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DITCH

Summary

“Just because the main character in a film or in a book says ‘I love you’ doesn’t make it a romantic love story.”
Avalon “Ave” Michaels

 

Ave Michaels is a high school student and resident rebel by day. 
But secretly, she goes by  Lane Maxwell, aspiring writer and soon-to-be the youngest bestselling author of one of the country's biggest publishing house. That is, if she gets the job.

THE JOB: WRITING A ROMANCE NOVEL

If there was one thing Ave knows best, it's how to avoid heartbreaks and other relationship dramas. She even made a rule out of it - one that had saved her countless times. The DITCH rule. 

Can a cynical commitment-phobe who had never fallen in love write a romance novel worthy of recognition? 
Who knows.
But then again, inspiration comes in unexpected ways - including from three drop-dead gorgeous surprises!

All of a sudden, she finds herself questioning everything in her life, every decision she ever made so far – including her rule.

Could her DITCH rule really be as heartbreak-proof as she thought it was?  
Or was it the thing keeping her from letting herself fall in love and getting the guy?

The Story So Far

“Just because the main character in a film or in a book says ’I love you’ doesn’t make it a romantic love story.”

Avalon “Ave” Georgine Ainsley Lange Michaels, the romantic-cynic.

Ave Michaels has never had her heart broken. Ever.

Scratch that.

She had never fallen in love. Ever.

In fact, she had had it with love – and with men in general. As far as she knew, they come and go as fleeting as a flies.

And though most girls her age had gone through the teenage affairs of love and heartbreaks, she is content minding her own business as a free independent and emotionally vacant soul.

Of course, Ave has problems like any girl her age, namely:

·High school dramas

·Wardrobe malfunctions and bad hair days

·Lacking female sensibilities

·Being the black sheep in a picture-perfect family

·Social awkwardness

·Liking the wrong guys

·Being friend-zoned by said guys

The list goes on. But then again, Ave is not just a high school student and resident rebel.

To a relative few, she is Lane Maxwell, aspiring writer and the youngest next bestselling author for one of the country’s biggest publishing houses.

That is, if she gets the job done.

THE JOB: WRITING A ROMANCE NOVEL…

Sounds easy, right?

Turns out writing a romance novel worthy of recognition is hard. And for a cynical commitment-phobe who had never been in love, it just gets harder.

Taking the advice of her friends, she comes up with a list. A list where she gets to walk down the memory lane and recall what went wrong with all the guys she dates and the things that were right (for research purposes, of course!) all with the goal of keeping her heart out of the mix. And though that plan was perfect, she never expected trouble (and inspiration) comes in three drop-dead gorgeous surprises.

All of a sudden, she finds herself questioning everything in her life, every decision she ever made so far – including her rule.

Could her DITCH rule really be as heartbreak-proof as she thought it was?

Or was it the thing keeping her from letting herself fall in love and getting the guy?

 

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Warning: Slow Updates. Occasional re-editing. Some profane language. Mature-ish scenes.

All the characters in this book including their town are all works of fiction.

Disclaimer: I do not hold the rights over the original image on my book cover. The picture belongs to photographer, Brandon Woelfel who took it during a Four-Photographers-One-Model Challenge on YouTube.

Copyright © 2019 by Andrea Cassandra Lei Meñosa

All Rights Reserved.

Words

Dear Reader or Anyone Who Just Happens To Come Across My Story,

Do you ever feel tired and afraid of the possibility of being rejected, dumped or just being plainly ignored by the guy you like? If you are, then maybe you just might relate to this book.

If you have a tendency to have trouble in the love area, the commitment area and the trusting area – welcome.

If you are a weird, crazy, getting caught in daily awkward moments type of person looking for leisurely humor and sarcasm, you have come to the right place.

My main character-slash-heroine, Ave, thinks she’s solved the problem of never giving up her heart on a stake. With a past riddled with rejections and witnessing heartbreak around her while growing up, Ave would rather not end up as anyone’s hopeless dumpee. So what does she do? She comes up with the perfect one-word philosophy to avoid heartbreak and easily move on. What it is you may ask? (Clue: It’s the title of the book;))

 That’s right, it’s called the DITCH. So when a guy is just not interested in you, don’t be the fool to hang there with flies in your mouth while he goes out with another girl. In other words, move on while you still can.

And it works, well that is in Ave’s case. With a record of zero heartbreak, she is what you can call a jaded a pathetic veteran badass when it comes to love. So it comes to mind. Is her DITCH rule really all that it’s caught up to be, even when it’s the only thing keeping her from letting any guy close enough?

Ave is about to find out soon when she finds herself tangled with not just one but three guys. Will it be with the rare kind of guy she can call as a friend? Will it be with the school’s heartbreaker and number one player? Or will it be with the mysterious new guy in town with his own secret agendas?

I am having so much fun writing and building up the foundations of the story, its setting and its characters – especially Ave’s. She might seem to be a rebel, selfish, a bit insensible but really she’s something else (I don’t want to reveal anything too soon ha-ha!). But I have to say this, like any person, she has a past. It had shaped her to be who she is now along with her reluctance to feel deep feelings for anyone aside from friendship. And that’s when her life gets shaken up.

DITCH is more than just another teenage love story. It is a romantic coming-of-age story with a strong and stubborn female lead and an interesting ensemble of characters who are more than what meets the eye. Of course, it won’t be complete without the struggles and challenges that our heroine has to face.

Ave might think that all she needs to do is make the list and write the book. But along the way, she might discover more of herself than she bargained for and must make decisions for herself if she really wants to grow and be the person she is supposed to be.

P.S. Story is still in the process. I have no clear schedule of my updates and I can be a grammar-nazi sometimes so constant re-editing and re-updates are eventual and unavoidable. I am still not sure of how I want my story to go so feel free to critique or comment and please be patient.

                                                                                                            Yours Truly,

                                                                                                            Lei André

 

 

 Copyright © 2019 by Andrea Cassandra Lei Meñosa

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof

may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever

without the express written permission of the publisher and writer

except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

 

 

“In Which the Story Unfolds”

 

“Too many guys think I’m a concept, or I complete them, or I’m gonna make them alive. But I’m just a fucked-up girl who’s lookin’ for my own peace of mind. Don’t assign me yours.”

Clementine Kruczynski, Eternal Sunshine on the Spotless Mind.

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If I tell you a story, would you dare read it?

And if you would, I wonder how should I tell you?

Should I regale you of a tale of two star-crossed lovers? Lovers, who, by the funny tricks of time, met in a busy street under a starry night sky – or a train to Vienna. They get caught up in a whirlwind fantasy where romance blooms as poets write and sigh in ecstasy. The way their eyes met and suddenly long hidden emotions evoked within them. Sensations spreading, coursing through them and like sparks, flying sporadically, they felt their lives were shaken completely. Yet, like fireworks exploding in the sky, so beautiful yet briefly times, like shivers and goose bumps, their love came and went like the wind. Like embers from the flames, they float apart, nevertheless, half-hoping they would move on and half-hoping for fate to let their paths meet again.

Hmm, maybe something modern – and less whimsy?

Like a road trip or a gap year – any journey to self-understanding. A bar, even. You both meet – bada-bing-bada-boo! – sparks were flying everywhere. At first, that person would relentlessly annoy you, turn your life upside-down and make you question everything around you. But then, slowly, that person would make you smile and laugh to the corniest of jokes because being with them was like welcoming the sun to your dark gray world. That person plays along to your quirks and suddenly you find yourself falling until such time that person leaves you and you realize it was only you who assumed everything.

So many stories to choose from and so many lives to see and be heard.

If I tell you my story, would you dare read it?

And if so, how would you feel – and what would you think?

Let’s find out, shall we?

First and foremost, this is not a love story. It never was.

No. In fact, it’s much, much more sinister than that. It is the vilest and scariest of all things to have existed.

This is a story… about love.

HAHA got you there!

For a minute, I may have sounded like 500 Days of Summer. Which isn’t foregone at all, though this story is not about a girl named Summer.

Nope. I’m gonna be serious now.

This is a story about a girl named Avalon. Ave for short. Who – wouldn’t you know it? – just happens to be me.

How did that happen?

Weiird.(Cue in, rolling of eyes.)

And this is the story of my life – more specifically my last year in high school.

Okay, before you roll your eyes and say, ‘not again, not another high school drama’ or ‘child, not everything is about high school’. Well, too bad. Like any teenager my age, life as I knew it begins in high school. After all, it’s like a rite of passage where you meet and greet with the younger versions of assholes and bullies before they dominate the real world as adults.

And again, this isn’t a love story. And by that I mean, a romantic love story. (There are different kinds of love so I might as well be specific).

No.

Scratch that off the list.

Life is more than just romance. It has friendship, family, humor, drama, action, mysteries, betrayal, secrets, adventure, youth, uncertainties, mistakes, life lessons, climate change, existentiality issues and – oh, what the heck! You’ve got me – Romance.

But really, just because the main character says, “I love you” doesn’t make this a romantic love story. Most times they’re just words.

But before all of this, let me share a story. It goes into the classic line of …

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Once upon a time…

 There was a young princess who grew up believing that someday a dashing prince would arrive on a white horse and sweep her off her feet and away from her sad lonely life. She would fantasize everyday on how they would race on a path of rose petals and towards the sunset view. One day, a prince arrives in a form of a handsome young man. All it took was one glance and she knew, right there and then, that he was her prince. She tried everything she could think of to gain his favor. She wore the prettiest of gowns, dons on the finest shows, sprits on the most fragrant of perfumes. She even wore rouges and other maquillage to enhance her lovely features. However, it seemed that the prince showed no inclination that he fancied her – much less noticed her. Still, this did not discourage her though. Instead, she took it as a challenge to try even harder. She tried to learn his story, listen to his every tales, know his likes and dislikes in hopes that she can mold herself to be the perfect one for him. Weeks passed and they grew closer together. When the time arrived for the prince to leave, he called the attention of everyone and announced that he has fallen in love. Imagine to her surprise and horror, when he takes not her hand, but her cousin’s hand. Devastated, she wanted to run away at that moment but duty forced her to stay and wallow in heartbreak. She congratulated the two while all in the inside she wanted to scream at the world for the injustice for her scorned love. She wanted to hate her cousin for stealing him from her. She wanted to hate herself for falling and feeling betrayed. But then again, she never really had his heart to begin with for it had already belonged to another. It was her fault for assuming that every tiny bit of attention he gave her meant something more.

 

She then knew, then and there, she wasn’t the princess.

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Sad, isn’t it?

And no, that girl wasn’t me.

That girl is nothing more but a work of fiction meant to manifest the crushed hopes and dreams of every little girl inside every woman out there who thought of themselves as fairy tale princesses to begin with.

Of course, come to think of it, I was never much for Prince Charmings. I’m more of a warrior. A fighter. A girl who can fight her own battles because nobody else would.

Little girls are all led to believe that their lives are fairytales in a big giant storybook with the eventual clichéd happily-ever-afters accompanied by an orchestra of violins and a piano playing at the background while they race the sunset and the screen goes blank.

And then here’s where I come in.

Let me tell you, first and foremost, waking up sweaty and tangled with a one-night stand who has the body heat of a furnace was never my cup of tea. Plus, the fact that you’re sporting a hangover, near-sighted ‘coz your contacts are missing and without a clue of anything that happened the night before (whether you enjoyed it or not, if it was just a series of grunting or actually the best orgasm of your life being the highlight) is what I would call a complete FUCKING mess.  And that says a lot considering my life is already a mess of things.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have any qualms against one-night stands. Hell, it’s better than going over a date with a guy who may or may never call you back. Mostly never in my case. At least, with one-night stands you get the ‘deal’. No questions asked. No strings attached. No, nothing. Wham-bam! Thank you, man! Nice meeting you – let’s not make it a repeat. Good luck with your future endeavors. Wink-wink. Horse-shoe emoji.

Of course, there’s the precaution of being safe (but that’s already in the realm of common sense so we’ll skip that.)

Then there is the walk of shame. I can tell you, that within the first five minutes of waking up, I have devised different scenarios in my mind on how to get over that awkward morning after-call.

I’m not a slut or anything. I don’t even exactly do this type of thing. But hey, what’s done is done. Isn’t that what they all say? No, just a few? Not even one? Okay, just me then.

Now you might be wondering ‘Oh no, what the fuck is this? Where’s the formal narrative storytelling for this shit?’ Two-five minutes tops of reading just to get to this scene right here with this crazy girl who’s out of her mind talking to no one in particular.

Well, let me tell you – again, the second time around. I am crazy. Period-period. And in this story, I am the fucking heroine!

All those musings about love at first sight, those rom-com chick flick tropes and fairytale endings aforementioned have a point. And that point is…dramatic ‘Shape of Water’ meets ‘Before Sunset’ and ‘When Harry Met Sally’ opening.

Just kidding.

So, where was I? Oh, right. Current naked situation.

In case that’s not already obvious, I’m not really expecting much from this ‘thing’ right here – except getting the fuck out here.

Nope.

Nada.

No thank-you note or breakfast in bed. No morning kisses, forehead, Eskimo kisses, or whatever-kisses there are. No expectations of waking up and facing this stranger next to me straight in the eyes and be suddenly overcome with this urge to profess my love or seeing him again at the corner of a street where we continue where we left off and be assaulted with all this sexual tension until we decide to make it official.

Now that I think about it that is stupid. Even if I want to – and I don’t – I can’t see him again. I don’t have my glasses or my contacts. And – I’m crazier than I already think I am!

To be honest, I’m the least believer of romance in real life – especially romantic clichés. And why should I? I don’t see the point of seeing life through rose-colored glasses or living it out like a Hallmark Movie Channel.

But that doesn’t mean I’ve closed all doors on romance. And no, I’m not eating my words from earlier!

I do enjoy reading romance novels and watching romantic chick flicks. Again, reading and watching.

Basically, anything with a semblance of romance in them is good for me. What can I say? The idea was too addictive not to entertain. Still, I have my limits. Romance was fine but I prefer to leave it next to unicorns, leprechauns, faeries and any thought that was far, far away from reality and closer to the paranormal section at the local high school library.

I mean, come on. Let’s be real.

A guy won’t be that shameless, stupid or plainly serious to sweep a girl off her feet. Nope. They’re too lazy for that (they’d rather lift dumbbells with their head) and too arrogant to even sacrifice or offer a blow to their ego just because they can’t handle the risk of being rejected. And yup, I’m talking about the fucking mind games.

The game.

The Playing-It-Cool Game. The Will-He-Won’t-He Call-Me Game.

And ooh, my favorite! The Ghosting Game.

Honestly, I think it’s a bother. And a complete waste of time.

That’s why I came up with this rule.

DITCH.

Yup, you heard me. I’m not kidding. It’s really the name

DITCH as in Ditch him, he’s not worth it.

Look at it this way, you like a guy or a girl – or both, I won’t judge – and let’s just say they aren’t that interested.

Then let me ask you this, why waste your time chasing after someone, hoping just maybe one day – one fucking day that may or may never happen – that person may like you back just the same?

Why chase someone who never wanted to be chased in the first place?

Why be the fool who have to change herself or himself just to suit that person, settle as their second best and always the one to grovel on the ground trying to catch the tiny drops of that person’s affection?

Why delude yourself to the possibility that the two of you could end up together, and when it didn’t, you wallow yourself in perpetual sadness and pain?

How many times must you hurt yourself for you to see that enough is enough? That you are not a desperate person, rather you are a rational, wise and a dignified human being?

Why be the one who gets left behind when you can be the one who got away?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not as ugly or hideous that typically causes guys to blow me off just because they’re shallow dicks who are much more concerned of what society views as pretty.

In fact, I’m passably pretty though I don’t really play the field that well. To be honest, I suck at it. Probably because I suck at observing and recognizing social dating cues.

Plus, I’m intimidating as fuck – you may write that down as being a bitch. (Go ahead, I support you – insert Ru Paul in drag).

And so, people aside from my small group of friends tend to steer clear of me. Although, secretly deep down, I’m just a socially awkward person who prefers to be surrounded by her own group of friends – but I’d rather die and kill everyone than admit to that.

I’m not a good girl who takes shit from anyone either.

I used to but then I realized life’s already full of shit so I might as well give as good as I get.

I’m not a helpless damsel in distress who needs saving or a nerd that gets constantly bullied by the stereo-typical popular kids just like in the books and movies.

To be clear, I’m the opposite.

I’m what people may call in this small town as a rebel.

A deviant.

A ne’er-do-well person who will never amount to anything in this society.

If there was any person who has the words ‘NOT TO BE FUCKED WITH’ caps-locked in a signage with glowing neon letters in front of them, that would be me. I am prone to break rules, wreak chaos and naturally disregard any forms of authority.

Frankly, I just never gave a shit.

But really, if you’re basing a person more on who they actually are, like my very few darling friends, overlook my hard rebel shell and you’ll see that I’m just like any normal teenage girl you’re gonna get.

I get bad hair days, wardrobe mishaps, subscribe to Rebel Circus quotes, bitchfights and being a disappointment to my family (oops!). Of course, not many normal teenage girls have suffered from ADHD (also known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), lacking feminine grace or the most basic social skills.

Like anyone else, I have my baggage – demons – that I would just love to drown. And yet here I am.

But back to my oh-so-golden rule.

DITCH.

Don’t wait for flies to hang around in your mouth. When the signs are telling you he’s just not that interested, jump ship! In other words, to dumb it down, MOVE ON WHILE YOU STILL CAN!

And trust me, from a girl who never had to have her heart broken, it might just be the solution you need.

If that doesn’t convince you, then I guess there’s no better way but to go all the way back to the start.

Once more – before I finally finish untangling myself from this Man of Steel’s death grip and go have a trip down to memory lane – just because the main character says, “I love you” doesn’t equate for a love story. Most times they’re just words.

This is not just a love story. I don’t think I would ever know if it was. It never was.

 

“In Which Fairy Tales End”

 

“O, to be sure, we laugh less and play less and wear uncomfortable disguises like adults, but beneath the costume is the child we always are, whose needs are simple, whose daily life is still described by fairy tales.”

Leo Rosten

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’I love you. You don’t know how much I really love you,’ she whispers, her voice rasped and her words halting.

‘Back at you, darling.’ He grunts, the years of acclimation to their home clear in his drawl.

She lifts her head from his chest, her expression clearly sullen and lips pouting. She looks at him pointedly.

‘Even after so many years, you still can’t say it directly,’ she scoffs, her voice humorous yet hollow. She rests her head back to his chest, breathing in his cool minty scent. By now, she can imagine him rolling his eyes – as he had always done when she’s in one of her ‘moods’. She sighs, burrowing her face deeper to his chest.

He groans before mumbling what could be heard as ‘I love you’.

Almost like lightning, she lifts her head to face him again. ‘What did you say?’

‘I didn’t say anything,’ he grumbles, his eyes looking away.

She frowns, pouting again. ‘Right’.

His eyes flicker at her frowning face and mumbled a what-the-heck before saying in a clearer tone. ‘I love you.’

She turns to him disbelievingly. He turns away.

She narrows her eyes and scoffs. ‘Like I would believe you. You can’t even look at me when you say it.’

He doesn’t respond and her expression turned smug.

‘Knew it,’ she whispers.

He surprises her by facing her again, his face serious, his eyes determined. He lightly strokes her cheek. His gaze searched for hers and when they locked her in, slowly he says, ‘I love you.’

As he gazed at her awestruck expression, he felt what he has sworn he had always felt.

Like clockwork that had suddenly stopped, its tiny little gears changing course, turning further and further back into time until suddenly it stopped – to that exact moment they had first met.

The first glance of the eyes as they felt their souls connect.

The prickling sensation as sparks flew from the very ends of their hair from a simple touch.

Each tinkling sound, like music weaving the air into its own private melody. And then the gears went rolling again – back to its original course. Like a montage of fragmented memories, of images, of sensations and of sounds.

All leading back to her.

All about her.

With him.

Together.

He hums silently, a lullaby he made just for her, watching each tear that flowed down her cheeks in wonder like a man who had just seen rain from years of drought. He caresses her face, savoring the fine-lined satin-like feel of her skin while brushing away the tears. She caresses his too, stroking the soft tendrils of hair that frames his face.

He smiles. So does she. Or at least she tries to.  

He urges her to lean closer until his lips brushed the tip of her ear. Softly, he whispered the words he had saved especially for her. Words that carried with them his final breath. Words for her and her only. Even in his final moments, he wanted to give her what remains he has of himself. Of his existence.

And then the gears finally stopped.

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I watch as my grandma keel over.

Her old and weary knees shaking from the impact while her arms never left their tight embrace over the man she had always loved. The man who was now lying lifelessly on the sterile-white sheets of the hospital bed.

My grandfather.

I listen as the doctors discussed his time of death and back to my grandma’s heart-wrenching cries as they faded away over time. It’s in these moments that I felt so helpless, so useless. It’s in these moments that I felt so disconnected to everything around me until all I see is a series of vignette pictures of events and all I hear is a low ringing in my ears. My only consolation was my dreams. But I doubt even this would take my mind off of everything that happened.

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FLAP… FLAP… FLAP, goes the sound of fabrics whispering.

I open my eyes and flinch at the sudden assault of the light. I sit up from my comfy position on the reading nook by the window. I look around the room, momentarily admiring its calm and gentle ambience before realized I was the only one inside.  

I glance at the curtains that flap restlessly at the chilly autumn air until my eyes land on a lonesome figure. I trail my hand over my shoulder as it comes into contact with a warm blanket. Grabbing it by its ends, I wrapped it around me as I traipsed along the doors that led to the balcony.

Silently, I stand next to her by the tiny balcony of our old townhouse and stare down at the endless seas of red and rust-colored leaves falling and skirting the trees and the softened mud. I watch the leaves pirouette in the cold icy wind, their warm golden hues dancing in a variant cadence from gaiety to nostalgia.

I remember frolicking at the park, ignorant of the cold temperature, standing under the trees and watch as the leaves dance towards me like fairies of the old. I can still feel the rough-strewn veins on each leaf that fell on the ground, still hear the soft crunching sounds they make as I step on them.

I reach my hand out into the air, as if I was picking a stray leaf on the ground and then I dropped it. Even until now, I still can’t bring myself to pick up a leaf.

As if the thought of it was wrong.

That somehow, a part of me knew that it wasn’t mine to take.

That it solely belonged there. As a remnant.

A part belonging to what once was a memory of summer.

Before the world is covered in a wintry embrace.

I turn my attention back to my grandma as she stands motionlessly with her eyes closed. I stretch my arms and wrap them around her, letting the blanket cover us both.

I think back to the countless conversations we had shared in the past. The sleepless nights spent listening to her stories after stories, watching her talk animatedly and reminisce about her younger days.

I recall her telling me about her life with my grandpa. How it was kismet for the two of them. I recall her telling me that someday someone is going to look at me too with a light in their eyes and look at me like I’m everything they’ve been searching for their whole lives.

I like to believe that it would happen, someday.

Just as everybody does.

Wouldn’t you?

The moment you see that person and suddenly it wasn’t just your eyes that met. Your soul sees his and you find itself saying, “Oh, there you are, I’ve been looking for you. Complete me.”

And just like that, everything seems to move in slow motion before a moment of impact as if it had always been like that. Everything centers on that person until the moment you meet in the middle that the aftermaths of the impact as if in a slow motion seems to fall into place. Exactly where they should be.

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Or at least until they reach the age of sixty or seventy where they finally had enough of each other and all that’s left is the hope that one of you finally pulls the plug or be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s so you could forget ever meeting or being married to each other. Because let’s face it, this is reality and in reality there’s no such thing as a ‘happily-ever-after’.

Hmmm… yeah. That sounds way better.

TICK... TICK,       I click the mouse.

The tapping on the keyboard goes on, its soft but subtly striking sound echoing in the nearly vacant room. Just outside my room, a muted hum from the vacuum cleaner being turned on could still be heard despite the thick walls and French windows in between.

VRRR… VRRR… VRRR, the vacuum goes on with its annoying mono-rhythmic noise.

The sound goes on getting louder and louder, eliciting from me as I struggle to concentrate on the screen before me.

Verdammt! What kind of people would vacuum by the pool at two in the morning?

It’s ridiculous!

Of course, I had to ask for the unfortunate obvious considering they’re my family.

They were always obsessed with having everything spotless from the ceilings down to their collection of prized china. It wouldn’t surprise me if they insisted on vacuuming the driveway or their perfectly manicured lawn.

What’s that? A shred of leaf on the grass?  (gasp) Unforgivable! It simply isn’t done! Maria, vacuum it, pronto!

 I can just picture one of them threatening to fire some poor live-in staff if they find a speck of dirt on their precious ornaments.

I clenched my jaw, my teeth grinding at the irritating noise. Even as I wear my headphones, they still couldn’t block out the noise. I swear the guy who sold this to me owes me my fifty dollars back!

I tap furiously on the keyboard, hoping to drown the noise with work.

Okay, where was I?

I scroll to the upper part of the page, scanning at the last few paragraphs.

Right, back to the reality part.

Stretching my fingers, I close them and crack my knuckles. I listen in satisfaction as my tired joints pop. I shake my head from side to side, try some cricks out. I rotate my shoulders, loosening up some tensions from last night’s overnighter.

  Yup, that should do the trick!

I aim my finger to a key. It wasn’t long before I found myself in a rhythmic pace again that I begin to get lost in my work...

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       “Have you ever thought that your life could’ve been different? That somehow in the very whims of fate, we could actually live differently? A life where you’ll actually have a normal home to warm your cold wandering heart, a family to welcome you with the most bone-crushing hugs and most of all, be always told that you are loved. In short, a normal life. Now, would you?

For so long I have believed that in this world, life favors the practical ones while fate? Fate is better off sealed and locked inside a trunk at the bottom-most part of the sea along with other foolish childhood dreams better left buried and forgotten. Because whether we want it or not, life doesn’t give a shit if you trip, get caught in a fire or cry in the middle of the night. Life doesn’t stop for anyone. It goes on until we find ourselves as a momentary speck of dust in an indifferent and infinite universe. And the sooner you grow up and realize this, the better.

            So why should I waste my high school life wasting my time with parties, getting drunk and getting caught up between teenage dramas for an illusion? I had so much better use of my time-“

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Suddenly, the screen goes blank. And all hell breaks loose.

“In Which Reality Comes In”

 

“Sometimes reality comes crashing down on you. Other times reality simply waits, patiently, for you to run out of the energy it takes to deny it.”

Taylor Jenkins Reid, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

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Welcome to Belle Mont.

Population: five thousand four hundred and sixty… four? (Psych! I don’t have any idea. I’m not the fucking CSO!)

Just your average – relatively small but tightly knit – and charming village just south of Ardsley in Westchester County, New York. Known for its urbane sophistication, it is the ideal place to start-up and raise fine bright and upstanding citizens to make the world a better place. (Insert snort) Now for everyone, it would seem like the perfect life: friendly community, the best educational system, perfect homes – just the plain perfect life.

That is, if you count being a village mostly driven by people from the white-collar class bracket who live in fancy homes, drive luxury cars and pride themselves of living the picture-perfect families of the American Dream as humble citizens. And by tightly-knit, you get a place where everybody knows each other and ridden by gossips, backstabbings, rumors and more rumors. Of course, being different or nearly perfect doesn’t help either – nobody was safe from this plague that seemed to run over the land. Aside from its charming lake and sceneries, it might as well be the only thing that keeps this town afloat. Something to talk about that would distract from their own shitty lives.

Okay, that was a bit too waspish – pfft! (Insert inside joke) – for the day to start. Though if you were to live here for the last three years, well you’ll begin to think the same way as I do – or even worse.

Let me start again.

It was seven forty-five AM.

The sun was shining. The birds were chirping up in their nest on a tree beside my bedroom window. But for the people of Belle Mont, the day has just barely begun.

Sounds of front doors opening throughout the neighborhood of Silver Crest, greetings of ‘good mornings’ and ‘hellos’ resound through. The slow hum of lawn mowers trimming paths all over their lawns, leaving behind them newly-cut grass with the morning dews still clinging to their blades. Just imagine flying a drone to get an aerial scope and you’ll probably see endless rows of green and freshly-manicured lawns despite the blistering after-effects of a summer drought. Sounds of vehicles pass through as well as the tinkling of bells from the local paperboy while the neighborhood dogs bark in their wake.

Yes.  It was just a perfect morning to start a brand new day and make a good difference in the world!

Not the sarcasm.                                                       

As if that ever happens to me – much less start happening to me. Take right now for example.

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Just fuck it.

Fuck. My. Life.

Scheisse.

I, Ave Michaels, have reached another level of a yet another fucked-up day.

And who wouldn’t be, considering the shitty start of my morning. Make that, since last night’s events.

It all started with a sudden power breakout in my neighborhood. With barely a couple of hours left before midnight, I had settled into a comfortable workflow. Tapping endlessly on my laptop, I had finished tweaking some slight errors on the latest of my manuscript and even had time to indulge myself into some creative writing for fun.

Not that anybody has ever read of it though. Of course it was just something for me to vent out in, a secret place for a piece of me to escape in this barely bearable reality of having to be follow this constant madness called sanity.

And now, it sits on my clustered work table, unfinished and unsaved.

If my thoughts can only be amplified out loud, the whole neighborhood would be shaking and glasses would be breaking by the piercing intensity of my mental screams.

As if that wasn’t enough, I’m running late. Literally.

My alarm clock just had to decide it was the right time to pull the plug. Why couldn’t it just blow up? At least that would’ve waked me up.

I barely had time to do the well-known bed stretch when I remembered the time.

SCHEIß.

Damn, damn, damn.

I only have forty-five minutes left!

In my haste, I fall down my four-poster bed and on my naked ass. The next thing I know I was staring at my ceiling.

Ouch.

I rub my lower back, hoping to put some relief on it. Why the hell did I even think that a simple fluffy carpet was enough to counteract the hardness of the engineered-hardwood flooring? I should’ve added more bean bags.

Okay no time to wallow in pain.

I get up and snatch my robe from the chair beside my bed. The travelling time from my house to the village proper was only ten minutes. I could just get my bike and-shoot! Verdammt! I forgot I had it fixed at The Garage.

There goes my plan.

Oh, what the hell.

That’s it, thirty minutes.

That’s the only time I need to shower, get dressed, put some makeup on so I won’t look like a lifeless corpse, grab a toast from the kitchen and drag my sleepy ass out the front door.

Yeah that could work, I nod, reassuring myself.

I turn to the wall clock by my flat-screen TV. 7:50 AM.

Shit! No time to lose!

I take my phone and open my clock app.

Verdammt, why didn’t I use this instead last night?

That’s right, coz I was too stupid to do so! I shake my head. Well, no use bitching over spilled milk now.

I tap the timer app, setting it at 10 minutes.

Okay. Time… set, GO!

I rush to the bathroom. Not bothering to check my zombie-like appearance in the mirror by the sink, I hang my robe by the door and jump right into my claw-foot tub. I grab the shower head and turn one of the knobs, scalding myself with the hot water. I grab a loofah hanging by one of the knobs and my favorite shower gel from one of the built-in shower shelves. I squeeze an adequate amount on the loofah then scrub every inch of my body.

After making sure every inch of me was wrapped in soap suds, I rinse them off, loving the smell of berries and spice after the evening rain and the silky-smooth feeling of my skin.

Too bad, I can’t stay in my shower forever. With a sigh, I turn the shower off.

Shower, check!

Next, getting dressed.

I reach for my towel only to feel nothing but air. Fick, forgot my towel!

Brushing off droplets of water from my body, I climb down the tub in nothing but my birthday suit.

It’s not like anybody can see me anyway.

I go over the sink and open a drawer beside it. I pull out a small case containing my contacts and carefully –with careful as a generous word – applied each lens to my eyes.

ARGH, it stings! I cry for a bit.

Once that was done, I pick up my toothpaste and squeeze a generous amount on my toothbrush. I rapidly brush my teeth, the foam forming a Santa beard around my mouth and chin. I gargle the foam inside before spitting. I take my robe by the door and went out of the bathroom.

Ignoring the small puddles of water made by my feet, I step into my closet walk straight to the rack by the left.

I open the drawer and grab a simple loose black V-neck shirt and a pair of light-washed cigarette jeans. I reach to another drawer beside it and take out a pair black of bra and panties. I take off my robe and let it drop around my feet.

In a methodical manner that would’ve made the US Army proud, I put on my underwear then my shirt, making a knot at the bottom, and jeans before leaving the closet.

Clothes, check!

Hair and makeup – still in the process.

I rush to my antique vanity dresser with its intricate designs lining the mirror’s edges and appraise my face.

Yeah, I’m gonna need a couple of minutes to take all the eventual shock in.

Just slowly take a pee-GAH!

Why do I keep scaring myself so early in the morning?

 I cringe at the pallid complexion of my already pale alabaster skin. My long dark ash-grey hair was in disarray. The areas around my hazel eyes were dark and slightly puffy.

I eye my colorless cheeks and pale pink lips in disdain.

I groan.

UUUGHH. This needs a lot of work.

And here I thought all I needed was a lip and cheek tint and a couple of swipes of mascara and eyeliner.

Okay, shock over. First, the face. Ze canvas. La cara, mi lienzo. 

I gather up a bottle of tinted moisturizer, my trusty creaseless concealer, dark-brown gel-liner, cocoa brown eye shadow, blush and my pierce-du-resistance, a tube of lip tint.

I pick up my brushes. I can do this. It’s just like those makeup tutorials on YouTube – only I have to do it like I’m on a time-lapse.

Let’s get started!

Ten minutes later, I lean back and assess my face once again. The dark shadows underneath my eyes are almost non-existent, my hazel eye color as well as their upturned shape are emphasized by the gunk I applied on my eyes. My eyebrows are full and nicely shaped. My cheeks and lips are no longer pale but have a pleasant rosy color – with my lip tint having a gradient effect on my lips and giving them a just-recently-sucked-a-cherry-lollipop effect (no added sexual innuendo to those dirty-minded people – wink-wink).

It’ll do, I nod to myself. It wasn’t like I’m going on a red carpet event or anything.

RRRING…RRRRING, I almost jump at the alarm on my timer.

Scheisse!

I open my jewelry box and take out my leather wristwatch, some black beaded bracelets, a thin braided leather wrap-around bracelet and my favorite go-to Alex & Ani charm bracelet.

I tie a small black satin-and-lace ribbon choker with an intricate rosette charm dangling in the middle on my neck.

I lift a random bottle of perfume and sprit a bit on my wrists, elbows and neck.

I cough as the mist caught at my throat.

 I raise my hands to my long damp hair, catching whiffs of my perfume’s sweet and spicy floral scent. I try to finger comb it. When that didn’t work, I pick up a brush and try to make the stubborn strands conform to every stroke. Ugh, even my hair is a rebel. I don’t know if I should be proud or not.

Verdammtnoch mal!

I glance at the wall clock. 

Forget the hairdryer! I might as well let it dry naturally.

Like a bird’s nest.

After a hurricane blew over it.

In the Amazon forest.

I slip on my favorite brown-plum Timberland boots that I have left by the foot of my bed last night.

I rush to the door, snatching my customized leather-and-canvas satchel bag and faded ripped denim jacket on the way.

Once I was outside the safety of my room – with room as an understatement considering it’s the pool house–I dash around the pool and to the front yard. Hey, I think I can make it after all!

 I was safely by the front gate when I hear a stern coughing sound behind me.

“Ahem.”

Or maybe not.

I whip my head around. “Daisy,” I force a smile.

Standing in front of me, barely reaching my shoulder was my family’s most trusted housekeeper Daisy. I wasn’t exactly sure when my family exactly employed her. All I knew was that she was long working here before I got sent into this hellhole.

She was slender in stature, her short wavy hair peppered with grey streaks. Suspicion hovers over her kind warm face and brown doe eyes. Her posture was stick-straight as always, her black cotton blouse was crisp always with not a wrinkle in sight. Same goes to her white cotton slacks. Her sensible black leather flats were spic and polished, a thin silver bracelet was the only adornment on one of her dainty wrists. Even when her thin lips purse, they can never hide the laugh lines wrought on either side showing she had lived the past 50 years of her life in laughter.

“The mistresses will be coming down for breakfast soon. Would you like me to set your plate up in advance?” she inquires, always so formal.

I frown at the mention of my aunts. Not really a fan of their sermons or their nagging and self-righteous lectures of what a Darrell much less a proper young lady must act, blah-blah-blah. I inwardly roll my eyes. I didn’t waste the last thirty minutes rushing up and about for nothing!

“Gee,” I pretend to look at my watch, tapping the small glassy surface. “Look at the time. Maybe next time, Daisy. Bye.” I make a slight wave as I turn my back to her. I make a move for the gate. I turn the knob and opened it ever so slightly.

“I knew you were gonna say that. That’s why I prepared this,” says Daisy.

I turn around just in time to catch a glimpse of the mischievous glint in her eyes before they disappear. She holds out a black paper bag to me. I take it from her, glancing through its small opening to find a few finger sandwiches inside it.

I look at her questioningly. She must’ve understood my question before I said the words when she explains further.

“Your breakfast. Don’t worry, it’s Nutella and banana slices as well as ham and grilled cheese. I know you have a certain dislike for cucumbers. Also, I included some apple for your fruit and a bag of skittles.” She adds a conspiratorial wink.

I give her a cheeky smile in return. Leave it to Daisy to know my food preferences – and by that I mean junk food, chocolate, anything sweet, spicy and high with calories – over my family’s tasteless vegan ones. Of course, she was one of the very few people who ever cared what I eat or not to criticize what and how much I eat.

What can I say? I love this woman!

I walk towards her and peck her cheek. “You’re the best. Thank you.”

She chuckles at my display of affection.

As far as everybody in this household was concerned, I wasn’t the type to show my affections to just any member of my cold pretentious family. And yes, I consider Daisy as family.

“Hm,” Daisy clears her throat, reverting back to her housekeeper-mode. She brushes some nonexistent dust off my shoulders in a maternal gesture. “Well, best get you going. I already had Peter ready the car for you. He’ll drive you to school in time.”

I chuckle and walk straight out of the door.

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‘Where are you?’

The preview read as I as I scroll down my messages. I tap the box ‘Tea’ and see three more messages containing the same three words.

I quirk my lips. Leave it to Tia to be the sensible and upstanding student with the perfect attendance on her school record. It was still an unsolved puzzle of how two unlikely personalities like us could fit.

The model student and the rebellious most-likely-to-dropout-soon student.

The angelic saint and Rosemary’s demon spawn.

That’s us.

Of course, that didn’t stop the teachers to hope she would eventually rub off on me. To set an example over my deviant ways. They gave up a year later when I still stayed the same.

‘Coffee Day. Went to grab some coffee.’ I watch as my username, ‘Rebel’ pop up with my reply.

I sip the hot liquid down my throat.

Okay, you might be wondering what was the use of me rushing around in my room trying not to be late and yet end up here. And yes, to those lucky few who guessed it right, I wasn’t worried about school. I mean come on, a rebel worrying about being late for school? Isn’t that a bit incongruous? I, for one, am not a person to tarnish a sacred title.

Anyways, today was a local coffee day. In this special holy day, every café in the village offers a steaming cup of coffee for half the price and free refills.

I mean, come on, only a fool would pass that up!

Of course, having that steal of a deal means certain sacrifices. For me, it was waking up earlier than usual before the whole place is packed in.

Peter, the family driver, a stocky man in his late forties had just reached the village proper and on the route to my school when I had him stop over to the first café I have seen. I grab one last sandwich, leaving the rest for him as I hopped out of the passenger seat and went directly inside the café. I made an order, found myself staring at an exquisite piece of heaven and the rest was history.

Aaah, I sigh. Nothing beats a nice freshly-brewed cup of coffee. No. Make that, a nice free refill of a freshly-brewed cup of coffee.

 I take another sip and moan.

Tea: Really?!Coffee?! Class is about to start in ten minutes!!!

I sigh and set my mug down the wooden table.

Rebel (Me): Relax. I’ll get there eventually. Ish. P.S. What’s your poison?

Tea: Tell that to Crankston. Forget coffee. Quiz – remember?!!

Honestly, I can barely remember.

I try to recall the class from yesterday. It was something about Roman history, then some ridiculous bullshit from the teacher and additional blah-blahs and shit from the rest of the class. Really, it was a hazy memory, too mundane to even earn a lasting part in my mind. I didn’t tell Tia that though. She might give me a mouthful of sermons for not paying attention in class – again.

I return my attention back to the cup of heavenly ambrosia on my table and take another sip. I tip my head back, savoring the heady flavor.

I open my eyes to see the barista who served me earlier standing sideways from me. He shoots me an amused smile.

“Anything else I can get you?” he says.

He was kinda cute with a boy-next-door charm about him. His twinkling blue eyes and crooked teeth show a goofy look about him. And he wasn’t bad from the body area too. He was lanky but there was a hint of some muscles.  His hands and the inside of his wrists were slightly veined, probably from all the work with the coffee machines.

I don’t know about you, but that was a bit of a turn-on.

Insert, bitch-Woof!

I was still staring at him when he asks again.

“Miss Darrell? It’s Darrell, right? My buddy over there,” he nods at the other barista working from the counter, “told me he saw you once at the Founder’s Ball.”

And like that, I felt a splash of cold water hit me. Wait, make that caffeine shooting through me.

Great, one of them, I mentally groan. Not that anything’s new.

I check him out. Probably a new resident or a clueless snoop. Not that either one would make a difference.

As far as I know, I’m the invisible and mostly overlooked member of my family. That, coupled with a different last name and my appearance, no one would ever guess I was a part of my ever-elegant and sophisticated blood relatives.

“Anyways,” he says, pulling me back to reality. He tousles his sandy brown hair, his expression sheepish, “I was just wondering that is if you’re free or anything, you would want to go out sometime -maybe catch a movie– with me?” he adds, hopefully.

Uh-huh, that’s cute.

I give him a bored look, my eyes sizing him in what one might call the elevator-stare before settling them on his face again. I raise an eyebrow as if saying, You gotta be kidding me.

He shuffles at his feet, obviously getting the hint that I have no plan to answer his question even more go out with him.

Rebel (Me): ‘On my way.’

I didn’t bother to look down my phone as I send the text and down the last of my coffee – my mood spoiled. I still stare at him, challenging him to say something.

He mumbles a quick excuse before going back to the counter.

Yeah, you better go.

The stare-down victory was short-lived when another message pops up.

Tea: What a relief.

I can still make out the sarcasm in the text as Tia rolls her eyes. I curl my lips at the picture.

I pick up my bag and walk straight out the door. I put on my BT headphones and connect it to my phone’s Bluetooth when-OOMPH

I bump into a wall of bricks – wait make that a hunky wall of a human being judging from the cottony surface of his shirt– on my way out. I hardly looked at his face but that didn’t stop me from staring appreciatively on his well-built chest.

VRRR…VRR, I feel my phone vibrate.

Scheisse,” I breathed and proceed to unlocking my phone, seeing another message from Tia.

“My bad,” I call out behind me while I make a short trek to school.

YAY!

Kill me now.

“In Which Reality Is a Teenage Purgatory Known as High School”

 

“High School. Society’s bright idea to put all their aggressive, naïve youth into one environment to torment and emotionally scar each other for life.”

Chris Colfer, Struck By Lightning: The Carson Phillips Journal

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“Tenenenen ten-nuhn,” cue the bass, “Twih-twih-twih” then the guitar again, another ‘twih’ from the bass then both of them. Lastly add in the drums and altogether now, enters Joe Strummer with his signature scat.

Hoo! Ala! Darling you gotta let me know, should I stay or should I go?”

I mouth along to the chord progression of The Clash’s Should I Stay or Should I Go, my fingers itching to twiddle like I’m playing on an air-guitar.

It was the perfect tune for the view in front of me.

Belle Mont Scholastic High School. It was also infamously known as Belle Mont’s very own teenage purgatory.

A place of learning where every kid is taught and reared to be mindful and ready to the life reality – and college – has to offer ahead. It was a place of never-ending high school drama that is borderline cliché. It was also a place where integrity, teamwork, excellence and diversity are easily overshadowed by petty status quos, stereo-typed cliques and after-school buy-outs.

Even its students weren’t any better. The majority of them were more concerned of the latest trends of who has the better car, who has the latest iPhone model, who has the longest holder for credit cards or how dangerous it would be to get caught in last season’s Prada or Gucci. Though that’s just merely scratching off the surface.

The vapid part is how your social status is determined by how big and deep your ‘daddy’s’ wallet is, what type of car you drive and which gated community you come from. Also, let’s not forget about dressing and looking the part.

Typical kids from a white-collar neighborhood really.

Too bad I don’t have a ‘daddy’ or even give a shit about keeping up appearances.

I trek along the massive parking lot, passing some expensive cars on the way. Not that I care, I can only name a number of car brands within my two hands. I gave a light sidekick to some Volvo.

BEEP… BEEP… BEEP, its alarm system resonates.

Oohhh-kay, shouldn’t have done that.

I snicker.

Well, at least when no one’s inside making out to scare.

I ignore the beeping car. I slump my shoulders at the sight of the ‘proud and fine’ institution before me. Its steel-plated name along with the school logo plastered at the top of the main building gleaming at the daylight.

I’m not really looking forward to seeing a bunch of students with their self-entitled air around them – not that all students are like that in general. Besides, the school wasn’t really all that bad. In fact, it was impressive in its grandeur.

Keeping up with the modern times, Belle Mont Scholastic High’s structures took their inspiration from the Bauhaus architectural style – most importantly from Gropius’ own Bauhaus building.

Hate to say it but it’s damn remarkable with its modern functionalist design and almost twice as big as Kodiak but half the number of students enrolled. With its strong unified form and its changing perspectives consisting of tiled rooftops, steel frameworks and reinforced concrete bricks, it was an institution stripped of chaos and built on strong clean lines. I can’t believe they turned a piece like this into a school – make that a public school.

A public school full of self-entitled rich kids. Ain’t that a great setting for high school dramas and reality TV shows?

Why hasn’t anybody called the Kardashians yet?

Uh-oh, I think I know were North West is gonna go to school in. somebody call TMZ! Just kidding. She lives in California, anyway.

I make a quick turn to the right, not bothering to enter the grand entrance and head straight to the school garage around the corner.

Standing by the steel-paneled garage doors, a dark-skinned man in his late forties was nursing a half-lit cigarette. His olive-green overalls looks like it had seen better days for about a decade ago when it was not starched too much or littered with stains. He takes one last puff before snuffing the cigarette butt on the ground with his shoe. He lifts his hat and places it on his head, adjusting it over his short salt-and-pepper colored hair. He looks up and narrows his sunken-eyed gaze in my direction.

“Hey, Ave!” Wilbur, one of the school janitors, waves me over.

Approaching the tall gangly man who carries a tobacco-stained smile on his thin narrow face, I smile in return. I take off my headphones as I stop a few feet from him.

“Hey Willie, how’s it hanging?” I ask, raising my hand for high-five to which he responds.

“Same old same old.” He rolls his eyes, his weathered brows shooting up in mock exasperation. “But, hey, a job’s a job,” he shrugs, stuffing his hands inside the deep pockets of his overalls. “I gotta go clean up another mess. Somehow one kid thought it would be funny to rig the AC with pepper spray in Mathers’ office yesterday. They’re still trying to find the kid responsible for it.”

I smirk slightly and give him – what I hoped to be – an innocent look.

He shoots me a knowing glance.                        

I sigh and drop the act.

“That’s stupid. Every student knows it’s better to die than to be a narc.” I remark. Except for those willing to commit social suicide, I decided not to add on.

“Never said they had any brighter ideas than that,” he chuckles, causing the air to fly toward me, his breath still carrying the scent of nicotine. He nods at my bag, “Where you off to anyways?”

“Class. You wouldn’t happen to be charitable and help a kid here get to her class?” I bat my eyelashes at him.

Willie just shakes his head, used to other female students pulling the same puppy-dog eyes at him. He pulls out another cigarette from his breast pocket and puts it in between his lips. He takes out a lighter that he got from his other breast pocket.

With the cigarette still securely wedged between his lips, he asks, “Depends. Who’d you get?”

He lights up his cigarette and takes a short drag as he ponders on my situation. I wait silently as he does this.

“Crankston.”

“Ugh.” He says. He wrinkles his nose and blows a smoke in disdain. He wasn’t too fond of my pathetic excuse for a World History teacher.

My sentiments exactly.

“Well, it won’t be cheap. What’cha got for me?” He turns his head from side to side, looking out in case someone walks by on our ‘shady dealing’. He leans closer, his eyes staring straight into mine.

I grin.

The advantage of knowing the janitors is that they can hook you up with almost anything in school and get away with it. This includes open passage inside the school for latecomers like me. It’s like an underground mafia smuggling scene – school style with students instead of prostitutes or stolen organs. That is, if you know the right price.

I pull out a paper bag with the café’s logo emblazoned on it. I hand it out to him.

Eyeing me still, he takes it from me. He opens the contents as if to check if there is something inside aside from shredded paper.

“Your favorite, of course.” I say as he still inspects the inside of the bag.

“Bear claws, skittles and coffee?” He looks up to me, looking like a child being handed the key to a candy store. He gives me another toothy grin. “Kid, you spoil me.”

I shrug, batting my eyes at him again. “Anything for you, Willie. Hallway clear?”  I wiggle my brows at him.

He tucks the bag in his arm. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a tiny remote. He clicks the button and one of the garage panels open – big enough to fit a single car driveway.

“Already did a double-check. You’re clear to go.”

“Thanks, Willie. Wish me luck.” I tell him as we do another high-five before I go on and enter the garage.

“G’luck, kid! “ He calls after me. “By the way, you should know, I would’ve helped you out even without the bribe.”

I turn around to meet the sly look in his eyes and match them with my own. I smirk impishly.

“And I could’ve tampered with the fire alarm,” not that I would. I don’t want to risk being at the mercy of Tia’s wrath for making her miss a quiz that she studied for. “But I didn’t and I still would’ve given them to you anyway.” I shrug and proceed inside. I hear him bark in laughter from behind me.

I pass through the endless arrays of model cars and motorcycle. Spare parts of engines were placed by the tables that lined the sides of the room. Wrenches, Pliers, hammers, pry bars and other doohickey auto tools which I barely care to learn their names hang on hooks that were wedged tightly to the corkscrew boards plastered in the wall.

The lights slightly flicker, shining over the smooth white linoleum floors. My boots make a silent squeak at y every step. The room for Crankston’s class was only five classrooms away on my left.

The advantage of entering through the garage.

My playlist plays another song. This time, it was Rebel Rebel by David Bowie.

Doo doo doo-doo doo doodoodoo

Doo doo doo-doo doo doodoodoo

Doo doo doo-doo doo doodoo doo…

 

I love this song! Hands down, one of my classic favorites. I bop my head slightly to the rhythm.

“Rebel Rebel, you’ve torn your dress,” I lip-synch to the voice of the great White Duke.

Rebel Rebel, your face is a mess

Rebel Rebel, how could they know?

 

Hot tramp, I love you so!” I pumped my fist upwards, two more classrooms and I’m at Crankston’s class.

Oh, joy.

Sarcasm. Pure sarcasm, right there.

Suddenly, a hand clamps on my shoulder and drags me to a nearby secluded corner before I can react. The force of the movement makes my headphones slide down to my neck. He wraps an arm over my shoulders and pulls me closer. From the way he’s breathing on the top of my head, he was taller than me.

I slip my phone into my jacket pocket. The song from my headphones sounds off like a distant humming in the back of my mind.

Instinct takes over me.

I twist my abductor’s hand, not to break it but to apply agonizing pressure on it. Judging from the yelp of pain behind me, I was on point. Smiling darkly, I twist my body around, taking his arm with me until I was behind him. He struggles in front of me, twisting violently to free arm from my vise grip. I chuckle in amusement at his poor attempts. I twist his hand again, forcing him to bend his back an inch or two to have him at face level with me.

In a low voice, I whisper to his ear. “Nice try. You better have a good explanation for me to try to sneak-Was zum Teuful!

WHAT THE FUCK!

Taking my surprised reaction as an opportunity to catch me unaware, he tugs his at his arm again. Bad news for him, I don’t get disarmed that easily. My grip on him is still as tight as ever. I twist his arm even more.

He grunts in pain and settles to shoving his hand at my face.

“Why you little-“ his hand covers my mouth before I can say whatever curse I spit at him

“SSHH, do you want Crankston or Mathers to find us?” He whispers matter-of-factly.

I scowl.  As if that explains why he just suddenly decided to grab me and drag me at a dark corner!

“Owie, my wrist.” He wheezes.

I exhale heavily and let go of his arm. I raise my hands to show him I don’t mean any further harm.

Emile steps back a couple of feet away from me. Puffing at the few blonde strands that fells lazily on his wide baby-blue eyes, he rolls his gaudily-printed Versace sweatshirt to his elbows. He rubs his wrist while shooting me a glare as he does so. Like it’s my fault!

“Don’t look at me like that.” I warn.

He puffs again and raises his straight nose at the air, expecting me to apologize. As if!

“You know how I don’t take surprises lightly.”

He purses his lips, knowing all full well that it was a given fact. I do not like surprises. Ever.

I stare at him for a second. He guiltily avoids my eyes. Always the lady.

 I sigh and try to change the subject. “What are you doing here, anyways?”

He looks at with a poor-me face, his pout even more pronounced. His eyes are solemn. Oh shit. Emile doesn’t look like this unless it was serious.

 I wait intently. It’s not like he was in serious trouble, right? It was, after all, still the first week of school. Too early for him to be expelled or something. If anything, I still hold record of being the first to be suspended in this school.

“I’m…” He swiftly pulls out a long handkerchief from his tan Armani pants and daintily wipes at his eyes. He sniffs as he looks at me, “late.”

And like that, the suspense was over. All form of sympathy I had for him instantly vanished into thin air as I roll my eyes.

I scoff, crossing my arms. “Well, nothing new there.”

Emile opens his mouth in protest but pauses and thinks about it again. His eyes darting upwards from left to right and vice versa. He looks at me with a sheepish expression and titters, “Well you’re not wrong there, anyhoo back to the serious part,” he looks at me stolidly, “Crankston announced that he’s gonna have a quiz and if I’m late I won’t get to enter the room. If I can’t enter the room, I can’t take the quiz,” this time panic laces in his tone, “If I can’t take the quiz, I’ll have to take detention and remedial!” He pauses, fanning his face and taking short frantic breaths. He holds his hands up in helplessness, “And you know how they would confiscate our phones in detentions. Now, imagine that happening to me-moi, of all people! My social life will be at stake!” He wails, clutching at his chest as he thinks about his ‘imminent doom.’

Always the drama queen.

“Meh,” I merely shrug and start walking around the corner and straight to Crankston’s room, “not my problem. Later, Em” I wave impassively, my back facing him.

Sadly, Emile didn’t get the memo that I didn’t give a shit. He clamps his hand on my shoulder again. I grunt and grab at his hand.

“Please Ave, “I pause and brush his hand off instead. I reluctantly turn around and meet his steady gaze. He puts both of his hands on my shoulder and leans towards me. “I need your help. Think of my followers! My rep? They always expect something fun, fresh and exciting from moi. I can’t disappoint them.”

He lets go of my shoulders and cradles his face in another attempt to sway me.

I puff out. Why me? Why couldn’t there be another friend of ours around – an actual good friend who would gladly help him? I’m supposed to be the bad friend, for fuck’s sake. We all know that. I had dibs on that spot.

Somehow friendship bites me in the ass again and again.

“Why are you even late anyway? Don’t you carpool with Jhett like almost every day?”

Now that I think about it, where was Jhett? Jhett was always one of the firsts along with Tia to arrive in school due to his swim club’s morning practice for the season.

Emile’s lips pucker into a moue, his expression sulky. Now that is new. I wonder what happened between him and Jhett. The two always acted like they’re conjoined twins at the hip or two co-dependent species who can’t live without the other.

Jhett,” Emile sniffs, wipes at his eyes again with his handkerchief as he recounts to me his sad tale, “ditched me when I hooked up with some random guy at a club last night. He didn’t even have the courtesy to wait for me. He just upped and went away like he wasn’t leaving his very best friend in the whole wide world behind. I’ve been taking the cab since.”

“Huh,” I fix him an unconvinced look. A likely story. I narrow my eyes at him, “When you mean by ‘you’,” I make an air-quote with my fingers, “leaving with the guy, you were referring to Jhett, right?”

He scoffs, clearly offended at the claim.

Though Emile was the self-professed ‘slut’ – his preferred word, not mine – in our group of friends, it was mostly Jhett who gets to take the guy home.

Although, I wouldn’t be surprised why.

With his impressive bone structure, high cheekbones, a jaw for days and his swimmer’s body, any guy would snap Jhett up – even girls. Not to mention he has the soulful eyes of a cow, a straight nose and full lips as well as lustrous floppy brown hair and his impeccable taste in fashion, he looked like he walked straight out of a male catwalk.

Nonetheless, both Emile and Jhett were walking dreamboats.

On the other hand, with his long silky blonde hair, soft near-feminine features and sparkling blue eyes, Emile ironically had the face of an innocent dewy-eyed cherub. Plus, Emile has a fantastic ass that would’ve made JLo and Lady Gaga proud. The only issue was Emile was too… flamboyant, flirty, flighty, immature and loud.

Like right now.

Even as a friend, I couldn’t help but wish for just one day, he would shut his trap and leave my ears in peace.

“I refuse to answer that question. Are we getting in or what? Not all of us can be badass rebels who don’t care if they’re late or suspended just because their family has connections in this school.”

I cock an eyebrow.

“You do know I still haven’t said I would help you yet?”

This seems to snap him out of his further rant when he looks at me with pleading eyes. “Oh please, Ave?”

He bends his knees slightly so that he’s within a low-angle view. He interlocks his fingers together and brings them under his chin in a prayerful manner. He bats his eyelashes at me, giving me the puppy-dog eyes.

Damn his shiny baby-blues! He just had to sparkle them like an anime character!

Again, where were our other friends when I need them to be the good friends?

UUUGGHH

I look up heavenwards, waiting for help or a way to get out of this situation. I got none.

So much for wishful-thinking.

I run my hand through my hair and give him an annoyed look. “If I say yes, will you please stop looking at me like that?” Just like that, he is about to yip in joy when I sent him a scathing look. “Geez, you look ridiculous and half the half-wit you already are.”

Not really.

In fact, he looked so cute but damn me if I said that.

You know how some people can’t be around others who take everything they say seriously and thought they were being mean when really they’re just joking? I’m one of those people. Like, really, I’ve been around people who suddenly cry just because they can’t take a joke.

But no, not Emile.

I hate to say this, but this bitch is strong. And I mean that in the nicest, most affectionate way possible.

My snarky comment didn’t dissuade him. If anything, he makes a happy dance resembling a chick chirping out of its egg. So cute but still fucking annoying with its high-pitched chirps.

“Can’t help it if I’m so naturally adorbs!”

“Yeah-yeah, du hast den Arschoffen. We both know it already.”

“There you go, again. You know I can’t understand German.” He grumbles.

I signal him to quiet down. And by that, using my middle finger in a shushing manner.

I take out my phone and tapped on Tia’s convo thread with me.

I stealthily moved in the direction of Crankston’s classroom. I peek into the glass window of the door and search through the twenty or so occupants inside. Most of them were still scanning through their books, some discreetly listing down key words on the inside of their wrists while the rest are either too busy chatting up with their seatmates or sleeping on their desks.

Figures. So much for being one of Belle Mont Scholastic High’s most prized AP classes.

My eyes travel from student to student, recognizing some of the faces of my classmates, until they settle on one all-too-familiar person.

Sitting in the third row, a table away from the window and cross-legged, Tia fiddles with her pen while an opened text book was neatly laden out on her desk. A determined look was plastered on her pretty heart-shaped face. A tiny wrinkle appears between her finely-arched brows and on her nose, making the light dusting of freckles stand out. Thick long lashes fringed over her round doe-shaped chocolate-brown eyes. She skims the contents on each page. Her full plump lips curl at one side as she moves on to another page.

Her long pin-straight honey-brown hair was woven into a French braid today with a few tendrils escaping by her ears. A strand tickles her straight narrow nose and she tucks it behind her ear. Her slender stature was stylishly dressed in a chic bohemian-inspired turquoise wrap-around blouse that was cropped and tied at her waist and a high-waist white Capri while her dainty feet were encased in sandals and her hands adorned with vintage and chintz bracelets.

The overall effect was voguish and making her beautiful naturally tan complexion glow.

AAHH... the gift of all Hispanic women.

I pressed the call button next to her name. Knowing Tia, she always keeps her phone with her even in class albeit on vibrate. Just on cue, she reaches inside her pocket and checks her phone.

Rebel (Me): I’m at the door.

She looks up and twists her head at my direction. Her eyes widen in alarm.

I give her a cheeky smile and wink.  

Rebel (Me): Unlock the back door for me?

She reads my text for a second and shakes her head.

My phone vibrates. I open her reply.

Tea: Can’t. Crankston’s guarding it. He’s not budging.

Tia motions her head to the back. I look around the room again. True to her word, Crankston’s gawky figure was standing by the backdoor. By being there and the front door in his view, he wasn’t letting anyone sneak in for sure.

And here I thought I would be saving my strikes for something worthwhile rather than smuggling a certain gay man into class.

Rebel (Me): Not if I have anything to do about it.

Tia’s mouth gapes. She pins me with a warning look as she sends me a text.

Tea: Ave, I swear to God, do not pull the fire alarm.

I puff my cheeks childishly.  I wriggle my chin side to side as I think it over. My phone vibrates again. I look down and read the single word in the message.

Tea: Ave

I roll my eyes. As much as it was a really, really, really, really fun idea.

Rebel (Me): Fiiiiine. But just so you know, this is killing me to do this. Be ready and have him go over to the middle row.

I lock my phone, returning it inside my jacket pocket.

Tia raises her hand and calls Crankston over by her table. She gestures to a page in her book and scratches her head in fake-confusion. Just as expected, Crankston takes the bait and is occupied – for a short while, that is.

I turn to Emile.

“Go to the backdoor. On the count of three, you go in.”

He nods and obeys my instructions. He places his hand on the door knob.

I begin the countdown, “Three… two-“

“Wait, do I go in on one or after one?” he stage-whispers.

Goddammit, I face-palm myself in my mind.

“Emmy,” I reason out in a gentle and serene voice despite the fact I was feeling the opposite. “I need you to pull those few brain cells together in that pretty head of yours and work with me here, okay? After one, you open the door and dash inside as quietly as possible.”

He makes an ‘okay’ hand sign.

“Again, three… two …”

Here goes nothing!

 

“In Which Reality Involves Smuggling A Gay Man Into Class”

“You can only be young once. But you can always be immature.”

Dave Barry

««««««««««« ¤¤¤¤ «««««««««««

 

“One… Go!”

We both open the doors and go in at the same time.

SLAM! The door closes loudly behind me. The sound of wood against metal resonates in the room.

Everyone’s attention – Crankston’s included – is suddenly focused on me.

Showtime!

I hold down the feeling of nausea threatening to climb up my throat. It was a normal reaction I learned to ignore.

Suck it up, Michaels! You can fucking do this! You are one scary-hell-of-a-bitch!

I saunter past the board and the teacher’s table, slinging my bag casually like I own the fucking place.

The room was designed in a minimalistic style in neutral shades of blue, brown and grey. Fluorescent lights mount the surface of the ceilings, brightening up the entire place. An AC was installed on either side of the room, keeping out the late summer heat from beating through the wide slider windows and inside the room.

Six columns of steel desks with smooth Cedar Wood tops occupy the middle of the room in four straight rows. Under them, bags and books were strewn across the floor obstructing the pathways. At the back of the room was a wide bulletin board that stretched from one side of wall to the other. Papers of various sizes containing announcements, memos and other school-related documentations were neatly pinned and sorted according to their classifications on the wall.

I focus my attention to the people inside the room, particularly to the person who thinks he is in charge.

Crankston was first to recover and in a scornful manner, crosses his arms over his small paunch as he appraise my tardiness. “Miss Michaels, what a surprise. I am so honored that you have decided to grace my class with your presence whilst late – again.” He adds bitingly.

A student from the back row snickers.

A low rattling sound comes from the door. I watch as Emile’s face press to the door’s window from the outside. He points to the direction of the knob.

Locked.

FICK! I did not expect that.

“Quiet!” Crankston barks. He steps a few feet forward in my direction where the front of the class is.

You know that expression of high school never ends?

Not a big fan but I can’t disregard the eventual truth, take Crankston for example. I may have only met him these past few days but it was enough for me to sniff out his type. Clearly he was a sniveling nerd who never got the acknowledgment and common respect he deserved back in high school so he makes up for it by abusing his status as a teacher and being an ass.

Even while dressing the part of the teacher with his crisp Polo shirt tucked to his beige slacks, his polished dark-brown wingtip loafers, a shiny Rolex on his thin wrist and a pair of non-descript wire-framed glasses he was still an opportunistic pretentious chauvinistic ass with the delusion that’s he’s a ten rather than a two at best.

Wait, I forgot he’s married. Make that two … and a half. Condolence to the woman he suckered.

He turns back to me and fixes a stern glare at me through his glasses. “Well?”

Uhh, no. He does not get a proper answer from me by intimidating me like he does to others. Doesn’t he know that old-school style doesn’t work on me?

Furthermore, I still have to worry on how to smuggle a gay man inside under his long narrow nose.

I turn to Tia and motion to the door with my eyes. She follows my gaze and sees Emile.

Distract him, her eyes tell me as she quietly stands up without a pip or a squeak.

Right, aggravate him – gotcha!

I don on an apathetic mask from my eyes, to the position of my body and down to the very tips of every strand of my hair. I give him bored look. Like he’s an unnecessary speck of dust that I’m brushing off my shoulder.

I smirk.

“Funny you said that. I didn’t have much better to do and it just so happens that the sheriff didn’t have a vacant cell around so I decided, ‘Hey, I might as well waste my time here. Feels like prison, anyways.’’” I jerk my elbow and make a sign of approval with my thumb. I add in a wink for an optimal-sarcastic effect.

That earns me some more snickers from everyone.

“Is that so?” He asks, unperturbed and slides his glasses up his nose. “Then would you like to take a seat or do you need a police escort for that too? Perhaps slap some handcuffs on your wrists and shove your neck down while you take a seat?”

I raise my brows slightly at the unspoken challenge.  I give him the frostiest glare I have and make a cross between a smirk and a pout.

“Well-well, Crankston, I didn’t expect you to know how to make a girl feel special,” I coo. “Can’t say the same worked for your wife, though.”

The other students were trying to hide their quaking laughter. A few hoots. That seems to rile him a bit. Bingo.

Tia was already by the door, walking sideways by the wall like a ninja. She unlocks it and opens the door. Emile rushes in as they both go to their seats. A few minutes more and they’ll be safely seated without anybody to tell the difference.

Just a few minutes of shouldering the pain of the people’s attention over me. Emile should know better than to giving me lip for the rest of the day. The sacrifice I’m doing for him!

I return my attention back to Crankston.

“It’s Mister Cranston, for you, Miss Michaels. Take a seat. Now,” he adds more weight on the last word.

That’s it? No, not yet.

“Okay, just messing with you, dude.” I casually wave my hand in a dismissing manner. I lean in and stage-whisper, “We both know it’s the wife who has the problem.  But hey,” I drop my shoulders in an exaggerated shrug and with a mournful sigh, “Just blame it on the women I guess.”

I watch as the eyes of every female in the room – aside from Tia’s – settle on him. This irks him more. It’s not my fault he was a bigot.

“Miss Michaels,” he says, tightly. Red blotches begin to appear on his narrow face, the nostrils of his long hawkish nose were flaring. “I’m not gonna as-

SQUEEAAAK! The shrill sound of wood scraping against the linoleum floor interrupts him.

Emile, who had already arrived at his assigned seat behind Tia’s, had just dragged the seat back.

Could he not just spend the day – much less five fucking minutes – without making a fucking sound? I wonder if I can convince him that glue sticks and Chapsticks are the same.

Crankston makes a move to find the source of the sound unless I think of something quick.

“No offense, Mister Cranston,” I mentally smirk as I got his attention back. Gotcha.  I continue, “on you as a man but don’t you think it’s a little unfair?”

He frowns, unsure of what I’m leading him into. Behind him, Emile was now safely seated and taking selfies with his phones. He was probably posting about getting away from a near-detention experience. Meanwhile, I, his friend who had so graciously helped him, am still preoccupied.

Wonderful.

“Malleus Mollificarum, Virginity Checks, Honor Killing and even female genocide? Don’t get me wrong,” I raise a reassuring hand to stop him from interrupting, “sir,” he nods for me to continue on, “I salute you for teaching us the dominant patriarchal view of the European society throughout the years.”

He puffs his chest, clearly pleased with my ‘praise’. I wasn’t finish though.

“But, don’t you think women were so disempowered, unjustly treated and objectified? Why can’t we also recount our studies base off the views of strong womanly figures too? There are so many things to consider about history from their own side not to mention having them as inspirational figures for being survivors of gender oppression.”

Sounds of approval begin to flow throughout the female students. Some were whispering to their seatmates, dropping names for discussion. Crankston glares at me.

“Okay, that is enough, Miss Michaels. As interesting as your opinions may be, I don’t believe I asked you to share about it. I have already set out the course syllabus for the semester. What’s done is done. I don’t need you messing up my lesson plans for the whole semester. You are done. Now take a seat.”

OHHH, I’m so not done. He barely finished his sentence when I continued on. As if he never spoke at all.

Like Cinderella has once said, “Just because it's what's done doesn't mean it's what should be done!”

That catches him in surprise. So did the rest of the class. Even Emile mildly looks up from his phone. His face was uncertain if he did hear me quote a Disney princess. Tia was keeping a straight face on but I can see her lips twitching for a smile.

“Why should we ignore the accounts of the women and stick to the words of arrogant, self-entitled and boorish pri-

“Uhm, Mister Cranston,” Tia interjects in a soft sweet voice, her RP accent clear as a bell. “Sorry to bother you but – the quiz?” She gestures to her book full of highlighted lines and additional notes.

This breaks whatever murderous thoughts Crankston has for me. He clears his throat, trying to regain some composure.

 “Why, yes, of course. Thank you, Miss Benvidez, for reminding me.” He flashes a smile at her before casting me another look of utter disdain. “Miss Michaels, for the last time, take a seat before I change my mind of letting you take the quiz.”

I open my mouth to say something. He beats me to it when he sharply adds, “And not another word.”

I glance down at Tia who was dutifully sitting on her chair. She shakes her head as if telepathically telling me, enough.

I sigh in reluctant withdrawal.

Without taking my eyes off him, I make a show of raising my hands at the level of my head in surrender. I walk over to the seat by the window next to Tia and plop down. I dump my bag on the floor. I place my hands with my fingers locked together on my desk like a student eager to learn.

He grunts but knows better than to comment further unless he wants another verbal spew from me. Instead, he goes towards his desk where he picks up a stack of test papers.

Good boy. I smirk.

I turn to Tia and whisper, “Thanks.”

“No problem,” she replies, her eyes still glued to her book. “Don’t see why you needed to amp up the attitude on him, though.”

Meh,” I shrug, “Felt too good to pass it up. Besides, you’re the one who told me not to pull the fire alarm and distract him. Had to entertain myself somehow.” I say it like it all adds up. Which it does-ish.

She strays her eyes from her book and looks at me sarcastically. “Yeah, by pulling down the man’s ego. Genius move, right there.”

“I had to pull something down, Tea.” I explain myself in an earnest tone. It was, after all, the way things work. It was how I work. She knows that.

From the corner of our eyes, we catch Crankston subtly scratch his junk as he assesses the papers. As if that couldn’t get any worse, he brings the papers to his face and sniffs.

EWW!

Somebody pour a bottle of sanitizer in my eyes please!

We turn away.

“However, I have my limits too.” I stipulate, my face still cringing in disgust at the sight I’ve recently witnessed.

Meanwhile Crankston, who was unaware of us witnessing his tiny action, moves to the far right of the room with test papers in hand. He then starts his mandatory spiel.

“Okay, class. You know the rules. Phones in the bag, if you don’t have a bag put it in on the floor.” He motions at Emile to tuck his phone on the floor. Emile does so in displeasure and glares at him. Crankston ignores it.

“Put your bags on the floor under your table. I don’t want to see anything on your table except for your pen and your paper. Keep your eyes only on your table. No cheating. If I see anyone look at their classmates, catch them using their phones or using hand and feet signals – I would know you’re cheating. So none of this,” he makes a series of hand signs, “or this,” he taps his right foot in a series of sounds. 

Damn, is he trying to do some sort of Morse Code or hand signs for fuck?

“If any of you does so otherwise just because you think didn’t study enough or can’t comprehend the topics,”

Is it just me or is he looking at me specifically?

“Doesn’t give you the right to cheat. “Yup, he’s looking at me alright. He even narrows his eyes.

He thinks I’m gonna fail. Aww, shits and giggles! I’m so touched.

“Is that clear?”

A few of the class – Tia included – mumble, “Yes sir”.

I roll my eyes at him. Like I care. In spite of it, I make a show of putting my phone in my bag and drop it on the floor. I sit up straight and give him a look of an innocent well-behaved child.

“Good,” he nods, “You may start once you get your paper.” He then begins to distribute the papers for each row.

I wait patiently for my paper to be handed to me, tapping my feet on the floor in the process.

TAP… TAP…TAP…TAP

COME OOOON.

Any day now!

I look around. Everybody else, even the first two rows in front of me was already answering their papers. Being the last in both the rows and columns, I would be the last to start answering my quiz.

GEEZ, it’s not rocket science to pass a few pages of papers. Monkeys can do that. They can do that and fly up into space. I sigh, monkeys are so cool.

I am so binge-watching on BBT to-niiight!

A few moments more, the girl in front of me – FINALLY! –handed me the two-page test paper and I immediately write down the basic information consisting of my name and the date today. Once, I’ve done that, I read the instructions and the following questions.

Encircle the letter of the right answer…

Hmm, multiple choices. And here I thought I can entertain myself with some essay-writing. I wasn’t really kidding when I told Crankston I wanted to waste my time.

I sigh.

Might as well just get this over with.

First question, ‘On what year was Rome founded in?’

I automatically encircle ‘D. 753 BC’.

‘In Roman clothing, what color was considered as a symbol of royalty?’

Now this one is interesting, considering the color was so rare it took at least a thousand snails to make a small portion of the dye and that itself is worth a large weight of gold. Even the color we know is still questionable if it’s real or synthetic purple. Hence no flag has the purple color.

Okay, geeking out! Next question!

‘Differentiate the Plebeians and the Patricians’

I encircle ‘A. Vespasian’ as the first Flavian emperor.

I yawn. This is so boring. Why couldn’t he put in questions as to the origin of the word ‘sinister’ and its relation to the left-handed citizens of Ancient Rome, or the accumulation of methane gasses in the Roman sewage systems that blew up public toilets and even more so the truth about the Roman Hygiene and the concept of Epicureanism then have us write a justification over it? Actual analyzation as per the higher-order thinking skills in the academia’s Table of Specifications instead of lower-order thinking skilled questions?

Oh, right. ‘Coz we barely need to use half of our brains in this class.

It wasn’t long until I encircle the last answer of the last question of the entire quiz.

HURRAY!

It’s not like it was some sort of accomplishment though.

I slouch further on the back of my seat, tracing my hand on the smooth varnish of my desktop. I look at the round black-framed wall clock hanging on the wall above the class board.

TICK…TOCK… TICK… TOCK…TICK…TOCK, the clock goes on and on.

Twenty more minutes to go. Twenty. Fucking. Minutes.

I groan silently.

Our school believes in the eight-subject-per-day system from 8:30 AM to 4:25 PM with forty-five minutes for every class, one hour of lunch and ten-minute breaks in between classes. I snort, as if the ten minutes were enough to travel from one class to another in this big-ass school. Not to mention – hello?–student traffic.

God forbid the fucker running another red light in front of me again!

Just from the sound of it is like torture!

A torture that I have been living in for the last three years.

To think, just because I’m a senior now, classes would’ve been less hectic. But, NOOO, the school board just can’t have that. Rather, they pressure us to be more academically-involved! They’ve already used up my time in my classes I don’t need the added work!

Of course, to be fair, all I ever did in those classes was either sleep or argue with my teachers. Not that I have something against all my teachers. Nope. Just the mean annoying ones who treat me and other academically or financially-challenged students as scum.

Nonetheless, back to my point earlier. I could’ve done something more productive during those wasted times. I think.

Overall, I can’t wait until graduation – then I am out of this hellhole for good!

I tap my pen on the desk. I reflexively look out the window. The only good thing was that there wasn’t another person between me and the window.

It was, after all, one of the main reasons I chose to sit next to it.

So I didn’t have to look through the person and have them thinking I find them fascinating.

Whenever I felt too cooped up inside the room with monotonous academic drudgery, I would look outside my window and bask into the warm light of the sun. I would stare at the horizon of where the blue sky kisses the earth and the birds perching on the thin but strong branches of the birch trees beside the building. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I could see something interesting from the parking lot. Most times it’s just an ordinary empty parking lot. Still, something always bounds to get my attention somehow. I can’t help not to.

The only thing about the window seat though, is that even with the clear view it was still part of a see-through cage. I can see what was on the outside and yet I can never reach out to it.

An illusion of freedom.

Just like my life.

Damn, too early for deep brooding thoughts.

I wander my eyes from the mundane view at my side and glance around the room.

I watch as a couple of my classmates exchange glances and mouth their answers.

Some were scratching their heads, tapping their feet to stimulate their minds. The others were staring at the white ceiling, their mouths agape.

Hah! Like the answers could be found there.

I even catch a few biting on their pencils nervously and drop their heads on their desks in surrender. Seriously, what were these guys doing before Crankston gave the test?

The cheaters, two guys whose names I never cared to remember, were now craning their heads and gesturing wildly, forgetting the number one rule of being inconspicuous. It wasn’t long when Crankston finally catches them.

WHACK! WHACK! The muted sound of a two hundred to three hundred – give or take – paged softbound book consecutively hitting two human skulls echoes in the room.

 Emile slightly jumps in surprise behind my right. Tia, on the other hand, was concentrating on the last page of her test paper. The rest of the students return their attention to their papers while Crankston takes the papers of the two guys.

I merely shake my head. What a bunch of amateurs!

“Ave-y,” I hear Emile sweetly whisper under his breath.

I spoke too soon.

I ignore him and focused instead on the board in front of me.

I glance back to the wall clock again. TICK…TOCK…TICK…TOCK

I was unaware that I was tapping my pen incessantly now or that every sound was rebounding inside the room. Even my foot was shaking like crazy. All that I could hear was that taunting sound of the clock.

“Miss Michaels.”

Crankston repeatedly snaps his finger in front of me, trying to get my attention and snatch me from my thought-filled haze.

SNAP!

“Michaels!”

SNAP!

“Avalon!”

SNAP!

That last snap did it.

I turn my head around, stretching my legs when Crankston was suddenly in my face.

“What?!” I retort, glaring at him.

What the hell! Did this man ever heard of the term ‘personal space’? I can smell his funky tuna breath!

Who even eats tuna for breakfast?!

I peek at my classmates. Luckily, they were too busy with their quiz to even look. Being the class rebel and with the light verbal spar earlier, they have probably gotten used to it. Plus, they had bigger things to worry. Like taking a dumb quiz, for example.

“Miss Michaels, it looks to me like you can’t sit still,” He turns around and settles his gaze on Emile before facing me again, “or stop turning around.”

No shit! That’s because I have ADHD, you asshole! I wanted to snap at his face but I hold it in.

I don’t want to make a big deal out of it anyways. Can you imagine what would happen if these morons find out? With their ignorant close-minded minds, I’ll be a bigger freak than I already am.

Anyways, it has never interfered in my day-to-day functions for some years now. Just as long as I take my daily morning coffee, I’ll be fine as hell. Also, my afternoon coffee and evening tea.

Siiigh, the life of an ADHD student. Insert dramatic effect with the back of my hand against my forehead. Spotlight focused on me amidst the darkness of the room.

I was so lost in my thoughts that Crankston’s voice abruptly cuts through.

“It also seems that your sight is in need of fine-tuning too.” He says, his head an inch closer.

I crinkle my nose, “Too bad my nose works just fine.”

Ph-EW!

“That’s it, stand up!”

I insert my pinky finger in ear, pretending to clean it. I blow the imaginary earwax away to his face. “How about, ‘no’?”

He momentarily looks at my desk until he sees my test papers.

 “I am taking your test paper-Oh it seems you are finished,” he snatches them from my desk, “You wouldn’t mind if I check, do you?”

Why not? It’s not like I have to say anything about it since you already took them from my desk, was what I wanted to say. Like, why bother asking people when you’re still sticking to your own shit anyway?

Instead, I shrug disinterestedly. “Be my guest.”

Tia, who was already finished with her own paper, looks up curiously.

I watch too as Cranskston’s face loses its smug appearance as he scrutinizes my answers again and again.

He gapes at me with an incredulous expression then back to my papers. Finally, he hisses out, “Impossible. Empty your pockets!”

GEEZ! Was it so hard to believe I can actually ace his test? That I actually had a brain without having to kiss his ass to pass?

He didn’t even wait. Instead, he searches the pockets of my jacket instead, squeezing them with his grubby paws for my phone or a hidden device of some kind.

Tia gives him a WTH look from behind. When that didn’t satisfy him, he slips his hand inside.

Okay, I slap his hands off before he could. “Paws off, man!”

I pull the inside linings of my pockets and show them to him. I do the same with my jeans.

Nothing. “See? No need to cop a feel.”

This seems to anger him further. You know the expression of people’s faces turn red? Well this guy’s face is turning pale. The veins in his forehead bulging.

“Did you use a cheat sheet?” He pushes me aside.

Talk about ungentlemanly conduct! He ducks his head under my desk.

Ooh the temptation to kick his ass and let gravity do its job. It’s just too good. I inwardly rub my hands with glee at the thought. Maybe the force would push his brain out of his ass and into his head.

“Is it here? “He runs his hand under the desk, feeling every nook and cranny for a slip of paper or a secret compartment.

“No, it’s on your forehead.” I reply dully.

The others snicker.

Seriously, why do people have to ask the stupid questions? Like what kind of a person would ever admit to having used a cheat sheet if it incriminates them? More importantly, what kind of a teacher expects a failure from his student? Or the better question is, why would he ever think his students would never learn anything from him?

Times like these I am justified to give a sarcastic answer.

“Don’t you dare take that snarky tone with me! I know everything I need to know about you the first time you have set foot in my class. You’re a selfish, arrogant, lazy and a self-entitled brat who knows nothing better than to frustrate this class with your meaningless sophisms and trashy talks just to pull them down with you. Frankly, I don’t know how you even got into this class. This is an AP class for Chris sakes! Not a bird course for addled minds like you,” he sputters angrily, pointing a finger at me.

Yup, that’s teacher of the year, right there! It must’ve taken him a week to come up with this. I call that talent. As much as I want to slowly clap my hands in a sarcastic manner, I didn’t.

Instead I hold up a hand to stop his angry tirade and yawn loudly with my mouth wide. “Are we done here?”

I didn’t wait for him to reply. I pick up my satchel from the floor and walk away from my desk until I am a few feet from him. “I have better shit to do than stare at your weasel-ly face all day and endure your empty accusations and prejudice just because you’re too shallow and would rather depend on rumors than to actually get to know your students.”

Crankston opens his mouth to spout unintelligible curses. The more this man becomes angry, the more he sounds dumb and makes me feel dumb in return. Just in time, I was already turning on my heels my hair flying at the movement and hitting him at the face.

Now, it would’ve looked comical from my classmates’ perspective but for me, it was a flinch fest.

Just the thought of the strands of my hair grazing Crankston’s mouth, makes me want to hurl.

I saunter past the obstacle course of bags and stray feet

Don’t trip, don’t trip, don’t trip, I silently chant.

I reach the front door in secret relief.

I twist the knob but not long before that I turn around and pin Crankston with a drop-dead look.

“Also, slight tip. Calpurnia starts with a ‘c’ not a ‘k’. You should consult a grammarian too. You misspelled the Punic Wars with Penic Wars.”

Behind him, I see Emile giggle. Tia just watches in amusement. I see some students shuffle their papers, trying to find out if I was telling the truth or not.

“To be honest, if everyone here got that question wrong, then it’s on you.” I point at him with my finger.

“Well, it’s either that or this subject is all about making up words now. Also, at least try to use mouthwash or ask for a Tic-Tac. I’m sure anyone here would gladly give you one – or ten. It won’t hurt to get rid of your funky-ass breath. In fact, it would be a celebration if that does happen. Another thing, get a wet wipe or a sanitizer for your hand before you hand out the test papers next time. You’re not fooling anybody where your hand has been in. “

Then, in a high-pitched sweet Valley girl voice that would’ve done Ashley Tisdale proud, I open the door and wiggle my fingers. “Toodles.”

BAM! I slam the door shut.

That went well.

Now all I need to do is figure out how get these Crankston cooties off my hair.

Google don't fail me now!

“In Which Reality Is A Catchy Beer Song”

 

Good girls are made of sugar and spice, but me and my girls are made of whiskey and ice.”

Rebel Circus

««««««««««« ¤¤¤¤ «««««««««««

 

Oh, lunch.

The most important meal of the day. Or was it breakfast? Or brunch?

If so, what about bats and owls and other nocturnal creatures? Is their dinner considered as their breakfast?

Where did the word ‘breakfast’ even come from and why is it specifically eaten during morning?

If I’m nocturnal, isn’t my night considered as my morning?

UGH, never mind that.

After all, as students who just survived almost four hours of mental torture from our classes, we deserve this one hour break to ourselves. Not to mention, we need the food if we want to keep our strengths up and our wits sharp for the next four hours.

Admiring the soft breeze brushing at my face, I settle down on the wooden bench of a picnic table under the canopy of trees. My tray, piled high with three large 4-cheese pizza slices, a large-sized twister fries with a cheesy-garlic dip, tater tots and chocolate fudge brookies. To top it all off, a super-sized Dr. Pepper to wash all the food down and give me my caffeine fix.

I sip at the zesty cherry concoction to cool the late-summer heat feeling.

AAAHH, cherry-flavored caffeine. I’m in Heaven again. No need for fruits here.

I wasn’t the skinniest girl in school. In fact, I’m not model-thin either. A good distance from it, actually. No, I am not fat. I’m just average – though much to the distaste of my slender and stick-thin aunts who survive on kale and a few cubes of cheese to keep them from fainting. I can still recall countless of times where I would just pig out during dinners and they would just look at me in disgust.

I love to eat.  Is that a crime? I don’t think so. Was food to be blame for being delicious? No.

Would you sue me if I’m cursed with curves? No, coz that would be bullying and slander.

And for that, I rest my case.

I take a big bite off my pizza, the cheese melting in my mouth. I moan. Sooo cheeeeesy.

I know people have different uses for the word ‘cheesy’ but if there’s anything ‘cheesy’ I can tolerate and take seriously in this world, it’s the food kind. More especially, this orange-y, melt in your mouth blessed by the food gods, goodness!

Ohhh…. Ooohhh, I moan, caught in a tongue-sex with my pizza like it was my last.

I was still stuck in my cheese-induced foodgasm when I hear Tia plunk down on the chair opposite me. Her own tray was also piled with nearly the same food as mine.

What can I say? This girl has good taste! Well, considering she’s one of my best friends and we’re food buddies – she had to be.

Though, wherein I opt for my usual soda, she chooses to stick to her favorite freshly-squeezed lemonade. But, I can overlook that.

She stares at me, her pretty doe eyes regarding with an expectant look.

I scarf down the last of my cheesy pizza at the same time she starts to say something. I hold up a hand to stop her.

“I know what you’re going to say,” I pause for a bit and clear my throat. With my best imitation of her RP accent, I continue. “‘You shouldn’t have done that. You could get in trouble again and it’s too early, blah-buh-bleh-buh-bleh.”

She raises one of her angled brows and gives me a thoughtful look. “Hm, I was gonna say that was wicked what you did back at first period but now, I have to say that was a good imitation of an RP accent – until you ruined it by sounding like Drac at the end.”

“I always did list down voice acting as a possible career track back in fifth grade.” I blinked at her, fluttering my eyelids.

“Don’t get cheeky with me, luv.” She smirks.

I shrug and give her a playful smile. “I can’t help it. It just naturally comes out of me. And what can I say? You got me hooked into your sarcastic British humor, poppet.” I tap the tip her nose affectionately.

“Nice try,” she holds on to my finger, “but you’re not getting out that easily.”

“Ugh,” I take back my finger and pick on my fries.” I had to maintain my street creds, Tea. Otherwise, they’ll think I’ve gone soft and hound over me just because I’m friends with you – and that isn’t an easy feat.” I gesture at her.

“Which we both know you already are,” she clarifies.

Unfortunately, I inwardly roll my eyes and keep my mouth shut. I listen to her continue on with her reprimanding.

“And didn’t Principal Mathers make it clear that you’re on ‘academic probation? That entails you toning the attitude down, keeping your head low, avoid doing pranks, attend all your classes”-

“Basically, put on my big girl pants, buckle it with a tight belt and be boring. I get it.” I drop my eyes to my fries, slightly uncomfortable to the transition of the topic. I fiddle with my cup.

“Not boring but well-behaved. This,” she blinks and heaves a sigh, “is our last year, Ave, I just want all of us to graduate, leave this bloody school together and start living our awesome lives the way we should.”

“I know that.”  I say glumly, more to myself.

I know she has a point. She always has. Being the sensible person that she is, she knew better than most people, how important to bide her time wisely and base her actions with practical reasoning. As a friend, she knows I do badly need to ramify my old shitty antics if I want to graduate.

Still, I can’t change that quick in a matter of months – much less weeks. I can’t even quit smoking for ten days! It’s just not that easy to shake off a habit. For me, being a rebel was who I am. I was born with it. It was in my essence. It just so happened that it took me years to fully embrace it.

I was interrupted in my angst-filled reverie when Kiana, one of our other friends, strolls out of the indoor cafeteria hall, pass by other picnic tables and through the stone path to ours.

“Hey guys!” She greets in her usual chipper self with a bounce to her every step.

Aww, she just oozes innocence all over. With her face free of makeup, her slight figure and her petite height barely reaching five-feet and two inches, it is no wonder why we call her the baby of the group. Moreover, she’s just too cute – EEP!

Yes, you heard it.  I squealed.

With one hand, she holds her tray and on the other, her trusty Canon PowerShot G7 X – it’s too good of a camera for me not to say its whole name – with its strap secured around her wrist.  I swear this girl never travels anywhere without it or even look at something without seeing through its lens.

I wonder how she can even walk effortlessly without stumbling. I know I can’t – with my head in the clouds and all.

I don’t know why but I have a sudden urge to say y’all!

And a craving for chili.

I mentally shake my head and focused back on my approaching friend.

Her thick fluffy mane was long and glossy like a dark waterfall. It flies around her small wispy shoulders like a thousand pair of fairy wings whenever she makes the tiniest move of her head. And let me tell you, she does that often.

She places her tray down on the table and drops down beside Tia. Her round phoenix eyes fixate on us with an indefinable gleam.

“Heard through the grapevine and some people are spreading rumors about Ave –again.” She pierces her straw on her juice box and takes a sip.

She makes it sound like I have a fan club of haters or something.

“If this is about my run-in with Crankston, they’re not wrong there.” I lick the last of the pizza grease of my fingers. I began to devour my brookies. 

“Funnily enough, that one I know is true. But some guys are posting on the school site about how you actually held Crankston at gunpoint and shot him in the balls.” She fishes out her phone from one of the deep pocket of her loose black cardigan.

“Man, I wish I have thought of that earlier. That would’ve been ballsy… get it?” I munch thoughtfully, wagging my brows at them.

“Ha-ha, funny. Well, witnessing what happened firsthand I can say it did turn out like that. Figuratively,” Tia waves a French fry in the air like a tasty magic wand.

GLOMP! I bite the end off.

She frowns and scrunches her nose. “Bad girl!” she chastises, offering to me the other end of her French fry anyways.

I take it and lick my lips happily.

Kiana chews her lip. “Figuratively or literally, they actually made bets about how long Ave s gonna last or whether she’s gonna graduate. They even set up a Facebook poll so anyone can put their bets in.”

Tia whips her head suddenly. Her hackles are rising. Uh-oh, here comes mama bear.

“Now what kind of arseholes would bet on that?!”

Kiana eyes me nervously, unsure how to piece up the right words. Something behind Tia’s shoulder catches her eye and she shrugs sheepishly, “Well….”

“It’s raining men, hallelujah!” Emile’s loud voice came in a flash as well as the gaudy color of his jumper.

“Emile, what a surprise!” I smile sarcastically, “Not the absence of ‘nice’.

“Ha-ha, negative vibes ignoring that.” He waves his arm in a circular motion as if it would magically clear up any form of negativity. “Anyways… B-I-G N-E-W-S.” He sing-songs, doing the Macarena.

I gasp. “You actually know how to spell? YAAAYY!” I make an open-mouthed smile and wave my hands in fists sarcastically.

Kiana giggles silently while Tea taps distractedly on her phone.

“Of course not!” he fires hotly.

I arch a brow. Keke eyes him curiously and even Tea stops her tapping for a moment.

“I mean I know how to spell but that’s not the news.”

“Who knew?” I place a hand on my chest and roll my eyes. “If this is about the bet-“

Tia’s gasp stops me as she darts a finger in Emile’s direction. “You slag!”

Keke shoots me an ‘uh-oh’ look as Tia continuously glares at him. I shoot her back a questioning look. I still don’t get it.

Of course, neither did Emile.

He slides to the left as if to avoid the sharp blade that was of Tia’s finger. ”Hey-hey-hey, watch the finger! What nasty prick crawled up your cervix and out of your ass?”

Yeah, Tea. I almost agreed with him – still lost as him.

It’s when Tia whips out her phone and there on the screen was a poll and underneath it was a list of names who recently voted on it.

EmileStarr and 1,534 has voted on this.

“Does this ring any bell into you?”

I whistle. Well, tried to whistle. I don’t know how to whistle. I never did get the science of whistling and I’ll forever live my life without ever getting the chance to catcall someone.

To that someone – be it a man or a woman – in case you want to know, I wasn’t trying to be polite I just can’t whistle at you.

Emile pauses for a bit and with an unwavering stare replies, “No, it doesn’t.”

But Tia wasn’t hearing it. “Blast it! Did you or did you not bet on our friend here?” she presses on.

She was standing now, and though her sandals barely gave her a couple of inches, she stares him down as if Emile never had a good six-inch advantage over her.

It doesn’t take long for Emile to break and wail, “But I did it out of good faith! And by that,” he turns to me pleadingly. ”Ave please don’t screw this or I’ll be screwed – literally! – by Hairy Stanley!”

I smirk. “I dunno. ‘High School Drop-out’ sounds good on my resume right now.”

He blanches.

“What’s wrong with Stan? I thought you like your men big, gruff and hairy.” Kiana inquires curiously.

“Henry Cavill – for sure. Chris Evans – sign me up. Huge Jackman – yahz!  But actual bears, are a no-no!” He parks his butt next to mine and steals one of Keke’s fries.

“Serves you right!” Tia fires.

“Why are you only aiming at me for? The others did it too! I guess you can say I just joined it for the ride?” Emile shrugs sheepishly – and whips out his own phone and takes a selfie.

“What others?”

“Hey girls!” Jhett chimes in, “and Emile”, he adds flatly.

“Snake,” Emile replies bitingly, barely turning to acknowledge him.

Jhett stares at him questioningly.

Emile whips his head and turns to him. “Oh I’m sorry, I meant that.”

“All right, ladies. Scussi,” he holds out a finger the drags Emile off the bench and to a corner.

Something tells me there was some confrontation about to happen. And speaking of something, Emile flails his arms around and stomps his foot like a petulant child.

My view got blocked as a massive chest and bulked up shoulders came into view.

“Guess what?” Tamieke says, his pearly whites glistening from the grin on his full lips. The chestnut brown skin tone on his high cheekbones was glowing with natural highlights (and by that, I meant sweat). His soulful chocolate-brown eyes] light up in excitement as he gracefully skips towards us.

Now, I know what you’re gonna say. How can a man built like a linebacker with bulging muscles and thick sturdy thighs defy gravity and have the grace of a sugarplum fairy – or a seasoned male ballerina?

Truth is, I don’t know. Perhaps, it will always be one of those unsolved mysteries in the world. Tamieke can effortlessly dance the swan lake in a Sam Andreas scene for all I know while I have to watch out and not trip on a flat surface. Of course, that one is not a big surprise.

Jules, another friend of ours, quietly follow behind him with his phone in hand. His gangly frame was hunched in concentration. His thick black fringes partly obscure his large black-framed glasses. However, this didn’t stop him from playing non-stop on whatever game was on his phone – or barely acknowledging what his twin was going on about.

Yes, Tamieke and Jules were twins. Conjoined twins. From hip to the peen. (wink-wink)

Nah, I’m just messing with you. But they are kinda like twins where ‘kinda’ is because they’re total opposites yet they’re the best of friends who are always together and will be seen together.

“What, Elphaba, that you’re gay?” I smirk at him.

“Old news darling, five years and one incident concerning ‘Seven Minutes in Heaven’ – too late.” He rolls his eyes and raises his phone up for us to see the betting poll.

“The betting pool is a thousand-to-ten. Before we know, we’ll be leaving this school rolling naked in cash and fancy-ass silk. Maybe throw in some fluffy fur coats and wrap ourselves like a couple of care bears.”

He made an oh-yeah dance followed by some uh-uh elbow pumps when Tia taps him on his shoulder.

He whips his (and I swear I’m not kidding) long thick mass of curly hair that would’ve made Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman pale in comparison.

Tia pokes him on his shoulder.

“Oh, hey T!” He smiles, sill bopping his shoulders.

Tia narrows her eyes at him. Arms crossed on her chest, she grits out, “How could you?”

The frostiness in her tone stops Tamieke in mid-dance.

“Uhhh,” he throws me and Keke a help-me-I’m-lost look.

Sushi shrugs and I roll my eyes. You’re on your own on that one.

Tia shoves her phone a few mere inches from his face.

“So, what do you have to say for yourself?” Tia probes on.

“Coz, we believe in Ave! It was her name on the line, it’s not our fault we’re her friends for supporting her,” he puffs.

“Already ran the odds too. Just as long as she keeps her violations to three minor ones or two major ones, our girl’s goof to go.” Jules, who finally decides to look up from his game, quips matter-of-factly. He throws a mischievous grin at Tamieke. “Besides, the only way Buffy here won’t lose in a bet is if I’m betting the same as him.”

“Bi-i-itch!” Tamieke hisses, blowing a raspberry at his bestie.

Aah, Jules always the voice of reason and logic. Spouting off stats to every single little thing there ever was. Though that would actually mean he cares.

AWWW.

“I think it’s sweet.” I flutter my eyes. And I meant it.

Tia glares at me. I bat my eyelashes at her innocently.

“See? I know somewhere behind that cold heartless bitch exterior, you are happy for it.” Emile beam as he returns to his seat with Jhett sting beside him.

Obviously, they made up.

Pfft, BFFs.

I quirk a brow and shoot him a dark smirk. “Shame how you thought I would be offended over that.”

“Either way, I know these gorgeous chiseled features are safe.” He says smugly, his hands cupping his face like one of those Korean skincare models.

“I don’t think it’s good to tempt fate. I know I would gladly put a shiner on you.” Tia chips in brightly, cracking her knuckles.

This caused Emile to drop his smug look for a wounded puppy one.

“Damn, that is so hot.” I whistle – again, tried to whistle.

Tia winks at me. I bite my lip seductively and wink back.

“Ew,” Emile wrinkles his nose, “you’re sounding a lot like Ave. Seriously, I can never understand the dynamics of our friendship.”

“You never did, sweetie.” Jhett reassures him, patting his shoulder.

Emile nods as if that explained everything to him. “Can we please talk about something interesting and less depressing – like,” he makes a disgusted face as if choking on something revolting before spitting it out, “class?”

“If you say it like that, just made an outbreak at Physic C. If we can just find a mech expert, we can present an entry for the national robotics contest!” Jules says animatedly in his geek-mode, his interest to join in our conversation highly piqued.

“Slow down there, Nemo! Dammit, now why can’t you be this excited over the guys I introduce you to?” Tamieke grumbles.

Jules turns to him. Tamieke raises his arms sarcastically, “Yay!”

“Congrats, Jules! BT-dubs, I get first scoop when you win?”  Kiana asks.

“Don’t see why not,” he shrugs. Jules wasn’t really into the fame and glory, unlike someon-

“AHEM!”

“Yay! Anyways”-

“AHEM!” Emile continues to clear his throat. It makes me wonder how long he can keep clearing his throat. Ooh, maybe enough to lose his voice.

Kiana blinks, “Yes, Em?”

“Isn’t there someone here who’s curious what I’m up to?” Emile asks loudly, his eyes darting left, right and over us.

“I think everyone's already aware what’s happening in your life.” Jules replies dismissively.

Tamieke snorts. “Even my IG news feed are flooding with your posts. I try to scroll down and another one always pops up. I had to uninstall and re-install.” He casts Emile a pointed look. “Of course, I might as well unfollow you.”

“Jesse Tyler Ferguson! You take that back!” Emile hisses, completely going all-Medusa.

“Just kidding, bitch.” Tamieke rolls his eyes.

“Oh,” Emile giggles and goes back to his exciting news. “As I was saying, not this one. This time you get the first dish!”

“Yay,” Tia cheers sarcastically.

I giggle and wink at her.

“Can it, Potts!” He snaps like a Pomeranian with a chew toy. He turns to us and continues, “Anyways, the drama club is holding up auditions for the Fall Musicale”-

“We know that already.” Jules cuts off. The only thing missing to prove his point was flashing his school badge: Student Council 007.

Of course, being Emile, he continues, “And, for my audition, I am going to perform an original Emile Bryer classic play.”

A play? That’s a surprise.

Kiana gasps, “You wrote a play?! That’s great!”

“Sushi, please, I don’t see why you need to look so surprised,” he waves off.

Kiana eyes the rest of us, wondering her choice of words.

“You did great!” We mouth off and send her an okay-sign. Seriously, only Kiana can insult someone and still sound so nice and polite.

“I know, hold your applause. I have barely begun. As I was saying, it’s gonna have adventure, drama, humor, a slice of life and a bit of history. I call it,” he pauses for maximum suspense, he signals Jhett to do a drum roll. “The ingeniously spectacular and world-changing play this school and the world especially Broadway has been waiting for… duh-duh-duh-duh…. Wait for it…duh-duh-duh-duh-daaahhh”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake, just say it!” I snap.

Finally, he does and spreads his arms in exaltation. ”Phallus: An Ode to Penis.”

FACE-PALM!

Complete and utter silence.

“Is it just me that thinks it’s a work of genius?” Jhett comments, breaking the silence.

“A history about dicks? Count me in!” Tamieke coincides and they high-fived.

“Is that even allowed?” Kiana gently inquires, breaking down their little party.

Tamieke shares a look with Jules.

Jules sighs, “I will have to discuss this with the council.”

Tamieke grins knowingly at him, “Bitch, I know you want it too.”

Jules rolls his eyes and smirks. Men with their dicks. I guess the old adage ‘Boys and their toys’ is still true.

“So, Sushi, you were saying about something?” Tia gets back to the point.

Sushi’s eyes widen, “Oh! I just got held up in some AV club activities so I didn’t get to attend Japanese Studies. Speaking of which, heard there was a quiz and a seatwork in Microeconomics class. Did you get them, Tams?”

“Never had it. Coach got everyone excused for practice.” Tamieke shrugs. Jhett nods in agreement.

“Me, neither,” I add.

Tia shoots me a narrow-eyed look, “What do you mean ‘neither’? You’re not on the team – or in any team for that matter.”

“Nope,” I say, popping the ‘p’, “But that doesn’t mean I have to attend the class.” I smirk inwardly.

Here it comes, in three… two… one.

“Ave, you promised-

“Just kidding, mamita. Geez, I did attend. I just slept through it.” I hold back a yawn, remembering the monotonous tone our teacher talks in.

“Why were you sleeping? You don’t sleep. You’re wired like a horse.” Tia says, unconvinced.

“Fiiiiine, in my defense. I had a rough night.”

“Ooh,” Tamieke and the gays resound, reminding gaping goldfishes in the dinner scene of Princess Diaries.

“Not like that, you dirty-minded people. Seriously, all you slutbags think about is sex. I got held up on some club stuff.”

“Speaking of clubs, since today’s Friday,” Jhett interjects.

I cringe. Fuck, today is FRIDAY?!

I zone off, barely catching on a few words from Jhett like ‘new’, ‘opened’ and town’.

Jules’s jaw slackens. “Get out! Like an actual club here in Belle Mont?! Were the owners lost?”

Emile shows us an IG post on his phone showing what looked like a perforated steel interior of a hip nightclub similar to one in Beirut. “Confirmed! And no, they are not lost. They probably thought we, colorful people, deserve a night life.”

“Bitches, you know what that means!” Tamieke hollers.

All ‘mos share a look and suddenly they break into a dance around the table while chanting:

We’re here, we’re queer,

We also like beer.

We’re here, we’re queer

Give us some free beer.”

 

“Hold up, Will, Truman, Jack and MacFarlane, “Tia interrupts, “you do know we’re having Tequila, right?”

“No duh, but it’s just so catchy,” Jhett reasons, still swaying his hips like the rest of the ‘mos. Even Kiana was mouthing off the chant.

“Keke,” Tia stares incredulously.

Kiana shrugs. “It kinda is.”

“This is why we don’t let them watch Will and Grace reruns. They just get gayer every time. I’m afraid they would be too gay, pink goo would just come flooding out of them.” Tia shakes her head.

Meanwhile, the ‘mos continue their singing, inviting every eyes at our table – and by that, I meant everyone.

“Shush, Mistresses of Inconspicuous Misdeeds.” I butt in and by some miracle they did. “Save that shit for Pride Month. I don’t need somebody here to report my aunts.”

“Oh-kay,” Tamieke raises his hands, “First of all, hakuna your tatas. We don’t have Pride Month here. The town council made sure of that. Second, Tea, we are having tequilas but it’s just too catchy to pass up. If you can make up a good rhyme for gays and tequila, feel free to share. Lastly, Rebel, you’re being paranoid right now. Your aunts don’t know nothing while you’re here.”

Tia snorts. “Tell that to sweet Brighley. Her mum and Ave’s aunts always share an afternoon tea. I’m sure they’ll appreciate any dirty sordid news from that toshy little snitch.”

“Thank you,“ I nod. “Have I ever mentioned how I love your version of swearing?”

Tia blows me a kiss.

“Fine,” Jules is first to relent, “but only if Ave here actually joins us.”

“I dunno, I have some stuff to work on,” I say cryptically, considering it is Friday. Travers will be up on my ass trying to get any latest updates on the manuscript. Not to mention The Garage is full of upcoming orders and deadlines to meet.

“Uh-huhm,” Tamieke grunts, “You make it sound like you tied the knot with the club through a blood compact or sump’n. Child, you better not be joining no cult.” He raises a finger in warning.

I roll my eyes. “It’s not a cult, ma. I’m-doing-it-for-extra-credits.” I mumble hurriedly. Hopefully that would satisfy them.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Tamieke cleans his ear and leans towards me, cupping his ear, “I thought you said you were doing it for extra credits.”

“I was,” I mutter.

Come on, just take the bait.

“Since when is there a ‘you’ and the words ‘extra credits’ in a sentence together?”

Now for the tricky part.

“Just now – and I also have a job.” I reason. When all else fails, mention the job. Not that I don’t have one or that I just made it all up. I do have one.

“Right, the ‘job’ with the bears,” Jhett nods, air-quoting with his fingers. “Come on, Rebel. It’s been ages since you’ve been out.”

“Make that close to never now,” Jules adds.

“Yeah, give that booty a chance to shake her thing again!” Emile concurs, jiggling his butt in front of us.

Tamieke and the other ‘mos joins in – even Tia. Kiana was content filming them.

“C’mon, Ave. Shake that booty again!” They take turns twerking one by one then point at me.

“Sorry guys, I really can’t.” That dampens their dance. I continue, “But promise, next time I’ll go.”

Sounds of disbelief and protests soon follow.

“Oh-kay, bitches just chill,” Tamieke call their attention then turns to me. “You better, boo. Or else, we’re kidnapping you anyways and you’re gonna be footing a ginormous bill of booze enough to host a Mardis Gras on a Fat Tuesday. And, trust me,” he narrows his eyes in emphasis, “you don’t want drunk-ass gays sneaking at your house and giving your frigid aunts a heart attack.”

HA! I’d pay front-row seats for that!

“I believe the word you were trying to say was ‘abducting’, not kidnapping.” I clarify.

“And here comes the grammar-Nazi.” Tamieke remarks, shooting me a playful look at the double entendre.

Says the actual half-German, I stick my tongue at him.

“More like me clarifying specific details I can tell the five-ohs once they put me on court.” I shoot back.

“Ooh, child, look at you throwing some low-key shade. Like I still couldn’t be in jail for being black,” he laughs.

“Half-black,” Jules corrects. “Not that I’m disregarding your African-American heritage, just pointing out your genealogy.”

“Phylicia from Pennsylvania, Philadelphia says otherwise.” Tamieke points out.

Jules shrugs in agreement. Nobody says no to Phylicia a.k.a. Tamieke’s mom – or disagrees with her. I mean, come on, where else did our big lovable ‘mo got his sass?

“Hold that thought,” Emile glances at his Rolex and squeals. He excitedly taps on the table and turns to Jhett, “Come on Flippy. We gotta before we’re late, late, late!”

Unless Emile was a vampire, the ‘mo moved fast for a human. One moment he was sitting and the next he was standing a few feet away from our table.

“Since when have you ever been so eager for class?” Tia asks suspiciously.

“Since we have Human Geography,” Emile sing-songs.

Okay, now we’re all lost. No class could ever get these two so aroused. (No, that wasn’t a misnomer.)

Jhett, just finishing putting away their trays, explains why. “The main teacher got sick for a week before so today's the official first day with the sub.”

Emile swoops in, “Pecs, abs, dicks and boo-tays!!! The whole body-mapping experience – if you know what I mean,” he winks in his brand of homosexual laughter. How he manages to do that, I'll never know.

“Should we tell them what human geography really means?” Jules whispers as we watch both ‘mos sashay away to what they think to be rated R version of a class for the male anatomy.

“We could,” I say thoughtfully, “being good friends and all.” I glance at Tia.

“But times like these, you have to give them tough love,” she assents.

“Something tells me we might be seeing another Expectation vs. Reality post after this.” Tamieke groans.

We all agree and groan at the inevitable outbreak bound to happen in an hour.