Tag Archives: teen in crisis

Impressions: Alone With Jimmy

The house is so small that the sound of brush against teeth carries down the hallway to the bed where I’ve been lying on my back, pondering the designs in the wood ceiling for hours, trying not to think ahead to what I am going to do.

The usual muffled murmurs come as my aunt and uncle settle in for the night.

Before long, Uncle Fred is snoring loud enough to cover my departure even if I slam the door on my way out. But I won’t; it’s too important that I leave without notice.

The covers hid my shorts when Aunt Sue peeked in like she always does. She never fusses at me for sleeping in a tee-shirt instead of the lacy nightgowns my mother buys. Aunt Sue believes in comfort.

My shoes are out on the porch, caked in mud from helping in the garden. Aunt Sue can’t bend over so easily anymore; she’s glad I’m here. I made sure to get all the weeds pulled today. This morning she said I could stay with them for my senior year, that I didn’t have to go home.

I wait for her heavy breathing to start—not quite loud enough to call it snoring, but definitely a sound she’d never make awake. The two of them have no idea that they play this counterpoint each night, apart yet together, like Charlie’s favorite music.

He was such a weird kid.

My baby brother started playing keyboard before he even started school, and when Dad played his old music, it was always the complex stuff that got Charlie excited—like some of Dad’s Moody Blues—really old stuff. And the kid would memorize a song and sing it until it drove me crazy. This summer it was I Know You’re Out There Somewhere. I can still hear him.

My heart squeezes out a tear.

At last Aunt Sue joins in the nighttime chorale.

I slip out of my bed and quietly pad down the hallway to the front door. This afternoon, when no one was looking, I put some salad oil on the hinges. It won’t last long, but I only need it to work this once. The door opens without a squeak.

My shoes aren’t where I left them! Aunt Sue must have decided to clean them up. They’re probably by the washtub in the laundry room.

I’m not going go back, though. Not now. I might lose my nerve.

So I pick my way across the gravel drive, gingerly placing one foot at a time, until I reach the lawn. My pace quickens, and then I stub my toe on a tree root, invisible on this dark night. I slow down and my thoughts catch up to me.

The moon was full two weeks ago, the last time I slipped out.

That night, Charlie snuck down the driveway after me. My eight-year-old brother was my parents’ weapon to keep me out of trouble with boys. He loved tagging along and they encouraged it. In fact, when they first let me start dating a couple years ago, they insisted he be included. My first date took us roller blading and spent more time with Charlie than he did with me. Word got out and I didn’t date much. If the nerd in our building hadn’t asked me, I would have missed my Junior Prom. I finished the year totally depressed.

But I left that in the city. Every summer I can remember, even before Charlie was born, has been spent with Aunt Sue and Uncle Fred at their cabin in the Adirondacks. Our parents have always said it’s so we don’t have to endure the city heat while they work, but I suspect the cost of childcare was a factor. Sue and Fred are actually Dad’s aunt and uncle, so they’re retired and have always seemed to enjoy having us for two months. Their cabin is on the edge of town, not far from the state beach. Everyone knows us—including all the guards at the beach.

I’d had a crush on Jimmy for two years—all the girls did. This was his last summer to lifeguard. He was going into his senior year of college and had an internship lined up to teach classes at an art gallery in Manhattan this fall. It took half the summer, but I finally got up the courage to congratulate him. Then I told him how much I like the work displayed at that gallery—in detail. Like Charlie and his music, art has always been my obsession.

After that, whenever Jimmy had a break, we’d sit on the beach talking art and how he wanted to teach it in elementary schools, to help little kids’ talent bloom.

One afternoon, when Charlie had gone fishing with Uncle Fred, I stayed and talked with Jimmy as he closed up the beach. I followed him into the lifeguard shack, talking about how much I love Monet’s garden paintings more than his cathedrals. He hung up the equipment and was saying how he wanted to go to Monet’s home in Giverny when he turned around and it was if he saw me, really saw me, for the first time. Our eyes met for a long moment, then he reached out and slowly pulled me into a kiss.

Fortunately, Charlie loved fishing more than swimming. Whenever he wasn’t at the beach with me, I lived through the day in aching anticipation. When Jimmy had a break, we’d still talk art, but with unspoken communication flowing between us as well. Once the beach closed, we used the privacy of the guard shack.

It wasn’t just hormones and we weren’t just a summer fling. We talked long term, and agreed four years wouldn’t be much of a difference by the time I finished college. Of course we couldn’t expect my parents and Aunt Sue and Uncle Fred to understand how serious we were, especially since I’d hardly dated. They wouldn’t see how much we had in common. They’d never believe Jimmy always stopped when he got too excited. He said that he could wait until I turned eighteen, even though my birthday’s not until May, and that he wanted it to be special, not because we got carried away necking in a shack. So we kept our relationship a secret.

Jimmy wanted to take me out on a real date, though. So he started being friendlier with Charlie and asked him if he’d like to go play mini golf, so it was as if I was the third wheel. When he picked us up, Jimmy acted like he thought of us both as kids, and he paid as much attention to Charlie as me, until afterwards when he took us to the lake and showed Charlie where to hunt for bullfrogs.

That worked until Charlie got bored and came looking for us and caught us kissing.

“Jennie and Jimmy under a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g! Wait ‘til I tell Aunt Sue!”

“You can’t!” I screeched. I grabbed his shoulders to shake him, but Jimmy stopped me.

He gently replaced my hands with his and squatted down to talk to Charlie face to face. “Can you keep a secret?”

Charlie nodded madly.

“I really like you sister.” He paused until Charlie nodded solemnly. “In fact, I love her and when she’d done with college, I want to marry her.”

“Cool!”

“But I’m four years older than she is, and while that won’t be much when we’re both in our twenties, right now your parents wouldn’t like my kissing her at all. They might make me stay away from her if they knew. I wouldn’t even be able to take you to do stuff.”

“I won’t tell anyone.” Charlie looked so serious, I knew he meant it.

Tonight, at the end of the lawn, I pick my way to the smooth hard dirt of the road. Bare feet won’t be a problem now. It’s three miles to the lake. Even in the dark, I can walk there in less than an hour.

We’d just wanted some time alone with more privacy than we could get at the lifeguard shack with stragglers still on the beach, or with Charlie tagging alone. So that night two weeks ago, Jimmy was waiting down around the curve, where the pickup’s engine wouldn’t be heard from the house. I thought everyone was asleep before I slipped out, but I was wrong.

Charlie must have kept to the shadow side of the road, out of the moonlight, because I never saw or heard him following me until he saw the truck and ran to catch up.

“Hey, where’re we going?” Charlie demanded.

“Go home,” said Jimmy. “Please, Charlie?”

“Why?” Charlie sounded suspicious.

I sighed. My first chance to be really alone with Jimmy, under the stars on a romantic moonlit night, and Charlie was ruining it. “Better let him come.”

“Fine,” said Jimmy. “Get in the back.”

“Cool!” said Charlie.

“Sit up against the cab,” I demanded.

I might as well have been talking to myself, because as soon as Jimmy got going, Charlie was standing up behind us with his head in the wind above the cab.

“Is there anything he can hang onto back there?” I worried.

“No, but he’s in the center. I’ll drive slow.”

Jimmy pulled me close to him and a kiss landed on my cheek. I knew he could drive fine with one hand; he’d given me rides home from the beach. And it wasn’t his holding me that made it happen. Really, it wasn’t.

We were going slow. Not much faster than in a parking lot. But it’s automatic to swerve and brake when something jumps out in front of you. Even the sheriff said that, trying to make Jimmy feel better. But that was later.

Jimmy glanced back to check on Charlie. The deer jumped in front of us. I screamed. Jimmy yanked the wheel and braked hard. We missed the deer but landed nose down in the ditch. At first, we laughed, glad we’d missed the deer.

Then I turned to check on Charlie, and he wasn’t there.

“He’s probably just hiding to scare us,” I said. “He probably slipped out of the truck while we were laughing.”

Jimmy pulled out a big flashlight and started looking out away from the truck while I checked under and around it.

“Come on, Charlie. It’s not funny anymore,” I yelled.

The brat still didn’t answer.

“Call 911,” Jimmy called to me. He was just trying to scare Charlie out of hiding. His flashlight was still sweeping across bushes, searching.

“Charlie, you’re going to be in big trouble if I call 911 and you’re just joking around!” I hollered.

There was still no answer. Jimmy’s flashlight stopped.

“Call,” he choked. “For real.”

Instead, I walked over to Jimmy, thinking Charlie was hurt a little or something. But his head was against a big rock and his neck was bent all wrong and I touched him and the dark stuff all over him was warm and sticky and it was blood and I started screaming. Jimmy took my phone and he had to move away, back to the truck, so they could hear him . . .

At the funeral our parents couldn’t look at me. Somehow it was decided I should stay in the mountains the rest of the summer. I wasn’t asked.

My feet slap the hard-packed dirt of the road as I start to run in the black night.

The sheriff refused to arrest Jimmy for negligent homicide because he hadn’t been speeding, hadn’t been driving recklessly, and out in the country it was common for kids to ride like that regardless of the law. As far as the sheriff was concerned, it was a tragic accident, no more, no less. So my parents wanted Jimmy arrested for being with me. We told the sheriff we’d never gone that far, so he was giving it a few days, hoping my parents would cool off. But it wasn’t going to work.

My mother found out about the internship teaching children and she knew one of the directors at the gallery, so Jimmy lost that, and they were talking about having him arrested for endangering a child. If that happened, there would be a record and he’d never teach.

Everyone’s saying he ran off, but he didn’t. I know. I was with him.

We were supposed to do it together.

We went to Lover’s Leap, the big boulder away from the beach, where it wouldn’t be some little kid that found us. Sometimes teens go there to party and jump off the rock—they say the water’s fifty feet deep. Jimmy brought cement blocks—one for me, two for him. We tied rope to them and then around our waists.

“Just exhale and it will all be over quickly,” Jimmy said.

We were supposed to jump together. But we couldn’t hold hands because we were holding the cement blocks. We were supposed to be together forever. I thought I was going to leap with him, but there was a little piece of me still hoping it would get better once I got back to my city school, where no one would know it was my fault my little brother isn’t a pest anymore.

We said “I love you” together, then Jimmy disappeared.

I frantically untied the rope at my waist, jumped in and tried to save him. Too deep. Too dark. I couldn’t find him. That was yesterday.

I sat there, staring into the water, crying, for hours. When I finally slipped into the house it was past dinner. I mumbled that I wasn’t hungry and went straight to bed. This morning my mother called Aunt Sue. Later Sue found me pulling weeds in her garden, and she asked if I’d like to stay and do my senior year here. I just shrugged.

My parents will never forgive me. They don’t want anything to do with me anymore. They want me to stay here, where everyone knows I killed my little brother.

I’m going to the lake. My cement block is still there. I’m going to be alone with Jimmy under the stars after all.

The whole time weeding today, my mind was writing and re-writing a final text for my mother, so I know exactly what I’m going to say. I’ll send it at the last possible moment, when it will be too late to stop me. But they’ll know where we are. People will know Jimmy didn’t run off.

At the boulder I tie myself to the cement block before reaching for my cell phone. It vibrates as I pull it out of my pocket—a text, from Dad.

“Are you okay? Miss you. Would you mind cutting summer short, come home next weekend? Your mother’s beside herself with guilt for getting Charlie to tag along and for attacking your young man. She’s trying to make that right. We hope you know how to contact him; Sue said he’s disappeared. Love you, Dad.”

Sheri McGuinn Photo Signature

www.sherimcguinn.com  
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Impressions is a series of character studies and defining moments- short sketches to whet your appetite. If you’d like reading more about one of these characters, leave a comment.

Thanks.

 

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The Incident – Chapter 13

When I get back to the campfire, Mom’s just poured water on the coals and ash. Hot ash flying into dry needles can start a forest fires so last one up always douses it.

I stare at the steam rising, a rock in my stomach and the paper in my hand as Mom turns and sees me.

“I thought you’d turned in already,” she says. “We could have had a nice chat by the fire.”

She’s not demanding to know where I’ve been by myself so late; she’s trusting me.

My chest heaves as I suck in a big breath, then the tears start flowing and my body’s shaking and Mom’s there putting her arms around me, rubbing gently along my spine the way she always does when we’re hurt.

She kisses the top of my head and says “We love you.”

I hand her the note. She gives me the flashlight so she can read and still keep an arm around me. She holds me tighter the farther she gets. At the end, she’s crying and pulls me into a full hug and kisses my forehead and looks me in the eyes.

“We love you. Nothing will every change that. Next time you’ll make different choices. That’s all any of us can do, is try to do better next time.”

It’s going to be okay. I’m still going to go to boarding school, because it’s a better school and it’s in the mountains not far from where we used to live. I’ll be more careful making new friends there and I’ll go to Mary’s for long weekends, back with all my old friends.

I’m going to be okay.

Sheri2012RGB2inch

www.sherimcguinn.com
www.amazon.com/author/sherimcguinn

The Incident is contemporary YA (Young Adult). Following time-honored tradition, I’m publishing it here in installments. To be alerted when the next segment goes online, “follow” this blog. The entire story will be published here. You are welcome to share this link with others, but please respect copyright by contacting me for permission if you want to publish the story elsewhere. Thank you.

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THE INCIDENT – CHAPTER 12

It was a Friday afternoon, last class of the day, last full week of school. There was a substitute. She was new and would probably never come back to the court school, but she was really trying to be nice and trying to help everyone understand the work. It was math class, and she was actually a decent teacher. I could tell, since I understood the stuff already.

The problem was the class roster. There were only two or three of the minority gang in that class; the rest were the majority gang. On that day, only one of the minority kids showed up for school. When he saw that classroom, he should have left. He should have made some excuse to go up to the office and hang out there for the period. But he didn’t. I’d helped him with the math a couple times. He really wanted to learn. So he came into class and sat in his assigned seat near the teacher’s desk, quiet and ready to go to work.

It started while the sub was standing at the board pointing to examples of the day’s lesson, explaining what we were supposed to do. She probably didn’t hear the first slurs thrown at the kid. She may even have missed the spit wads that started flying at him. But she saw the pencil. She didn’t see who threw it, and I don’t think she realized yet that there had been a target, but she chewed out the entire class because throwing pencils is dangerous.

That got it started. They started making fun of her for calling a pencil dangerous, started telling her things they’d done that were really dangerous, things that really could cause damage. And while she was distracted by those people, others started throwing more things at the kid—papers, pencils, pens, small books, then the text book.

She saw the text book fly and tried to stop it, but people started throwing little stuff at her and making fun of her because she started to cry. Then they were out of their seats, squirting glue at the kid and at the teacher.

That’s when I realized I wasn’t blending into the furniture. I was being watched. I was going to be on a side, one way or the other.

I picked up my glue and squirted it on the kid and shot some that fell short of the sub. All I saw was her shoes; I couldn’t bring myself to face her. But I looked at the kid. He wasn’t crying. He was stoic. He gazed into my eyes with a look that said he was betrayed, but understood the betrayal. That’s the look that wakes me up at night.

I spent the weekend waiting for the police to come to the door and take me back to juvenile hall, anticipating the way my parents would look at me, knowing I’d be stuck at court school again the next year, that I’d probably graduate from there, which would pretty well wipe out any chance I had at a good college.

The police never came.

Monday I went to school expecting the principal to lecture us. That didn’t come, either. By the end of the day, when the math teacher didn’t say anything about a note from the sub, we realized she probably had been too embarrassed to say anything.

So you wonder why it was such a big deal?

The kid wasn’t in school that day. Or the next. Then we heard how he’d had a big argument with his father and then disappeared. Wherever he went, it was far away. I hope it’s somewhere he can go to school and learn, without having glue shot at him.

That was bad enough to have me worried about him, but the nightmares didn’t start until I overheard ladies in the office the last day of school, my last day there. They were talking about the young substitute, how sad it was she’d killed herself. I had to know. I looked up the obituaries online as soon as I got home. Of course they didn’t say it was suicide, but she was “called home” the night she subbed for us.

She would have made a good teacher.­

I’m sorry, forever.

So that’s why I’m sitting on the edge of this cliff by myself, hoping a mountain lion will come take me. But they might find this note. So I need to go back to camp and burn it.

Camping this week’s been nice, almost normal. My new boarding school’s in the mountains, a few hours away from where we used to live. If I find a way to have a fatal accident there, maybe my family will remember this week with me, instead of the rest.

Sheri2012RGB2inch

www.sherimcguinn.com
www.amazon.com/author/sherimcguinn

The Incident is contemporary YA (Young Adult). Following time-honored tradition, I’m publishing it here in installments. To be alerted when the next segment goes online, “follow” this blog. The entire story will be published here. You are welcome to share this link with others, but please respect copyright by contacting me for permission if you want to publish the story elsewhere. Thank you.

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THE INCIDENT – CHAPTER 11

I had to go back to court at the end of the school year. The teachers at the court school all gave me good letters and the judge asked if I’d learned my lesson and I told him “Yes, sir.” He let me off probation and said I could go back to regular school, but warned me that if he saw me in his courtroom again, I wouldn’t get off so easy.

Easy. He doesn’t know what happened at court school. No one does. I want to talk about it, but I can’t. Anyone I told would hate me as much as I hate myself.

I have two weeks at home before going to my new boarding school. It was decided I should attend their summer session to catch up on some of what I missed this year.

It’s worse being home all day every day than it was being at school, except for that one day, the one I can’t talk about. The one that makes me feel like I’m every bit as awful as my parents think. If they knew, they wouldn’t want anything to do with me.

I wanted to go visit Mary before I head off to school, but my parents are keeping a short leash on me. I don’t go anywhere here without my mother. I don’t want Mary to come visit me, because then I’d have to explain why my parents are acting like they are, or Rose would blurt out something about how bad I am. Someday I’ll go back to Colorado for a visit and be able to pretend all this stuff didn’t happen.

It’s not that I wanted to fit in with the majority gang. I just didn’t want to be noticed. And I was. I was stared at because I wasn’t doing anything when everyone else was. I tried to fade into the background, but it didn’t work. I had to challenge what I knew was wrong, or participate.

I wasn’t brave enough to challenge them all.

That’s not the whole truth. If it were, maybe I could have said something, at least after. Part of me was tired of being alone all the time. Part of me wanted to be one with the group. It’s good that I’m being sent away to school. I’ll be far from the group and they won’t expect me to be part of them. I’ll probably never see them again. Except in my nightmares.

I leave for school next week. I asked to go camping this weekend. I’ll stay up late and burn this in the campfire after everyone’s asleep, so they won’t ask questions.

So I have to say it now. What happened. I know I’ll live with it forever, but maybe this burning thing will help. I don’t know. I know I can’t tell anyone about it.

Sheri2012RGB2inch

www.sherimcguinn.com
www.amazon.com/author/sherimcguinn

The Incident is contemporary YA (Young Adult). Following time-honored tradition, I’m publishing it here in installments. To be alerted when the next segment goes online, “follow” this blog. The entire story will be published here. You are welcome to share this link with others, but please respect copyright by contacting me for permission if you want to publish the story elsewhere. Thank you.

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THE INCIDENT – CHAPTER 10

In the hall, we all had to wear one-piece jumpsuits. Most of us wore orange. Blue meant you had extra responsibilities and privileges. The first time I saw a red jumpsuit, I thought it was for Christmas. That was dumb. People wore red jumpsuits for a week after they’d done something so crazy that they had to be put in solitary to calm down.

I’d ruined the holiday for my whole family, getting locked up. Rose was worried that if they put up a stocking for me, Santa would skip our house. My parents put it up and found some coal to put in it, like the old stories about bad little children. They told me my lawyer’s fees were my Christmas present. At least Rose sent me a picture she’d drawn.

I didn’t want her to see me in the hall.

Aside from my being depressed, juvenile hall wasn’t all that bad. We had classes all but a few days around Christmas and New Year’s Day. It was like being back in grade school, but I didn’t say so because a lot of people were struggling with the work. Most of them were very angry people and I knew we’d be in classes together at court school when we got out.

There were gangs, but they had to put up with each other.

The really good thing about the hall was that the adults had almost total control, since we were there 24/7. Sometimes stuff happened behind their backs, and the wrong person would end up in trouble, but from what I heard people saying, the gangs ruled at court school. That made me wish they’d put me in the hall for six months with no court school. But at least I’d be living at home when I transferred.

They kept me in the hall exactly a month, even though that meant starting a week into the semester at court school. I guess the teachers were used to that, though, because most of them had handouts explaining all their rules and procedures. The classes were a little harder than they’d been in the hall, but a lot of my classmates could barely read. When I had to read aloud, I was careful not to let it seem too easy. Still, people started looking to me for help, at least the ones who cared about doing the work.

There were two rival gangs on the campus, with one of them definitely having the majority of the student body. From what I could see, they had a lot more in common with each other than different, but they chose to focus on the differences.

What they had in common: They didn’t have much positive going on with their parents or at school, and they didn’t see much positive in the future. Most of them had never considered as possible things I took for granted, like graduating from high school, getting a good job someday, having a nice home. They saw the people in their gangs as the ones to whom they owed loyalty, and everyone else was “them.”

I found most of them more likeable than Angelica or Natalie.

When I explained how all that went down, there were offers to “take care of them” for me. Fortunately, I’d never mentioned their names, so I didn’t have to worry about anyone doing me a favor I didn’t want.

I tried to keep clear of both groups, but they heard I was good at schoolwork. It got so I automatically printed out two extra copies of my work, so I could deliver a copy to each gang. At last being a nerd had a benefit. I gave help freely to all and wasn’t expected to pick sides.

All I asked was that they not let teachers know who was helping. Some of the teachers were too burned out to care that averages suddenly went up. Only one cornered me to ask about it. I shrugged as if I didn’t know anything and said I was keeping to myself, just trying not to get hurt before the semester ended and I could get out of there. I didn’t say anyone had threatened me, but I think that’s how the guy took it, because he didn’t hassle me about it anymore.

Meanwhile, I was living at home, looking at that mural of our backyard back in Colorado every day, wishing we’d never moved. The coal in my stocking, which I hadn’t been there to see, pretty much summed up how my parents were feeling about me. They didn’t trust me at all anymore. Mom drove me to school and picked me up after. Some of the kids got picked up by older gang members in cars with music on to make everything around them vibrate. Mom would give me this sad, disappointed look every time. She wouldn’t bring Rose with her.

They called the school and talked to my teachers when I told them I didn’t have any homework. That’s what it took to make them believe that the few assignments that were given were easy to finish before the end of class. They decided to try and get me into a private school for the next year, but my “legal issues” were an automatic no thank you at all the ones nearby. So they started looking at boarding schools. That would eat up the pay raise my dad had gotten and then some, but at least they wouldn’t have to see their disappointing child all the time. I’d probably have to repeat this year in any decent school, but I’d have a shot at a good college again if I was eighteen before I graduated and could get my records sealed.

Yeah, I picked up that bit of advice from my probation officer. I had to report to one of those every week, but he came to the school, so it was no hassle for my parents. He always said the same thing, that I was doing good so far, just stay out of trouble.

I never said much of anything.

Sheri2012RGB2inch

www.sherimcguinn.com
www.amazon.com/author/sherimcguinn

The Incident is contemporary YA (Young Adult). Following time-honored tradition, I’m publishing it here in installments. To be alerted when the next segment goes online, “follow” this blog. The entire story will be published here. You are welcome to share this link with others, but please respect copyright by contacting me for permission if you want to publish the story elsewhere. Thank you.

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THE INCIDENT – CHAPTER 9

It was an electronics store. We should have known they’d have cameras, even if we didn’t see them. There wasn’t any audio. It looked like I was talking Natalie into taking it. It was clear that Angelica and I were acting as look-outs. Did you know that’s the same thing as if you were the one stashing something into your bag? We were all charged with shoplifting. Angelica and Natalie didn’t say anything while we were in that little room with the store manager, waiting for our parents to come and get us. I didn’t say anything, either. I was too miserable imagining how disappointed my parents were going to be.

That was the incident. Some advice: If you’re going to do something incredibly stupid and/or illegal, you should make sure you’re doing it with friends who’ve got your back.

My parents got there first, and insisted I be honest, so I told about how the girls were always going to the mall, and about our first trip and Natalie shoplifting, and how today I hadn’t thought she’d really steal it, but I was trying to fit in. Natalie and Angelica didn’t say anything, they just stared at me as if they couldn’t believe what I was saying. Then my parents took me home.

Natalie’s father was an attorney, so they didn’t say a word that night. When they gave their statements to the police, it was all my fault.

They were top students, in the International Baccalaureate program. I was the new kid in the wrong classes. I was the one who convinced them to skip school twice—the only times either of them had been absent all year. I was the one who stole the nail kit, which they’d thought I paid for until I said Natalie took it. I was the one who challenged Natalie to steal that electronic gadget. She was doing it on a dare and fully intended to return it to the store, once she’d proven she wasn’t afraid to take it. Their statements agreed with everything down to the wording of my challenge.

Natalie and Angelica, as top students, were put onto a diversion program. All charges would disappear from their records once they behaved for six months. Even though I was not the one who actually took the device, I was charged with felony theft—I told you it was crazy expensive. The attorney my parents hired recommended that I plead guilty, since I clearly was guilty, on tape, and ask for leniency because I’d never been in trouble before. But the store wanted to make an example of someone, and given the statements of the other girls, I was the bad seed. The judge sentenced me to one month in juvenile hall, and then I was to attend the court school, where I wouldn’t lead any other good kids astray. That placement would be reviewed at the end of the school year.

I was terrified, and it was only the first step toward this cliff I’m sitting on.

Sheri2012RGB2inch

www.sherimcguinn.com
www.amazon.com/author/sherimcguinn

The Incident is contemporary YA (Young Adult). Following time-honored tradition, I’m publishing it here in installments. To be alerted when the next segment goes online, “follow” this blog. The entire story will be published here. You are welcome to share this link with others, but please respect copyright by contacting me for permission if you want to publish the story elsewhere. Thank you.

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THE INCIDENT – CHAPTER 8

When Mom caught me walking home alone one day, I assured her it was fine, that Angelica and Natalie had to stay after for talking in one of their classes, but that I was being alert and felt comfortable walking home alone. Even outside the gate, it was a decent neighborhood.

So the fall went okay. I even got invited to a Halloween party one of the kids in my art classes was having. My Dad checked out the address and nixed my going there at night, but at least I was asked.

After that invitation, my parents started investigating private schools for me and Rose. We’d been in public school in our small town, where everyone knew everyone, regardless of family income or which side of the tracks you lived. I’d never really thought about it, how it was only kids my parents approved of that I’d spent time with back home. There was this one girl in my Scout troop who wore the same clothes every day and we didn’t make fun of her because we knew she didn’t have any others and that the nurse washed them regularly while the girl wore a donated gym suit. But I don’t know anyone who ever went to that girl’s house.

So the city was different in a lot of ways—and regardless of my Inparents’ belief it was a small town, we were part of the metropolis. I didn’t notice anyone wearing exactly the same clothes every day, but some of the boys would when they’d been out all night partying. They talked about it right in front of the teachers, so I guess no one cared.

Of course, I was in classes with throw-away kids.

It seemed like Angelica and Natalie asked me to go to the mall with them at least once a week. That should have rung some alarm bells, but it didn’t. I knew I could miss half my classes and still ace them. Maybe the IB program wasn’t all that hard, either, or maybe they were smarter than I thought.

I was so stupid. It never occurred to me that they weren’t going without me, that they didn’t shoplift on a regular basis.

They asked about the boy I’d used as an excuse and I told them it was all over. He’d kissed another girl, made me cry, got me in trouble, and that was the end of it for me. In reality, I did have a crush on a boy in my art class, but I wasn’t about to tell anyone about that.

Joey was such a good artist, and he had the longest, thickest eyelashes. I’d never seen him with a girl, but I was sure I wasn’t the only one who liked him. We had the same two art classes, back to back, in the same room, so we could keep working on a project for both periods. He didn’t talk a lot with anyone, he’d get so involved in his art, but when we had to critique each other’s work, he always found something nice to say about mine. Actually, he did the same thing with anyone, but it felt special at the time. Then the first week in December, in art class, I heard him ask another girl to go to the Christmas dance with him. I knew no one would ask me. No one else even talked to me much.

So the next day, when Angelica and Natalie tried to get me to go to the mall with them, I jumped on the chance to avoid art. They seemed surprised, almost reluctant to have me go along, even though they’d been asking me for weeks.

They were both going to the Christmas dance, so we spent all morning looking at dresses. I tried some on, too, so they wouldn’t know I wasn’t going. Out of habit, I kept checking price tags and shying away from the expensive dresses. They made fun of that, as if price was never an object for them.

During lunch, they barely spoke to me. In fact, they’d talked mostly between themselves all day. After we ate, they wanted to go to an electronics store. There was some gadget Natalie’s boyfriend wanted for Christmas. We must have looked at everything in the store before we found it, and it was crazy expensive.

“You’re not going to try and walk out of here with that, are you?” I asked.

I should have kept my mouth shut. Natalie took it as a challenge.

“If you and Angelica watch that no one’s coming.”

We went to opposite ends of the aisle and gave her a thumb’s up when no one was coming. She slipped it into her bag and we headed for the door. We started giggling about ten feet outside the store.

Right before the security guard stopped us.

Sheri2012RGB2inch

www.sherimcguinn.com
www.amazon.com/author/sherimcguinn

The Incident is contemporary YA (Young Adult). Following time-honored tradition, I’m publishing it here in installments. To be alerted when the next segment goes online, “follow” this blog. The entire story will be published here. You are welcome to share this link with others, but please respect copyright by contacting me for permission if you want to publish the story elsewhere. Thank you.

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THE INCIDENT – CHAPTER 7

It’s not really an excuse, but aside from art, my classes bored me stiff, even Spanish. The teacher had such a horrible accent, I could hardly understand whether he was speaking English or Spanish at any given moment. Angelica and Natalie kept walking to school with me. At first it shocked me when they talked about skipping classes. I mean, they were in the illustrious IB program, not the drivel I had to slog through every day.

But there was a mall near the school, and eventually I went along with them, partly because they offered to help me buy makeup and get my nails done properly. Mom’s never been into that stuff. She and Dad would rather hike a mountain than go to a formal dinner, though they don’t do either now. He’s always at work. But I was woefully ignorant of girly things.

Nail polish was my gateway drug.

See? I may not be in AP classes anymore, but I still plan on college, if I live that long.

Anyway, that first time I went to the mall with them, they showed me posters of French and American manicures and they debated which was better. Angelica acted like I was someone special when I agreed with her that the American manicure looked better. It was more natural-looking. We got a kit to do an American manicure, two different emery boards and a pair of cuticle scissors, mascara, eyeliner, and eye shadow that they said would really make my eyes pop, by which I figured out they meant my eyes would stand out more with the makeup. By the time we had it all in the basket, I realized I hadn’t brought enough cash. It was embarrassing, but I admitted I hadn’t realized how much I’d need. Natalie offered to put the American manicure kit back on the shelf and pick up a clear polish, since I liked the natural look.

We got home about the same time we’d get there if we’d been in classes all day. We dropped by my house long enough to tell my mom that we’d made it back to the gated community safely. I dropped off my pack. We’d put all my stuff into Angelica’s bag—I’d have to keep it at her house or my mother would want to know when and where I’d gotten it. I couldn’t very well tell her I ditched school. We all went to Angelica’s house to do our manicures. Angelica had some of the stuff we needed, but they used what I’d bought, too.

When our nails were all shaped and ready for polish, Natalie got this devious smile on her face and said to wait, while she opened her pack. She pulled out the American manicure kit.

“You went ahead and bought it?” I asked. “You didn’t have to do that.”

“Of course I didn’t have to buy it. I just put it into my pack.”

“You stole it?”

“It was overpriced.”

If I’d said I wanted no part of it and gone home that day, I would have lost the only people I talked to outside of school. Looking back, that sure would have been the better choice. But I really liked the way those nails looked, so I went along with them and let them do my nails with the stolen kit. So I guess my Gateway drug wasn’t really nail polish, it was the whole kit.

“The only people I talked to outside of school.” You notice I didn’t call them my only friends outside of school? Of course I am writing this with hindsight—I know now they were not my friends—but even back then, on some level I knew they were simply entertaining themselves with me. I thought that meant they were helping the little country bumpkin learn city ways. That would have inferred that they liked me, but they didn’t. They proved that, alright, but not until December.

Through the fall, I went back and forth within myself about the shoplifting. I mean, I used the kit, so did that make me just as guilty as Natalie? I avoided most of their trips to the mall, saying a teacher had called home and my parents were suspicious of my explanation. Having invented this phone call, I then had to invent an explanation. So I said I’d told my parents I had a crush on a boy and had been so upset seeing him locking lips with a girl on the way into art class, and that I had hidden in the bathroom to compose myself.

Angelica and Natalie considered my imaginary excuse to be brilliant and cursed the teacher for being a busy-body who’d call home if I missed class. Other teachers didn’t do that. I blamed Mr. Bonhomme’s artistic nature for caring too much.

In reality, he rarely took attendance. I was more concerned one of the other teachers might say something if I was absent too often, though that was probably me being paranoid. The classes I was in had so many losers in them that a quarter of the seats were empty most days. I doubted any teacher phone calls home for absent students. But Angelica and Natalie bought the excuse. That was all that mattered. We still walked to school together, and often I’d run into them on the way home.

And they still asked me to go to the mall with them, maybe when there was a sub in art.

I thought they liked me.

Sheri2012RGB2inch

www.sherimcguinn.com
www.amazon.com/author/sherimcguinn

The Incident is contemporary YA (Young Adult). Following time-honored tradition, I’m publishing it here in installments. To be alerted when the next segment goes online, “follow” this blog. The entire story will be published here. You are welcome to share this link with others, but please respect copyright by contacting me for permission if you want to publish the story elsewhere. Thank you.

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THE INCIDENT – CHAPTER 6

School starts mid-August, while it’s still hot and humid.

Rose has a friend to walk with, the kid she met rollerblading, but Mom insists on driving me to the high school, even though it’s less than a mile away. When we get to the gate of our community, there are two girls about my age just walking through. Mom stops and asks if they’d like a ride and explains which house we bought this summer.

Angelica and Natalie get into the back seat while Mom goes on about how we’ve always lived in a tiny town, that this seems like city to us, and how this school is so much bigger than my old one and she hopes they’ll be my friends. These girls clearly spend hours on their makeup, hair, and nails. There’s no way they’d want to be friends with me, even if they weren’t obviously really tight with each other. I try to limit the damage with a shrug and eye roll.

Then Mom goes on about how I’m a top student, but the best classes were all full when I registered and they put me into a jumble of whatever was open. They even put me into two art classes instead of college prep!

Basically, Mom tells Angelica and Natalie I’m a nerd and a scared little hick who’s desperate for friends. She doesn’t realize that, though. She thinks she’s helping. At least she introduces me as Tina, not Montina.

When she drops us off, Natalie thanks her for the ride.

Angelica looks at my schedule and shakes her head. “Your mother wasn’t kidding. They dumped you into dumb-dumb English and crappy classes for kids who wouldn’t pass social studies or science any other way. The rest won’t be too bad.”

“Are you in any of them?” I know the answer but ask anyway.

“Hardly. We’re in the IB program.”

IB, International Baccalaureate Program. I’d never heard of one until Mom found out I couldn’t get into it and started raving about it. At least my being a nerd won’t count against me with these girls.

“Your first class is Spanish. It’s up that way. That teacher is okay.” Angelica points down a hall. “The room number’s on your schedule and there’s a map of the school on the back. Good luck.”

With that they disappear in the opposite direction.

Spanish is overflowing, with six students standing. The teacher takes roll, then says she’ll see how many drop out the first week before she tries to fit more desks into the room. “Meantime, a clipboard will help.”

I decide to be early every day and get a desk.

I have two art classes, drawing and painting, with Mr. Bonhomme. He has us draw the first day. Gym is boring. English, science, and social studies are plain dumb, stuff too easy for Rose.

The first weeks of school, those art classes are what save me from total despair. Mr. Bonhomme is happy as long as the room’s not trashed and we look like we’re working on our assignments. He doesn’t mind people talking while they work, either, as long as there is silence while he explains things. It ends up with a pleasant place to work. My other classes are too large or have too many trouble makers in them. The teachers are battling for control all the time.

I try talking to people in the art classes, but they go their own way at the end of class, and at the end of day everyone heads home. Mom keeps asking me if I’ve made friends, and what about those girls we met the first day, until finally I scream to just leave me alone and go to my room and slam the door shut.

It doesn’t help that Mary’s never the one to Skype me, and she’s not home most of the time when I try to get her. Texting works better, but it’s not the same as having a best friend right there in the room with you. She’s posting lots of photos on Facebook. She’s moved into a new crowd.

The first Monday in October Angelica and Natalie start stopping by every morning to walk to school with me. I figure Mom talked to their mothers.

Later, I wonder if I was right. Maybe they had plans for me from the start.

Sheri2012RGB2inch

www.sherimcguinn.com
www.amazon.com/author/sherimcguinn

The Incident is contemporary YA (Young Adult). Following time-honored tradition, I’m publishing it here in installments. To be alerted when the next segment goes online, “follow” this blog. The entire story will be published here. You are welcome to share this link with others, but please respect copyright by contacting me for permission if you want to publish the story elsewhere. Thank you.

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THE INCIDENT – CHAPTER 5

By the time we’re done with ice cream and goodbyes, it’s almost two o’clock. Rose and I wave at our friends until we can’t see them anymore.

Then I settle into the navigation seat and get serious. “Should I set the GPS?”

Mom smiles. “No. I know the way to Denver. From there we take seventy-six north to eighty east, and that takes us most of the way—seventeen hours of driving, or more. We won’t need GPS until we’re getting close.”

“I can help with the driving.” I’ve had my permit for months. Now I’m sixteen, I can go in for my test and get my license.

Mom glances over and turns up one side of her mouth with a look that says she’s sorry she has bad news. “You can drive while we’re still in Colorado, but your permit’s not really good outside of the state.”

“What?” I squeak.

“You’re going to have to take a new driver’s education course, specific to Illinois, to get a permit there, and you can’t get a license until you’ve had that permit for nine months. They also have education and practice requirements.”

“That sucks.”

“I know. I’ll pull over and let you drive part way to Denver, but I’ll take over once we’re getting into traffic and freeways.”

So my sixteenth birthday, I wake up in a motel in Nebraska no longer allowed to drive. I wish I’d left Mom’s present to open today and I’m feeling sorry for myself until I get out of the shower and Rose is there with a helium Happy Birthday balloon and a spider plant with a bow on it.

“For your new room,” she says.

“Thanks, Rose.”

I give her a hug. I’ve hardly even thought about how hard it must be for her to be moving. I mean, she’s not a teenager. She doesn’t have a boy that was starting to be interested, but she’s never lived anywhere else, either.

I decide I have to pay more attention to her until she makes new friends.

We eat the motel’s free breakfast, get showers and pack up. By the time we leave, it’s eleven.

“I really wanted to start earlier,” worries Mom. “We still ten hours of driving.”

“It’s Tuesday, Mom. The moving guys said they won’t be there until Thursday. We have all day today and tomorrow, too.”

“I know. But I wanted to get there tonight, just in case their schedule changes.”

I try to be the voice of reason Dad usually plays when she’s like this. “Drive most of the way today, then we can get up early tomorrow and you’ll be there Wednesday before noon. Besides, we’d still have to stay in a motel, unless you’re going to make us sleep on the floor.”

“That’s the plan once we get there. We have the sleeping pads and bags in the car, remember? But you’re right, we’ll drive about eight hours today, enjoy the pool at a motel, then get up early enough to get the key from the realtor right when they open.”

“Doesn’t Dad have a key?”

“He’s in training about sixty miles from our house. He’s putting in long days getting up to speed on the new job, so he’s staying close to work.”

My stomach tightens. Dad’s job had never gotten in the way of our doing things. He always said family came first. “He’s going to move into the house with us once the furniture gets there, isn’t he?”

“Of course,” Mom says.

Only he doesn’t.

He comes home Friday night when most of the unpacking is done, and even when his training’s done and he moves into the house with us, we only see him for breakfast. He usually doesn’t come home until Tina was in bed.

The summer isn’t all bad, though. It’s a lot hotter and more humid here than we’re used to, but the basement is always cool. I help mom fix up a nice family room down there and do some other painting she wants to do to make the place her own. My room is this boring off-white, but it’s bigger than my old room so there’s one open wall where Mom agrees to let me paint a mural. I make a grid on the glass over the photo Mom gave me for my birthday and a larger one on the wall, then carefully draw, then paint, our old backyard. So it’s the first thing I see every morning.

We go into Chicago and do some museums and stuff like we’re trying to appreciate being close to a city, but the days I really like are when we go to Lake Michigan with the kayaks. The lake is like the ocean, only no salt and the waves aren’t as big, but I can “surf” with my kayak after a few tries. It’s almost two hours to the beach, though, and there’s a lot more traffic here, so we only go a few times. There are some lakes to play in that are closer and we try a couple river runs with the kayaks, but the water’s so low we have to portage places and there’s nothing above a Level 1 or 2.

We’re living in a small town, but it’s surrounded by other towns, so it’s more like city to me. We actually live in a gated community. That’s so bizarre, that you have to go through a gate to get into our neighborhood. There’s a nice park and playground in the center and enough streets to make it feel like its own small town, if you knew the neighbors. No one’s outside much. Rose made a friend rollerblading in the park, but I haven’t even seen any other teenagers. Her elementary school is a block away from the gate and my high school’s not much farther, but when we go to register me for classes, we find out it’s huge, a “consolidated” high school with kids from several towns attending.

That means there’s going to be hundreds of kids in my class, not a few dozen. The first day’s going to suck, not knowing anyone. I’ve always known almost everyone.

Sheri2012RGB2inch

www.sherimcguinn.com
www.amazon.com/author/sherimcguinn

The Incident is contemporary YA (Young Adult). Following time-honored tradition, I’m publishing it here in installments. To be alerted when the next segment goes online, “follow” this blog. The entire story will be published here. You are welcome to share this link with others, but please respect copyright by contacting me for permission if you want to publish the story elsewhere. Thank you.

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