. A girl was staring at him from the pool. All he could see was her head, and arms. The rest of her was still inside the water.
“Who are you?” she asked.
“I’m a friend of Jessica’s. My name’s Mathew.”
The girl was silent for a moment, and then her face broke out into a smile. “Oh, Gaylord!” she cried.
Mathew frowned. “Pardon?”
“Jessica’s boyfriend, right? Yeah. I told her I wanted to call you Gaylord from now on, because I like that name.”
“You’re cute,” she said, looking him up and down. “Jessica has good taste.”
Mathew blushed, and ran a nervous hand through his hair.
“I’m Amber Dryden. Jessica’s cousin.”
Mathew nodded. Of course, Jessica’s cousin. “Mathew Collins,” he said.
Amber shook her head. “Gaylord.” She laughed, and started swimming away. “Jessica’s in her room, sleeping. Go ahead and wake her up.”
Mathew gazed uncomfortably at Jessica’s bedroom. “Are you sure?”
“She is your girlfriend, isn’t she?”
Girlfriend. Mathew’s heart skipped a beat at the sound of that word. “Uh, I don’t know about that.”
“Go wake her up. She doesn’t care.”
Mathew hesitated a moment, and started walking across the pool deck, toward the balcony stairs. He climbed them slowly, and when he reached the top, he stared inside Jessica’s bedroom. He entered quietly, and froze when he saw Jessica sleeping peacefully on her bed.
She was turned on her side toward him, with her head on a mound of pillows. She hadn’t bothered getting under the covers, and he could see she was wearing a white baby tee, and a pair of blue and white plaid boxers.
Mathew walked a little closer, knowing he should just turn around and go, but her beauty captivated him. He stared at her face for the longest moment, sighed, and then started to leave.
He froze. Jessica was blinking, and squinting, and staring at him with a look of confusion, and surprise. “Hi, Jess,” he said softly. “I was just leaving. I didn’t mean to wake you.”
Jessica sat up, and turned to him. She smiled. “That’s alright. I don’t need any sleep anyway. What can I do for you?”
“I just wanted to see you,” Mathew admitted. He walked closer, and sat down at the edge of the bed. He stared at Jessica’s face, and met her gaze.
Jessica grinned. “Why? Did you miss me?”
“Not really,” Mathew answered, and shrugged in mock nonchalance. “Did you miss me?”
“Not at all.”
They laughed together, and Mathew began to relax. Well, as much as he could with Jessica a few inches away on her bed.
“I met your cousin downstairs,” he said. “She seems nice.”
Jessica nodded. “Amber’s a wonderful person.” She smiled. “Let me guess, she wanted to call you Gaylord?”
“Yeah. Why, exactly?”
“She’s a little strange. Her and Alix will get along just fine.”
Mathew smiled, and pushed down on the water mattress. “I love your bed. It looks comfortable.” Then he blushed, as he realized what he’d said. He looked at Jessica who was staring at him with her eyebrows raised. “I didn’t mean . . .”
Jessica laughed, and pushed him back on the bed. “How does it feel?”
Mathew bobbed up and down, smiling contentedly. “I should get me one of these.”
Jessica leaned over the side of the bed, and took off Mathew’s shoes. “There. You should get the full experience.”
Mathew stared at her.
Jessica looked embarrassed. “I didn’t mean . . . ”
“Sarcasm is the key to the universe,” Alix stated.
“Right,” Jade said, rolling her eyes. “Could you please pass the suntan lotion?”
“What were you saying about sarcasm?” Drake asked, smiling over at Alix.
“Do you guys realize that we’ve known each other for like less than a week, and we’re always together?” Zack asked thoughtfully.
“It’s called a foursome,” Alix said. “It’s the wave of the 90′s.” She threw the suntan lotion in Jade’s direction.
“I think Alix is horny,” Drake noted.
“There’s nothing wrong with being horny,” Jade said, rubbing suntan lotion on her arms.
“Hmm,” Alix said thoughtfully, “I wonder. If people were born with horns, would they be considered horny?”
“Probably,” Zack answered. “What if they only had one horn? Would they be unicorns?”
“I wish there were unicorns,” Drake said. “They’re cool.”
“If unicorns existed, they’d be at the San Diego Zoo,” Alix told him. “Either that or extinct.”
“Nu-uh,” Drake argued. “Maybe they just need more horns.”
“Why?” Zack asked.
“That way, they’d be horny, and they’d reproduce more frequently. They wouldn’t grow extinct.”
“Is it just me,” Jade started, shaking her head, “or is this the most pointless conversation we’ve ever had?”
Alix frowned. “I think the most pointless conversation we ever had was the other day when we were trying to decide who’d win the fight between Big Bird and the Cookie Monster.” She shrugged. “I still say the Cookie Monster.”
Drake shook his head. “No way! Big Bird would sit on that blue loser, and kill him.”
“Yeah, in your dreams, bubba!” Alix yelled. “C.M. would beat the crap out of Big Bird, and then eat him for dinner.”
Jade laughed. “Maybe Big Bird’s the eleventh ingredient of the KFC chicken.”
Zack frowned. “Maybe Big Bird is the KFC chicken.”
Alix nodded. “So we all agree? The Cookie Monster rules everything that the light touches?”
“I’m still behind Big Bird,” Drake stated.
Jade rolled her eyes again. “I cannot believe we’re having this coversation.” She sighed, and looked over at Alix and Zack. “So, what’s the deal between you two?”
“The deal?” Alix asked. “Well, he promised to be my friend, if I promised no to tell anyone about his tendency to wear women’s clothing.”
Zack nodded. “I’m still not ‘out’.”
“I’m laughing internally,” Jade said.
Alix grinned. “Note the sarcasm, right?”
Zack got up from the beach blanket, and shook the sand from his bathing suit. “I’m gonna go get food. Anyone want?”
“I’ll take a hotdog, and a Coke,” Jade told him.
“Hotdog and a Dr. Pepper,” Alix said.
Drake got up. “I’ll go with you.”
Jade smiled. “Aww. Isn’t that cute? Zack and Draky are gonna go get the food. That’s the way it should be. It’s the reason men were put on the planet.”
“My macho pride is not amused,” Drake said, and then he walked off with Zack toward the boardwalk.
Jade stared ahead at the crashing waves, and leaned back against the beach chair. “Alright. So?” she asked, turning to Alix, who was lying down on a Lion King beach blanket.
Alix turned on her side, and looked up at Jade through a dark pair of sunglasses. “What may I do for you, Enquiring Jane?”
“Are you and Zack together now?”
Alix shrugged. “I guess.” She rolled over on her back, and leaned up on her elbows. “It’s just weird, you know? One moment I’m boyfriendless. The next I’m going with Zack. I feel like I’m living a dream or something. The past couple of weeks have been like this endless dream.” She shook her head. “I’m still kind of worried about Jessica, too. She’s got this thing.”
Alix was silent for a moment. “She’s been through a lot in her life. But it still took us by surprise when she tried killing herself. Jessica’s not the type. She’s always positive. Always on top of things. I have a feeling it had to do with more than just the thing with her parents. That messed her up, but something else pushed her over the edge.”
Jade raised an eyebrow. “Like what?”
Alix shrugged. “I have no idea. I seriously don’t. I’ve known her for a long time, but I don’t really know her. She’s very open, and very outgoing, but she’s also very secretive. She’s very guarded. The thing is, though, I don’t know how to get her to break that shield, and talk to me.” She shrugged again. “But whatever.”
“So, changing the subject, are you and Zack in denial?”
Alix smiled. “We’re not in denial.” Her smile widened. “I do know of two people who look very much in denial, though.”
Jade shrugged. “Ignorance is bliss.”
“Amen to that.”
Roxanne rang the doorbell to the Heart Mansion. Jessica had called about an hour ago, and said she was back. Which was a good thing. She didn’t like it when Jessica did those disappearing acts of hers. Especially lately.
“Welcome, Ms. Roxanne,” Maurice said, smiling warmly, as he opened the door. “Ms. Jessica is upstairs in her bedroom.”
“Thank you, Maurice.” Roxanne smiled at the man, and started down the foyer, loving the sound of her sandals clattering on the polished tiles. Up ahead, were the stairs to the second and third floors. At the end of the first flight, was a set of French doors which opened to the huge pool outside, and just as Roxanne began climbing the stairs, one of the doors opened, and a girl about fifteen-years-old, with wet blonde hair, stepped inside, wearing a black bikini top, and cutoff jean shorts. No shoes.
“Hi!” the girl cried, smiling brightly. “You’re . . . Roxanne, right?”
Roxanne stopped at the very last step, and frowned. “You’re not Jessica.”
For some reason, that struck the girl as hilarious, and she cracked up. When she stopped laughing, she extended her hand. “I’m Amber. Jessica’s cousin.”
Roxanne shook the girls hand, and nodded. Jessica’s cousin, right. She climbed up the last step, and towered over Amber. The girl was about 5’1″; about seven inches shorter than her. “Right. Right. Jessica’s cousin. It’s nice to meet you finally. I’ve heard so much about you.”
“Good things I hope.”
“Well, keep hoping.”
Amber laughed. “You’re funny.” She gestured to the next flight of stairs, and grinned. “Jessica’s with her boyfriend.”
“Jessica doesn’t have a boyfriend.”
Amber frowned. “Sure she does. Gaylord.”
Amber bit her lip, and looked extremely thoughtful for a moment. Then she smiled. “Mathew.”
Mathew. Roxanne smiled. Of course. Mathew. Who else? “Have they been up there a long time?”
“About half an hour.” Amber’s eyes brightened. “You don’t think . . .?”
Roxanne nodded with mock seriousness. “Oh, definitely. Jessica’s a slut, didn’t you know that? She’s probably slept with every guy in town. Mathew’s next.”
Amber laughed again, but she sounded a little uneasy for some reason. Roxanne decided it was probably just her imagination. She started toward the stairs. “Nice meeting you, Amber.”
“Ditto. Hope you don’t interrupt anything.”
Roxanne smiled, shook her head, and made her way to the third floor, and down the hall to Jessica’s room. As usual, she just stepped inside the room without knocking. Her gaze searched the room, until she spotted Mathew and Jessica. On the bed.
Roxanne grinned, and shut the door quietly. She walked over to the bed, and stared down at the sleeping beauties. Mathew was sleeping on one side of the bed, Jessica was sleeping on the other. There was enough space between them to fit about two more people, and an elephant. Okay. A baby elephant.
They look so cute together, she thought, sighing to herself. Too bad I don’t have a camera handy.
Roxanne bit her lip for a moment. She should just let them sleep, but she really wanted to talk to Jessica about something. And it couldn’t wait. She hesitated a moment, and then leaned down and touched Jessica’s arm.
Her friend’s eyes blinked open. “Rox?”
“Yeah, shhh. Mathew’s sleeping.”
“Mathew’s what?” Jessica frowned, and turned her head. She winced, and turned back to Roxanne. She looked scared for a moment, but then her eyes cleared. “Oh. Right. I remember.” She breathed with relief. “For a second there . . .”
“Yeah. It sure doesn’t look good,” Roxanne agreed. “Listen. I know this may not be the best time, but I kind of have to talk to you about something.”
Jessica yawned, and nodded. “No problem.” She rolled out of bed, as carefully as she could manage, so the waterbed wouldn’t shake so much and wake Mathew, and then followed Roxanne out to the balcony.
They sat down on matching chairs, and Jessica stared at Roxanne expectantly.
Roxanne looked around for a moment, and stared uncomfortably inside the room.
Jessica rolled her eyes, got up, and shut the door to the balcony. Then she sat down again, and leaned back on the chair, propping her legs on the railing. “What may I do for you, Rox?”
“I need your advice.”
Roxanne bit her lip, and leaned forward. “It’s about Alex.”
Jessica nodded. “Uh-huh . . .”
“I don’t know how to phrase this.” She sighed. “Okay. You’re my best friend, no?”
“Yeah.” Jessica frowned slightly. “Why?”
“I mean, best friends tell each other everything, right?”
Jessica looked a little uneasy for a moment, but then smiled. “Of course.”
“So, if I ask you something, you would tell me the truth, right?”
Jessica was silent. Then she nodded. “I would.”
“Okay.” Roxanne shifted uncomfortably. “I don’t know how to ask this.” She looked past Jessica at the palm trees in the distance. Then her gaze landed back on her best friend. “Is the fact that Julian raped you the reason why you haven’t gone out with anyone since?”
Jessica stared at her for the longest moment. “I don’t know how you want me to answer that question. I mean, are you insinuating that there’s another reason?”
Roxanne shook her head. “No. No. I’m just curious to know how it affected you.” She sighed. “I just don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to act. People that know what happened with B.J. keep telling me it’s gonna be okay, and everything, but I’m fine. I’m honestly okay. I’m not saying what happened was something I’m gonna be able to forget in a week or two, but it hasn’t really brought me down.” She sighed. “Okay. That’s a lie. The other day I was pretty messed up. But, the thing that worries me the most is my relationship with Alex.”
Jessica nodded mutely.
“I mean, you know I’ve been totally in love with him for the past two years?” Roxanne continued. “I mean, seriously in love with him. I’m not talking about infatuation, or anything. I know you know what I’m talking about, ’cause I talked to you on the phone about it until like the wee hours of the morning.”
Jessica smiled. “I know how much you love Alex.”
“Right. So, it’s like, I’m in heaven the moment we get together, and then the next day B.J. rapes me. It’s all like, whoa. Hello. Wake up, Rox, it’s a dream.” She shrugged. “But, you know, I don’t want it to get in the way of being with Alex. I don’t want anything to get in the way of my relationship with Alex. He’s like the air to me. I know that sounds retarded, but you know how I am about these things.”
Roxanne sighed. “I just don’t know what to do. Should I let it get in the way of my relationship with Alex? I mean, should it be something so huge in my life, that I become one of those girls that block out everyone and everything? I don’t know what the rules are for this kind of thing.
“I mean, my mom, she’s going nuts. She asks me how I’m doing every five minutes. Dad doesn’t even want to talk about it. He gave up on the lawyer. Now he’s just in denial. My brother doesn’t tease me anymore. He thinks I’m this vulnerable flower. Which just kills our conversations, ’cause you know we haven’t spoken a kind word to each other in like ten years.
“And Alex is wonderful, but I’m tired of his being so damn sensitive about my feelings.”
Jessica laughed at that. “Only you would say something like that, Rox. Only you.”
“No, I’m serious. I just want people to treat me the same way. It’s your fault for convincing me to tell everybody.”
“Trust me,” Jessica said, shaking her head sadly, “it’s better that way. I think the reason you’re not so messed up about it, is because you didn’t have to hide it. Most girls hide it for years. I’ve hid it for months, and would have hid it longer if . . .”
“If I hadn’t been raped?” Roxanne supplied. She nodded. “I still can’t believe that you didn’t tell me about it. I can’t believe Julian would . . . He was such a great guy.”
“He wasn’t such a great guy,” Jessica told her. “You just say that because you thought he was fine.”
“I’m sorry,” Roxanne apologized. “I didn’t mean anything by it. Jeez, of all people, I should be a little more sensitive about your feelings.”
Jessica shrugged. “It doesn’t matter now. It was a long time ago. It’s over and done with.”
“Yeah, but still.” She sighed. “So, what do you think I should do about Alex?”
Jessica was thoughtful for a moment. “Alex is a wonderful guy, and I know that he’s loved you for as long as you’ve loved him. If you honestly care for him as deeply as you claim to, then don’t let him slip out of your grasp. Don’t let the past get in the way of your future.” She smiled, and scrunched up her face. “God, that sounded corny.”
Roxanne smiled. “Thanks, Jess.” She gestured suddenly to the bedroom. “So, how’s it going with Prince Charming over there?”
Jessica looked at the closed set of French doors. She half-smiled. “He’s a great guy.”
Roxanne stared at Jessica for a moment. “You say that with a great deal of hesitation in your voice.”
“I don’t know how to act,” Jessica admitted. “I mean, the last boyfriend I had was, well, Julian, and to be honest with you, I never really loved Julian. He was rich and handsome, and that’s why I went out with him. He made sense to my parents. I made sense to his parents. Together, we made a lot of sense. But I didn’t love him. I didn’t really respect him, or anything. He was just . . . there.”
“And it’s different with Mathew.”
Jessica nodded, and stared at the endless ocean ahead. “I really care about Mathew,” she said softly. “I’m just afraid I’ll screw it up.”
“Why would you screw it up?”
Jessica shrugged. “I don’t know. I’m just scared I will.”
Mathew opened his eyes slowly. Why did he feel like he was floating on a mound of Jell-O? He turned around, and then stared. He shut his eyes, and then opened them again. He had to be dreaming. Jessica was not sleeping beside him. No way. No how. He had to be dreaming. There was no other explanation.
He frowned, reached over, and touched Jessica’s arm. It felt real. He looked around the room. It was almost dark, but he could still see pretty well. He was actually in Jessica’s room. He’d been sleeping on Jessica’s bed. He wasn’t dreaming.
Mathew turned his head, and looked at the time on the alarm clock. It was 7:34. How long had he been sleeping?
Beside him, Jessica stirred. Her eyes slowly opened, and she stared at him with confusion. Then she smiled. “Hey, you.” She sat up, and pushed her hair back with her hand. “What time is it?”
“Seven-thirty,” Mathew answered, shaking his head. “I can’t believe I fell asleep.”
Jessica laughed, and reached over to turn on the lamp. “That’s okay. I don’t mind the company.” She made a face. “I don’t suppose there’s a better way of saying that, is there?”
Mathew smiled, and stared at Jessica’s gorgeous face. How in the world did a guy like him end up with a girl like her? All those wishes at the stars must be coming true, he thought, grinning to himself.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” Jessica asked, staring at him with an amused expression on her face.
Mathew shrugged. “No reason.” He ran his hand through his hair. “I should get going.”
A clap of thunder echoed through the air outside, followed directly afterwards by the sound of rain falling on the windows. They listened to the wind outside, blowing ferociously through the palm trees, and to the raindrops pelting the window panes, which sounded more like small rocks than actual rain.
Jessica raised an eyebrow, and grinned. “Well, I could drive you.”
The lamp beside them flickered, and then shut off. They were left in almost complete darkness.
“Hm. That could be a problem,” Jessica said.
“Well, because the gates outside are powered by electricity, and if we don’t have any electricity, we can’t open the gates.”
Mathew raised an eyebrow. “Electric fences?”
Jessica laughed. “Alright, I just don’t want you to go.”
Mathew felt the waterbed move, and saw Jessica’s silhouette get up from the bed, and walk across the room. A couple of minutes later, a flashlight was turned on. Jessica walked back to the bed, and placed the flashlight on the nightstand. Now they could at least see each other.
Jessica got back on the bed, and sat, cross-legged, facing Mathew. She smiled. “So, what now?”
Jessica laughed. “That’s cute. I like that.”
“You know, I would never picture a mansion without electricity.”
Jessica frowned. “Well, honestly, it doesn’t usually happen. All of Baldwin could be in a total blackout, and we’d have power. It must be a pretty big storm.”
Another clap of thunder rolled through the air, making Jessica jump.
Mathew smiled. “Scared?”
“Course not. I’m not scared of anything.”
“I bet that’s a lie. Everyone’s scared of something.”
“Alright. What are you scared of?”
Mathew hesitated a moment. “Cockroaches,” he answered.
“Cockroaches!” Jessica cracked up.
“They’re gross-looking!” Mathew insisted, watching Jessica roll on the bed with laughter. “Oh, that’s nice. What are you scared of, Miss Rambo?”
Jessica smiled up at him. She was lying down along the lengths of the bed; her right shoulder touching his knees. “I told you, I’m not scared of anything.”
“Liar.” He smiled. “Seriously, what are you scared of?”
Jessica sat up on her knees, and leaned forward, so that her face was inches from his. She stared into his eyes for a moment.
Mathew’s heart started racing.
“Do you really want to know?” she asked softly.
Jessica’s eyes looked sad for a moment, and she ran the back of her hand across his cheek. “Love,” she answered.
Mathew’s eyes searched hers. “Why love?”
Jessica sighed. “Because along with love, comes trust. And trust is my weakness.”
Mathew stared into her eyes for the longest moment, trying to figure out what they held. Sadness. “Who don’t you trust?” he asked softly.
Jessica hesitated only a moment. “I don’t trust myself,” she answered, lowering her eyes.
Mathew leaned forward, and brushed her lips with his. “I trust you,” he whispered.
“I cannot believe we’re stuck in here,” Roxanne said, shaking her head.
Alex smiled apologetically, and finished lighting the last of the candles. “I should stop bringing you here, huh?”
Roxanne half-smiled, and looked around the cave. It was brightly lit with candles, making it look sort of eerie, but at the same time romantic. She could hear the sound of the waves crashing against the cave walls. She smiled. It was sort of relaxing almost. Even with the knowledge that because of the storm outside, they were gonna be stuck in there for a while.
She pushed a misbehaving curl of brown hair away from her face, and shrugged. “I kinda like it here. We’re sort of . . . detached from civilization.”
Alex smiled, and walked over to her. Taking her hand, he led her over to the couch. They sat down, side by side. “So, how are you doing?” he asked.
“Since the last time you asked?” Roxanne looked up at the ceiling in mock thoughtfulness. “Pretty well. How about you? You okay?”
Alex raised an eyebrow. “Are you mocking me?”
He smiled. “Why?”
Roxanne rolled her eyes, and picked up his hand. “Because, my dear Alex, you are annoying me. If you keep asking how I’m doing every five minutes, I’m going to scream. Scream, I tell you.”
“I’m just concerned.”
“Don’t be concerned?”
Roxanne shook her head. “Nope. Don’t be concerned at all. In fact, act as though you don’t even care. It’s sexy.”
Alex stared at her for a moment. “You want me to act as if I don’t care? Are you insane?”
“Actually, I’m getting there. Everytime someone asks me how the hell I’m doing, I’m one step closer to la la land.” She sighed. “Alright. I don’t want you not to care. I just don’t want you to be so incredibly concerned about it. Jeez, I feel like the whole world is waiting for me to have a breakdown, or something.”
Alex sighed. “I don’t know how to act, Rox. I don’t want you to think I’m not being sensitive to your feelings.”
Roxanne smiled gently. “I know, Alex. And I appreciate it, but let’s just move on, okay?”
He nodded hesitantly. “Anything you say, Rox. Anything you say.”
Roxanne leaned forward, and kissed him quickly. “I love you,” she whispered, staring into his eyes. “You don’t know how long I’ve wanted to say that.”
Alex smiled. “I love you, too.” He kissed her. This time, long and passionately.
Roxanne lied back, Alex on top of her. Automatically, she reached for his shirt.
Alex pulled away from her, and stared down at her with a look of surprise, mixed with concern, mixed with hopefulness. “Rox . . .?”
Roxanne pulled the shirt over his head, to reveal his well-built, football player chest. She didn’t know what had come over her, but she knew she didn’t want to stop there. Not now, not after two years of silent longing. She took off her tee shirt, and saw Alex’s gaze slowly move down the length of her exposed body.
Alex sighed. “I don’t think . . .”
Roxanne silenced him with a kiss, and after that, heard no more complaints from him.
All she heard was the sound of the waves crashing against the walls, and the loud, clap of thunder, which seemed to her like one last, final warning.
But by then, it was too late.
“This is creepy,” Alix muttered.
Drake shook his head. “This is way cool.”
“Seriously, do we have nothing better to do?” Zack asked.
“We’re in the middle of a huge thunderstorm, with absolutely no power,” Jade answered. “We seriously have nothing better to do.”
The four of them were sitting around in a circle, in the middle of Jade’s living room, with a Quija board in the center. Candles lighted the small space, and aside from the rain outside, all was silent. They stared at the board for a moment. Nobody moved. Nobody made a sound.
“Okay, so now what?” Alix asked, eyeing the thing nervously. She hated being scared, and she was pretty darn scared right about now, even though they hadn’t even started. Which scared her even more.
A loud clap of thunder rolled through the air outside, making everyone jump slightly.
Jade nodded. “Okay, everyone put their hands on the thingamagig.”
“Oh, that’s a cute thing to name it,” Alix said, putting her hands on the marker, along with everyone else.
Jade ignored the comment. “Alright. We have to ask it a question.”
“What are tonight’s lucky lotto numbers?” Drake asked.
Jade rolled her eyes. “Be serious.”
“I am being serious!” Drake insisted.
“Alright,” Jade said. She made her voice all mysterious. “Is there a spirit with us right now?”
The marker started moving, and they gasped, as they watched it move to the part of the board marked “Yes”.
“What is your name?” Jade asked.
The marker moved to the letter E. Then went on to the letter L. It stopped.
“El?” Zack asked, frowning.
The marker started moving again. It crossed over to the letter V. Then moved over to the letter I. And stopped finally, over the letter S.
“Elvis,” Drake said. “I guess he is dead after all.”
“Okay, who’s the wiseguy pushing the thing?” Jade asked, staring back and forth between her friends.
They shrugged, and looked at each other.
Jade rolled her eyes. “If you’re not going to cooperate, we could just sit here, and watch the rain fall.”
“Okay,” said Jade, sitting up straighter. She closed her eyes. “Everyone close your eyes.”
They hesitantly did so.
Jade started muttering a few unintelligable words, and then finally asked, “Is there a spirit here with us?”
Everyone opened their eyes, and stared expectantly at the board.
The marker moved slowly, and landed over the “Yes”.
“Are you an evil spirit?” Jade asked.
The marker remained in place.
“That means yes,” Jade explained.
“No kidding,” Drake told her.
“What is your name, evil spirit?” Jade asked, ignoring Drake.
The marker moved across the board, and stopped over the T. Then on to the A. Then over to the L. It moved away for a moment, and landed back again on the L.
“T-A-L-L-U . . .L-A . . .H,” Zack read.
“Tallulah?” Drake asked, scrunching up his face. “What kind of name is that?”
“Sounds Indian,” Alix said, shrugging.
“Maybe it’s Pocahontas in disguise,” Drake suggested.
“Shhh!” Jade cried. “Evil spirit, what is it you want?”
They watched the marker move from letter to letter.
Drake leaned forward. “I . . . want . . . to . . . live.”
Jade bit her lip. “How old are you, Tallulah?”
The marker landed on the number 9.
“You’re nine-years-old?” Jade asked, raising her eyebrows. “How did you die, Tallulah?”
“I . . . don’t . . . re . . .member,” Alix read. “Figures. Nine-year-olds have such short-term memory.”
Jade gave Alix a look, and then shook her head. “Tallulah, why did you say you were an ‘evil spirit’?”
“U . . . asked,” Drake read.
“A nine-year-old evil spirit with a sense of humor,” Zack said, smiling. “Cool.”
“You guys are not taking this seriously,” Jade argued. She sighed. “Alright. Now who’s pushing the thing?”
“Well, I was pushing it before,” Zack admitted, “but I didn’t push it this time.”
“Wasn’t me,” Alix said, shaking her head. “Where in the world would I come up with a name like Tallulah?”
Drake shook his head. “Nu-uh. Don’t look at me. It wasn’t me.”
Jade frowned. “Well, I didn’t do it.” She stared at the marker. “Tallulah, if you are indeed a real spirit, what is my middle name?”
The marker moved to the letter N. Then to the letter O. Then moved to the N again. Then to the A. Then to the M. Then to the E.
“No name,” Zack said.
They stared at Jade.
“She’s right. I don’t have a middle name.” Jade was frowning. “This is cool. We have a real spirit on our hands.”
Another clap of thunder made them all jump.
Alix shook her head. “I think Jade’s pushing it. She’s trying to give us a scare.”
Jade rolled her eyes. “Whatever. Okay. Fine. Why don’t you take over, Al?”
Alix shook her head. “No way. This thing’s giving me the creeps.”
“Alright then, so shut up.” Jade cleared her throat. “Tallulah, are you alone?”
The marker landed on the “No”.
“How many are with you?”
The marker landed on 3.
“Are they evil, too?”
“No,” Drake read.
Jade licked her lips. “Who are they?”
“Ones . . . skitz . . . ophrenic . . . D. . . others . . . got . . . growth . . . problems . . . & . . . D . . . others . . . got . . . lop . . .sided . . . boobs.”
“It stopped raining,” Jessica said, walking over to the balcony. She opened the door, and stepped outside. The air was humid, and cool. A strong breeze was blowing from the south, blowing her hair all over the place. She pushed back a strand, and stepped up to the railing. She felt Mathew come up behind her. She felt his arms wrap around her, and she leaned back against him. It was strange how his touch made her feel. Her heart raced everytime he was near. That had never happened before. Not with any other guy. Not with Julian. Not with . . .
“I love this view,” Mathew said.
Jessica smiled. “It’s better when you can actually see the ocean.”
“No, I meant you.”
Jessica turned around in his arms, and looked up at him with an amused grin. “Mathew Collins, are you coming on to me?”
Mathew laughed. “That was my attempt at a line. Did you buy it?”
Jessica thought about it. “Hm. I don’t know. Try another one.”
“I don’t know anymore!”
Jessica shook her head in mock disappointment. “That’s sad, Mathew. What will all the guys in the locker room think?”
“Well, it all depends on what I tell them,” Mathew said.
Jessica laughed, and turned back around so that she was facing the now totally black ocean.
“I should get going,” Mathew said.
Jessica nodded. “Want me to drive you?”
“No, that’s okay. I’ll walk.”
Jessica smiled. “Want me to walk you?”
Mathew turned her around, and smiled at her. “Obssessed, aren’t we?”
Mathew took her hand, and they walked together down the steps to the beach.
“So, Mathew, tell me about yourself,” Jessica said, over the roar of the crashing waves.
“What do you want to know?”
Jessica thought about it, and shrugged. “Everything. What’s your middle name?”
“Xavier,” Jessica echoed. “I love that name.”
Jessica thought about it for a moment. She actually had two. The ones her real parents gave her, and the one her other parents gave her. She decided to go with the one she’d always thought to be her own. “Lexy.”
“Lexy sounds sexy.”
Jessica laughed. “That was cute. Alright, what’s your favorite movie?”
“The Cutting Edge,” he answered.
“That’s a great movie,” Jessica agreed.
Mathew smiled. “Yours is Grease, right?” he guessed.
Jessica stared at him curiously. “How did you know that?”
“Drama class,” Mathew answered. “I just figured.”
Jessica shook her head. “I still can’t believe you don’t like Grease. How can a guy that likes The Cutting Edge not like Grease?”
“Haven’t seen it, actually,” he admitted.
“There’s the eighth deadly sin! How could you not have seen Grease? Tomorrow. My house. We have a date.”
Jessica nodded. “Yep. A date. You and me. And Grease.”
Mathew laughed. “Alright. What about your cousin?”
“She can watch it too.”
“No, I meant, like, how long is she staying? What is she like? How old is she? Tell me about her.”
Jessica sighed. “I don’t know how long she’s staying. I have to call my grandparents, and let them know that I took the liberty of taking the girl out of school, and bringing her here. What is she like? She’s very outgoing. She’s very kind and generous, which seriously amazes me, considering she was brought up by my grandparents. She just turned fifteen last month. Her parents are the biggest snobs on the planet. They travel all over the world, all the time. I don’t think Amber’s seen them in like a year. See, to them, Amber was a mistake, so they don’t really accept the fact that they have a daughter. My grandparents take care of her more out of duty, than actual love. Besides, it makes them look good, you know? People go over there, and my grandparents get to complain about what a problem Amber is. Stuff like that. I’m not saying they don’t care about her in their own way, but they wouldn’t die without her, or anything.”
Mathew shook his head. “That’s sad. What about you? How do they see you?”
Jessica shrugged. “I don’t know. I used to think they loved me, but I’ve reached the conclusion that my grandparents can’t love. It’s like, God forgot to put that chip into their data banks, or something.” She stared at him for a moment. “I’m sure Alix told you everything, right? About my parents not being my real parents?”
“It’s weird,” Jessica said. “To look back at everything in your life, and realize that it’s all a big lie. I mean, my grandparents aren’t really my grandparents. And Amber, isn’t really my cousin. My parents aren’t really my parents. It’s like, I don’t really belong where I am. I’m supposed to be with this other couple, who’s now dead. What am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to feel about that? How do I act?”
Mathew was silent.
“I’m sorry,” she apologized, shaking her head. “I didn’t mean to bring that up.”
Mathew stopped walking, and turned to face her. “Don’t apologize to me, Jess,” he said softly. “Especially about something like that.”
Jessica stared into his loving eyes, and felt her own eyes watering. She walked over to him, and hugged him tightly. He hugged her back. “Mathew, I don’t ever want to hurt you,” she whispered, feeling the tears roll down her face.
“How would you hurt me, Jess?” he asked.
Jessica pulled back, and stared up at him. She swallowed. “I haven’t been faithful in the past,” she said, wiping away her tears. “I’m not the most innocent person around. I don’t deserve you, Mathew. You’re too good for me.”
Mathew reached for her, but Jessica stepped away.
“I’m serious,” she insisted.
“Jess, whatever you’ve done in the past doesn’t matter to me,” Mathew said gently.
“You don’t know what I’ve done,” Jessica told him, feeling depressed and helpless. This was how it had to be. She couldn’t let Mathew fall in love with her. He’d be hurt. She’d hurt him. She knew she would. She’d been an idiot to think she could get over the past.
“Alright, so tell me,” Mathew said. “Tell me what you’ve done, and let me decide if it’s really so horrible.”
Jessica shook her head, feeling miserable. She collapsed on the sand, and stared at the ocean. She felt Mathew sit down beside her. She sighed. “You know about my ex-boyfriend, right? Julian?”
Mathew nodded mutely.
“Well, he was a rich, handsome snob, that cared about no one but himself. When I first met him, I knew he’d be a challenge. It took me a while, but I finally managed to get him to fall in love with me. I didn’t care about him, though. I just wanted him by my side, because everyone else wanted him, and I loved being envied.
“Of course, I would tell him I loved him, and that we’d be together for ever. It was fun for me playing around with his feelings like that. I had him tied around my little finger. We went out for a little over three years, and of course, he wanted us to sleep together, but I would tell him no. I’d explain that I wasn’t ready.
Jessica sighed, and shook her head again, wiping away the tears of shame that kept falling down her face. “That wasn’t the truth, though. I just wanted him to want me even more. I loved the look of lust in his eyes.
She looked at Mathew, who was waiting patiently for her to continue. “I . . . I was screwing around with other guys, behind Julian’s back. The last guy, well, he was Julian’s best friend, and I’d had my eye on him for a while. I practically forced myself on him. I guess I’m not very easy to resist.” She shut her eyes, and covered her face, knowing very well that no matter how badly that sounded, it was nothing compared to the actual details.
Jessica shook her head, trying to stop the tears. She had to continue. “When Julian found out, he didn’t yell at me, or scream at me. In fact, he didn’t even tell me he knew. By then, my parents had been dead for about two years, and I’d changed my snobby ways. But I was still the same, even if no one else noticed.
“The night Julian found out, we had a date to go to this deserted beach. He’d promised me a candlelight dinner under the stars. He was always the romantic. We parked out there, and we set the picnic blanket.” She paused, and took a deep breath. “Then he lost it. He started yelling, and cursing. I broke down into tears. He’d never yelled at me before. And I felt so ashamed. Eventually, though, the shame gave way to fear, because Julian started hitting me. I tried to get away, but he was a football player, there was no way I could compete.” She sighed. “After he grabbed me, and pinned me down . . . he . . . he raped me. I didn’t tell anyone. I knew I deserved it, because of what I’d done. After that, I wouldn’t date any guys. I pushed all of them away. I don’t deserve anyone’s love. I don’t deserve anyone’s trust. Especially not yours, Mathew.”
Mathew looked at her for a moment, and then stood up. “I have to get going,” he said.
Jessica nodded, but said nothing. She didn’t trust her voice to speak. Instead, she watched Mathew walk away into the darkness, taking with him her last spark of hope.
Sunday morning Jessica woke to the sound of knocking at her bedroom door. She pushed her hair away from her face, and ground the sleep from her eyes. “Come in!” she called.
The knocking persisted.
Jessica groaned, and rolled out of bed. She walked over to the door, and threw it open. “What is it?” she asked. A bouquet of red roses filled her view. She drew back, startled.
Mathew stepped out behind the flowers, and smiled. “Good morning,” he said.
Jessica frowned. “Mathew? What are you doing here?”
Mathew looked hurt. “I thought we had a date? You and me. And Grease.” He stared at her hopefully.
“Wait. I thought you hated me?”
Mathew frowned, and stepped into the room. “I don’t remember saying that.” He handed her the flowers. “I’ve always wanted to give a woman roses.”
Jessica took them, hesitantly, and stared at Mathew.
“You know what?” Mathew asked. “I feel a little sleepy. Do you mind if I lie down for a little while?”
Jessica shrugged. “Go ahead.”
Jessica froze. “Julian? What the hell are you doing here?”
Julian Sanchez stepped into the room, and handed Jessica a bouquet of red carnations. Then he pushed Jessica out of the way, and ran over to the bed, where Mathew was already asleep.
“Threesome! I’ve got the middle!” Alix cried, running into the room. She stopped beside Jessica, and handed her a bunch of little flowers. “Here.” Then she jumped on the bed.
“What in the world is going on here?” Jessica demanded, trying to balance all the flowers.
“Whoa, Jess, need help with that?” Alex asked, walking over to her.
“Why are you touching her?” Roxanne yelled, glaring at them from the doorway.
“I was just helping her with the flowers,” Alex said, stepping away.
“Oh,” Roxanne said, shrugging. “That’s okay.” She pulled a red rose from her back pocket, and handed it to Jessica. “There you go.” She frowned. “Um, Jess, why is Alix having a threesome with Julian and Mathew?”
“I have no idea,” Jessica answered dryly.
“My, my,” Lynn said, pushing Roxanne away with the back of her hand. She handed Jessica a bouquet of colorful flowers. “Julian sure gets around, huh?”
Jessica’s eyes flew open, and she sat up. She closed her eyes, and lied back on the bed. It was only a dream, she thought, breathing with relief. She turned on her side, and looked at the time. It was blinking 12:00. She shook her head, and closed her eyes again. Only a dream.
Alix yawned, and parked the car in the deserted Baldwin High parking lot. What in the world am I doing awake at 7:30, on a Sunday, and why, especially, am I in school? she wondered, getting out of the car. She shook her head, and made her way across campus, to the auditorium. This was beyond obsession. That Drama teacher was insane. The woman had called her up, the night before, and asked her to meet her in school, so that they could discuss preparations for her play. Which, had suddenly become the school’s soon-to-be fall play. That alone, was ridiculous.
She yawned again, and pushed open the auditorium door. Ms. Jacobs was sitting on the first row, writing something on a notebook. She looked up as Alix entered, and smiled. “Alix! Glad you could make it.”
That makes one of us. “Glad to be here,” Alix said, and sat down next to the teacher. She stiffled another yawn. “So, what’s the scoop? What do I do?”
Ms. Jacobs smiled. “Well, since we’ve decided to make your play ‘the big one’, we have a lot of planning to do.” She nodded. “First of all, we need to advertise auditions. I’ve already got a few of my drama students working on the posters. I wanted to introduce you to a few people in the Language Arts department. They’re fixing up the play to make it . . .”
“Better?” Alix asked.
“No, not better. Just easier to perform.” Ms. Jacobs smiled, and got up. “Follow me.”
Alix got up from the chair, and followed the teacher out of the auditorium, and down the hall to classroom 103. Her Creative Writing class. How wonderful.
Ms. Jacobs opened the door, and let Alix inside, where she found Mrs. Burns, her teacher, reading the play.
Alix rolled her eyes. This is a nightmare. I must remember to kill Jessica for making me write that stupid thing.
Jessica flipped the channels on her TV absentmindedly. She was trying very hard to stay positive, but it wasn’t working very well.
“Jessica?” Amber called, stepping into the room.
“Hey, Amb,” Jessica said, shutting off the TV, and smiling at her cousin. “How’s it going?”
Amber smiled. “Pretty good, indeed. I was just wondering if you called the grandparents, yet?”
Jessica snapped her fingers. “I knew I was forgetting something.” She reached over, and picked up the phone from the coffee table in front of her. She dialed her grandparent’s private phone line. Reserved for family only.
“Yes?” came her grandmother’s refined voice.
“Grandmother, it’s Jessica.”
“Jessica, how are you doing, darling?”
“I am fine, grandmother. And you?”
Jessica rolled her eyes. “Have you contacted Amber lately?”
“We tried calling her today, Jessica, and we’re aware of your little kidnapping. What is it you want, dear?”
“I want Amber to go back home to her own school. With her own friends. She doesn’t belong in Paris.”
“Well, Jessica, I’m afraid we’re not on the Island at the moment. We’re in London now. If you want, you can send Amber on one of the family jets back to the Island, and I’ll make sure Jacques picks her up at the airport.”
Jessica thought about it for a moment, and gazed at Amber who was now standing out in the balcony, enjoying the view. “Grandmother, I would like permission to keep Amber until Thanksgiving. I will enroll her at Baldwin High tomorrow, if she wishes to stay.”
“Why would you want to do such a thing, Jessica?”
“I love Amber like a sister. I haven’t seen her in a long time. I would like to keep her here for a little while longer.”
“If Amber wishes to do such a thing, then do what you want Jessica. We have never been able to stop you, anyway.”
Jessica smiled. “Thank you, grandmother.”
“Why, you’re welcome, Jessica. Well, I must be going. Was that all, darling?”
Jessica was about to ask whether or not her grandmother knew what her parents were up to, but she decided against it. If her parents wanted to let her know, then they would. Otherwise, she wasn’t going to worry about it. “That was all, grandmother. Goodbye.” She hung up the phone, and got up from the couch. “Amber.”
Her cousin turned around. “What did they say?”
Jessica leaned against the doorway. “Amber, how would you like to stay in Baldwin for a little longer?”
Amber winced, then smiled. “I would love it. Why?”
Jessica nodded, and walked back into the room. “Get dressed, Amb, we’re going shopping.”
Mathew bounced a tennis ball from the ceiling above his bed. He threw it up . . . he caught it. He threw it up again . . . it took a bad bounce, and hit his computer monitor, then rolled under his dresser.
Mathew sighed, and closed his eyes. Jessica. Jessica. Jessica. He turned on his side, and hugged his pillow. Jessica. How could he deny his feelings toward her? How could he erase the feel of her body against his? How could he forget the rapid beating of his heart whenever he thought about her? Whenever she was close.
He sat up, and ran his hands through his hair. What was he doing? What she’d done was all in the past. He had to trust her. He had no choice.
Mathew got up, and pulled a pair of jeans over his boxers. Then he left the house, grabbing the keys to his car in the process. A cool, gentle breeze blew his hair to the side, and once he was inside the car, he smoothed it out with his hand. No point in looking like a boxing promoter.
Jessica’s mansion was a lot closer by way of the beach, but driving there was quicker. So it all evened out in the end. He sighed, as he drove. He had no idea what he was going to tell Jessica. He’d been a jerk the night before. Why in the world had he walked away from her like that?
He stopped the Firebird in front of the guard house, and rolled down his window. The guard tipped the brim of his hat, and pressed the button to open the iron gates.
“Thanks,” Mathew said, and drove down the gravel road toward the front of the mansion. He parked the car in the circular driveway, and got out, walking over to the front doors. He hesitated a moment, and then rang the doorbell.
A few seconds later, the door opened, and Jessica’s butler stood in the doorway. “Good afternoon,” he said.
“Good afternoon,” Mathew told him. “Is Jessica home?”
The butler opened the door wider to allow him inside, and smiled. “Miss Heart is–”
“Mathew?” Jessica asked, stepping into the foyer.
“Over there,” the butler finished, smiling slightly. He shut the door, and then left.
Mathew’s heart leaped to his throat as he watched Jessica approaching. “Hi, Jess,” he managed.
Jessica stared at him in surprise and confusion. “Mathew, what are you doing here?”
“I thought we had a date?” Mathew half-smiled.
Jessica was silent for a moment. “I’m confused,” she said finally, frowning slightly.
Mathew smiled, and walked closer to her. “I’m sorry for walking away from you last night,” he said softly. “I didn’t mean to. I was just . . . well, confused. But, Jess, I don’t care about the past.” He looked down at the ground. “I just want you.”
Jessica lifted his chin up, and stared into his eyes for a moment. “Mathew, I don’t deserve you,” she whispered.
He stared at her, wondering how a person with such kind, loving eyes could have ever done the things she said she’d done. He shook his head. “Then I don’t deserve you,” he said, and kissed her on the lips. She kissed him back, almost hesitantly. Mathew stepped closer, their lips still locked together, his hands on her waist.
The sound of clapping, caused them to pull apart, and turn. Jessica’s cousin was sitting at the bottom of the steps, clapping her hands.
“That was so beautiful,” she said, wiping away an invisible tear. “Do it again.”
Alix stared at the computer screen before her, and blinked repeatedly. Not because she had something in her eyes. And not because she wanted to come on to the computer. But because she was stalling in a major way.
She sat back on the chair, and started playing with her hair. Then she pushed her hair away from her face, and shook her head, sitting up. According to her Creative Writing teacher, the whole entire play had to be made longer, and had to have more characters. In other words, the play had to be totally rewritten by the following day.
The doorbell suddenly echoed through the house, making Alix jump slightly. “Come in!” she yelled at the top of her lungs, pushing the chair away from the desk, and leaving her sister’s room. She looked down the stairs, listening to the sound of the front door opening, and then closing. Two sets of footsteps. A flash of blue hair. A flash of yellow hair. “Do you people have lives?” Alix asked, crossing her arms against her chest, and watching Jade, followed by Drake, head up the stairs.
“We travel in packs,” Jade answered. “We called Zack, but he wasn’t home. Sorry.”
Alix shrugged. “We’re not Siamese twins or anything.” She walked back into Rachel’s room, shut off the computer, and joined Jade and Drake in her room. “So, what may I do for you people?”
Drake was sitting up on her desk. Jade was comfortable on her bed. The two of them stared at her happily.
“We come to invade your privacy and eat your food,” Drake answered, grinning.
Alix sat down on her beanbag. “Oh, in that case you have a problem, because I haven’t gone grocery shopping.”
“You do the shopping?” Jade asked her.
Alix shrugged. “It’s my turn this week. Mom gave me the money, and everything, I just haven’t been up to it.”
Jade and Drake exchanged a look, and then stared at Alix with their unmistakable we’re-up-to-something grin.
Alix read their minds clearly. “No.”
Jade shrugged. “Whatever.”
Drake leaned his head back against the wall.
They sat in silence.
Alix shook her head. I’m not gonna do it, she insisted silently. They think, just because I’m soft, they can push me around, but no sir. I’m not gonna budge. I’m staying right here. She crossed her arms defiantly, and nodded to herself.
The silence persisted.
Alix glanced at the time on her alarm clock. It was 2:45. A minute passed. Another minute. Then another . . .
At 2:56, Alix stood up. “Let’s go grocery shopping,” she said, in a flat, defeated tone.
“Do they fit?” Jessica asked, knocking on the dressing room door.
Amber opened the door, and stepped out, wearing a pair of light blue jeans, slightly too tight for her own good. “I love them,” she said.
Jessica raised her eyebrows, watching her cousin twirl around in a circle. She frowned, and stared at Amber critically. “I don’t know, Amb, don’t you think they’re a little too tight?”
Amber shook her head. “Jessica, don’t you know anything? That’s how guys like them.”
Jessica had to laugh. “Oh, really?”
Amber nodded. “Ask Gaylord. Hey Gaylord!”
Mathew appeared in the dressing room entrance, looking a little uncomfortable. “Are you still calling me that?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.
“What do you think of these jeans?” Amber asked.
Mathew looked alarmed. He sent Jessica a helpless look.
Jessica smiled, and nodded slightly.
“I love them,” Mathew said, with sudden confidence. “They make you look very . . . sexy.”
Amber beamed, and looked at Jessica, smiling brightly. “See?”
Jessica shrugged. “I guess I don’t know anything after all,” she said, shaking her head sadly.
Amber put her hand on Jessica’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, Jess. I’ll teach you everything.” She walked back into the dressing room.
Jessica grinned, and looked over at Mathew who was staring at her. He looked away, shyly, and she walked over to him. When she was close enough, she smiled at him. “Having fun?”
“Shopping with girls is an adventure,” Mathew answered. He smiled.
Amber stepped out of the dressing room, carrying an armload of clothes.
Jessica looked at her. “Ready?” she asked.
Amber nodded, and they walked over to the cash register. The lady standing there, frowned slightly.
“Will that be all?” she asked.
Jessica heard Mathew laugh, and then walk away. “That will be all,” she answered.
The lady, whose nametag read “Meg”, gave her a strange look, and then started ringing in the purchases. When she was done, she looked up. “That comes to $356. 12. Will that be cash or charge?”
Jessica handed Meg one of her Gold MasterCards, and turned around. She saw Amber trying to put a bra on Mathew. She laughed aloud at the sight. Lord, they’re crazy. She sighed to herself. What was it she felt at that moment? It was something strange. Something she hadn’t felt in a long, long, long time. Love? Yes, definitely love. Love mixed in with happiness. How long would that last? she wondered.
“Sign here, please,” Meg said.
Jessica turned around, and signed the slip of paper. She took back her credit card, and the receipt. “Hey, Amber!” she called. “Come take your bags.”
Amber appeared next to her suddenly, and grabbed a couple of bags. Mathew grabbed three, and Jessica grabbed the remaining two.
They left Macy’s, and started walking around the mall.
“So, where now?” Amber asked.
Jessica thought about it for a moment. “Alright, I bought you clothes. I bought new sheets for the bed.” She shrugged. “It’s up to you. I’m done. Whatever else you need, we get. What would you like?”
Amber thought about it, and shrugged. “I don’t know, Jess. I don’t want to sound like a spoiled brat, or anything.”
Jessica smiled. “You are a spoiled brat, Amber,” she said. She turned to Mathew. “I swear, kids today. I have four billion dollars to spend, and the girl’s going shy on me.”
Amber just shrugged.
Jessica smiled again, and handed Amber a credit card. “Go nuts, kid,” she said. “Buy whatever you want. Buy the mall if you wish, but meet us in the food court in about two hours, okay?”
Amber’s eyes lit up. “I love you, Jess. You rule.”
“Right. Don’t go flirting with strange guys!” Jessica called, watching her leave.
“You’re no fun, Jessica!” Amber called back, turning around just to say that, and then walking away.
Jessica shook her head, and smiled at Mathew. “So, what now, big boy?” she asked.
“Can I take those?” her chauffeur, Charles, asked, walking up to them.
Jessica and Mathew handed him the bags.
“Are you stalking us?” Jessica asked, smiling at the man.
Charles bowed slightly. “Always here to make your life easier, Miss Jessica,” he said, and walked away.
“I still can’t believe we came here in a limo,” Mathew said, shaking his head. “I’d never been inside of one before.”
“I still can’t believe we came here in a limo,” Jessica said, half-smiling. She’d wanted to drive to the mall, but Amber had insisted in taking the limousine. Her cousin loved traveling in limos. Not so much because she was a snob, or anything, but because limos attracted attention, and Amber Dryden loved being the center of attention. She was an aspiring movie star/model.
“Are you hungry?” Mathew asked suddenly.
Jessica smiled up at him. “Are you hungry?”
“Maybe . . . ”
She laughed. “Let’s eat.” Together they walked to the food court, which wasn’t very far from where they stood. They decided on Burger King, and when they reached the cash register, Mathew insisted on paying.
“Are you my girlfriend now?” he asked, looking inquisitively in her direction, a smile playing at the corner of his lips.
Jessica raised her eyebrows at the question. “I don’t know. Am I?”
“I asked you first.”
“I asked you second.”
“I asked you first.”
“Yes, she’s your girlfriend,” the guy behind the cash register said, looking at them with a bored expression.
Mathew pulled out his wallet, and paid for the food. Then they walked to an available table, and sat down.
Jessica stared at Mathew for a moment. Was he her boyfriend? The actual concept had never occurred to her. It just seemed a little childish in a way. After all that had happened to her. But she found herself enjoying Mathew’s boyish innocence. It was extremely appealing. Is that why she cared about him so much? Because in a way, he represented everything she felt she’d lost? “I guess you’re my boyfriend now,” she said.
Mathew looked up from his food, and grinned. “Oh, boy.”
“Chips . . . chips . . . ooh, what’s this? Oh, chips.” Jade kept throwing bags into the little cart Drake was pushing. Alix was a few feet behind them mumbling something about being conned into stupidity. “How much money did you say you had?” Jade asked, turning around to face Alix.
“Five dollars,” Alix answered dryly.
“Seriously,” Jade insisted.
“A hundred. Listen, guys, this is very cute, but there’s a list I have to tend to.” Alix pulled a piece of paper from her back pocket. “Milk, butter, bread, ham, cheese . . .”
Jade wasn’t listening. She was putting bottles of soda into the cart, along with more chips.
“You have some obsession with chips, Jade,” Drake noted, smiling slightly.
” . . . mayonnaise, Lucky Charms, apples, grapes, lettuce . . .”
Jade walked over to the next isle, with her friends behind her. “Here are your Lucky Charms,” she called, lifting up the box, and throwing into the already full cart.
” . . . paper towels . . . napkins . . . toilet paper . . . Kleenex . . . Gatoraid . . . Coke . . . Diet Coke . . . Dr. Pepper . . .”
Jade turned around, and looked at the cart, it was overflowing. If she wasn’t careful, they’d go over the limit. Even though she doubted very much that there were a hundred dollars worth of junk food in there.
” . . . a gun, pen and paper for my suicide note, toilet bowl cleaner . . .”
“I think that’s pretty much it,” Jade said, nodding in approval at their groceries.
Drake parked the cart in one of the lanes, and started taking the stuff out.
Jade grabbed a magazine, and against the rack, flipping through the latest issue of YM. She loved the “Say Anything” part.
“The total comes to $85.78,” the lady said, staring expectantly at them.
“Ah, Jade,” Drake said.
Jade looked up from the magazine. “Talk to Alix, she’s got the money.”
“Well, actually . . . ”
Jade frowned, and looked around for Alix. She was nowhere to be seen. Finally, she spotted Alix standing outside, waving through the plexyglass windows, and sticking out her tongue. Bitch, Jade thought, putting the magazine back in its place. She pushed Drake out of her way, and darted out of the supermarket. Alix had seen her, and was already running across the shopping center.
Jade was laughing to herself, as she ran after her friend. Why the hell am I running? she wondered, but didn’t slow down. She saw Alix run into Walgreens, and Jade followed her inside. By then, she’d stopped running.
Jade looked around the store. People stared at her curiously for a moment, and then went on with their lives. She started walking up and down the isles. Where is she?
“Hey Jade!” Alix called.
Jade turned around, and saw Alix standing outside the automatic doors. How does she do that? Jade shook her head, and gave up running after Alix. She walked out of the store, and made her way back to the car, where she found Alix and Drake, leaning against the VW.
“Gum?” Drake offered, shoving a pack of Mint-a-Burst in her face.
Jade frowned. “You bought gum?”
Drake shrugged. “It was the only thing I could afford,” he answered. “Besides, I felt bad not buying anything.”
“Zack!” Alix cried suddenly.
Jade turned, and saw Zack walking up to them. Zack and Alix hugged, and then kissed. Aw. Aren’t they cute? Suddenly, she felt a pang of something in her heart. It couldn’t be jealousy. Who was she jealous of? She didn’t like Zack. And, well, Alix was a little out of the question, unless she’d been kidding herself the past eighteen years.
She shrugged, and stared at Zack and Alix. She needed a boyfriend . . . badly. She leaned back against the car, and took a stick of gum from Drake. But who?
Jessica sat on her couch, not really paying attention to Grease, as it played on the TV. Mathew was lying across the length of the couch, his head rested on her lap. She ran her hand through his hair from time to time.
Roxanne and Alex were sitting off to the side, both of them on the floor; both of them looking extremely happy, and extremely in love.
Alix and Alex’s brother were sitting on the other side, looking pretty happy. Jessica couldn’t remember seeing Alix with a boyfriend, so the sight of her best friend sitting next to Zack was pretty interesting indeed. Especially, since they kept holding hands every so often.
Nina and Leslie were also there, looking very much in love, and very comfortable in each other’s presence.
Amber had left as soon as she’d noticed everyone else seemed to be coupled off.
Jessica smiled at the sight of all her friends together. Everyone was happy. Everyone was in love. Is that was she was? In love? She looked down at Mathew, who was watching the movie attentively. He turned his head, and looked up at her. She smiled, and bent down to kiss his lips gently.
Yeah, she was in love.
But how long would all of this last?
Wednesday after school, Roxanne found herself in the doctor’s office. She looked around, as she waited for Dr. Brooks to come in.
The walls were covered with diplomas and awards. She was glad to see that her doctor had graduated high school. Somehow, that felt reassuring.
Roxanne twirled a curl around her finger, as the boredom started getting to her. She’d already told the doctor the whole entire story about B.J. She’d been alone in her house. B.J. came. She broke up with him. He went nuts, and raped her. Alex got there in time to beat the crap out of B.J., but a little too late to stop the inevitable.
The doctor had listened, and nodded in understanding a few times. He’d examined her thoroughly, and now Roxanne was waiting for the results. She was aware that this was normal procedure, but she couldn’t help worry. Maybe she was dying. Maybe she’d gotten AIDS or something like that.
She shuddered at the thought, and ran her hand over her hair nervously. Then she shook her head. I’m worrying over nothing, she assured herself, nodding.
The office door opened, and Dr. Brooks, a man in his mid-thirties, with brown hair, and glasses, stepped inside. He sat down on the desk across from her.
The look he gave her, let Roxanne know that something was wrong. She froze.
“Roxanne,” Dr. Brooks said gently, “we’ve found a little something in the tests . . .”
* * *
Jessica turned her head, as the door to her room burst open. Then she frowned, and turned off the TV, dropping the remote on the couch cushion next to her. She stood up. “Rox? What’s wrong?”
Roxanne was leaning against the closed door, sobbing hysterically. Jessica had never seen her best friend looking so messed up. She ran over to her. “Rox?” she asked. A sudden chill crept through her spine.
Roxanne stepped forward, and hugged her tightly, crying on her shoulder.
Jessica hugged her back, confused. “What’s wrong? Rox?”
Roxanne pulled away, and tried wiping her tears, but more kept pouring out. She leaned back against the door, and slid down to the floor, hugging her knees to her chest.
Jessica’s heart stopped right then. Oh, God. She kneeled down across from her friend, and tried to meet Roxanne’s gaze. It didn’t work. Her friend’s eyes were blank, void of emotion. She was shaking uncontrollably, and Jessica began to panic. “Rox . . .”
Roxanne’s lips trembled, but her eyes finally locked with Jessica’s. “I’m pregnant,” she whispered.