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Authors: Trish Cook

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BOOK: A Really Awesome Mess
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I assumed I’d spend the entire summer much in the same way as the end of the academic year—hanging out with my sister or in my room on my computer—and then head off someplace else in the fall. Though the public school was the most likely suspect, what I really wanted to do was get the hell out of dodge and start over somewhere else. During one of my long, boring afternoons spent online, I’d discovered this cool place called Bard College
at Simon’s Rock. It offered an “early college program,” admitting students right after sophomore year—like I’d just finished—and letting them skip the rest of high school and start college right away. It seemed tailor-made for smart kids like me who couldn’t stand one more second of bitchy cliques and immature, judgmental classmates. I was
to go there.

But then my parents decided I was too “fragile” or something to handle the change. To the highly selective, faraway-from-home Simon’s Rock
the mediocre local public high school.
Not pleased
doesn’t begin to describe my reaction.

The fragile thing, I knew, was just another excuse. I might have been small—granted, much smaller than I used to be, back when I looked like a bloated blueberry next to my celery stalk family—but that didn’t mean I wasn’t strong. What other five-foot-nothing, now-ninety-pound girl could have taken down a big bad Danny Schwartz and stuck to her guns even after he went crying to his mommy and the principal and Officer Friendly?

“The point is, you’re the one who got yourself into such trouble at Stonebridge Country Day,” my mom said. “If you’d just apologized to Daniel, the school would have let you come back for your junior year—”

I shook my head furiously. “No. Never! I would rather be stuck in this hellhole until I turn eighteen.”

“Which you just might be,” my mom said, her palms upward
Your choice, kiddo. It’s out of my hands now. I’m letting you go

I felt hot tears in the corners of my eyes, but I was damned if they were going to fall. “Well then. I guess you got what you wanted, and I got what I deserved, huh?”

This, of course, made my mom turn on the waterworks I was busy holding in. “Do you honestly think this is how we want things to be, Emmy? We’re going to miss you so much. I’m already dreaming of the day my beautiful star is healthy enough to come home.”

Right. The “beautiful star” crap again. It was what my real name—my Chinese name—meant. My parents had been telling me the same bullshit story for as far back as I could remember:
We saw a beautiful star in the sky and it was you, calling us to China to come get you. We were all meant to be together
. Well, maybe that had been true for all of about a week. And then they found out Joss had somehow implanted herself in my mom’s supposedly defective uterus.

Too bad my parents had already told everyone about me, or they probably would’ve just left me stranded at that orphanage for some other suckers to adopt. But things being the way they were, the ’rents were obligated to come get me or they would’ve looked like the world’s biggest assholes. And that was why, instead of just having one tall, beautiful, blond biologically related kid, my parents got stuck raising a small, dark, chubby China doll, too.

The four of us made for a weird-looking family. There were three people who obviously fit together and one who obviously did not, like I was a piece of a different puzzle that had somehow made its way into the wrong box. To make matters worse, even though I was a full eleven months older than Joss, from age three or so on she’d always been the “bigger” sister. Or should I say, the taller and skinnier one. Which would, by default, make me the short, fat one.

All this led to a lifetime of awkward stares and stupid comments that were amplified times a million because we were in the same grade at school. “You must be twins, hahaha,” went the most annoying “joke.” “How does anyone tell you two apart?” My parents had always told us to laugh along with the less enlightened and tell them families were based on love, not looks. Joss had no problem following their advice; me, not so much. How other people viewed us cut me to the core every time. It felt like everyone knew my ugly secret—that my real family had gotten rid of me and this nice white one had taken pity on my poor orphaned self—and it left me feeling raw and exposed as a turtle without a shell.

The more I thought about the situation, the more pissed off I got. There had been so many other viable alternatives, but my parents had chosen the wrong ones every single time. And now they were acting like
was the one with the problem? It was all such bullshit. Had I asked to be born? Was it my fault my mom
chose not to keep me? Did I somehow trick my parents into going ahead with the adoption?

I didn’t think so.

“If I really was your beautiful star, I think you would’ve just let me go to Simon’s Rock or even the stupid public high school instead of this loony bin,” I hissed, surprised at how deeply I actually felt the venom I was spewing. “At least my real parents were honest about the reason they were ditching me—I had a vag, not a dick. You’re just dumping me because I’m not a perfect blond Amazon like the rest of you.”

Which made my mom put her face into her hands and sob. It was exactly what I wanted to do, to cry and beg her to take me home. I just kept quiet instead. I’d tried begging for a different outcome
a lot
in the last couple of days, and it hadn’t gotten me anywhere. Ditto for yelling, screaming, and the silent treatment. I was too washed out and used up at this point to exert that kind of energy when I knew the end result would be the same. I was staying here, they were going home without me, and that was that.

A woman wearing a green Heartland Academy sweatshirt knocked on the open door and interrupted our lovely little pain festival. “Sorry. I’ve know you’ve seen me pop my head in the doorway a couple of times, Mrs. Magnusson. I was trying to wait until an opportune moment, but I guess this will have to do. You need to say good-bye now.”

My mom walked over and wrapped me in her arms, hugging me so hard I thought I might burst. I let her hold me but didn’t hug back, my arms hanging by my side like wet noodles. “I love you so much, sweetie,” she whispered in my ear.

Yeah, right
, I thought.
You love me so much you’re leaving skid marks

When my mom finally let me go, Joss threw her arms around me. I clung to her like a baby monkey. “I promise I’ll e-mail every day, sis,” she whispered, her voice choked and small. The archaic means of communication was necessary, of course, because texts and phone calls and other normal ways of contacting someone weren’t allowed at Heartland, at least not until I jumped through what sounded like a million hoops.

“Looking forward to seeing you again at the end of summer term for Family Weekend,” the woman in the sweatshirt called after my mom and sister as they left my room. Then she turned and handed me a striped hospital gown. “I’ll need you to get undressed and put this on, Mei-Xing.”

She said it like this:

I glared at her. “First of all, it’s pronounced
. Second of all, I go by Emmy, so don’t ever call me that again. And third, I’m not carrying or packing, so I won’t be needing this.” I threw the gown back at her.

The woman just smiled and handed it to me again. “You’ll get used to the rules here soon enough. And rule number one is that
every time you come in from being off campus, you have to give us a urine sample and have a strip search.”

“And if I don’t do it?” I asked.

“I’m confident you’ll make the right choice. Because let’s face it—all the wrong choices are what landed you here in the first place. And I’d hazard a guess that what you want most right now is to go home. Following the rules is your quickest way back.”

The lady was right. I was completely screwed, so I grabbed the pee cup and gown and did what I was told.


This is the word that should pretty much convince anybody it wasn’t a serious suicide attempt. I mean, it’s freaking Tylenol. We’ve got a three-story house. A header off the roof into the driveway would have finished me off way more efficiently than seventeen over-the-counter painkillers.

Which, as it turned out, would have finished me off in a pretty nasty way if I hadn’t received medical intervention. Yeah, I’ve got Internet access like everybody else, so I could have looked it up, but I honestly didn’t know. I figured, pop a few Tylenol just to put a scare into Mom, no big deal. Turns out the dose I took actually would have been fatal if I hadn’t gotten the old stomach pump (inaccurately named, by the way. It was actually a stomach
vacuum. Like they literally snaked a tube down my throat and sucked out everything in my stomach. It would have been cool as hell if it were happening to somebody else).

And then some medicine to make sure my liver didn’t shut down.

It wasn’t a fun night for anybody, but, I mean, okay, classic cry for help, we’ll deal with it in therapy.

But then I guess I was “acting out sexually.” Apparently this is some kind of sign of adolescent mental health issues. But as far as I could tell from everybody I know, it is not acting out sexually that causes the mental health issues. Those kids with the “purity rings” at school? Those were some psychos. Me?

Well, I got flown out to Dad’s house for Memorial Day weekend because Mom thought reconnecting with him and getting a change of scenery would help me. Those were her words, though I would not have used “reconnect,” because it implied there had once been a connection. Mom left Dad when I was two and a half, and he hadn’t been much of a dad since then, so if there ever was a connection, it was from before I remember, which means it didn’t count, at least as far as I was concerned.

I guess Dad didn’t really want to reconnect, or, actually, connect either. He bought me a weekend pass to King’s Island, borrowed Aunt Meg’s old Infiniti for me, and said he had a lot of work to catch up on, good to see you buddy.

Which was how I wound up acting out sexually. Getting a
blow job at Dad’s house from a girl I’d just met at King’s Island. After we rode The Beast. Write your own joke, and while you’re doing that, I’ll just remember … I think her name was Caitlin, but it could have been Kristin—something that ended in “in.” So we rode The Beast together, just because we were both alone in line at the same time, and then I was like, let me buy you something fried and disgusting, and she was like cool, and then she was talking about her stupid boyfriend who she just dumped in the line for The Racer, and then she was like, oh crap, I don’t have a ride home, and I was like, oh well, I’ve got my car here (it was, of course, my aunt Meg’s car, but when you’re sixteen and rollin’ in an Infiniti, even an ’04, you do not volunteer that it’s not yours), let me give you a ride home.

And oh yeah, let me just stop by my dad’s Rich Divorced Guy condo, and while we’re here, you wanna make out? She did, and the next thing I knew, she was introducing me to the art of oral gratification. The next thing I knew after that, well before the event came to what should have been its rightful conclusion, my dad came home from work two hours early, which he’d never done before in his life, walked in and saw us on the couch, and shouted, “I’m not running a bordello here!”

A bordello. I had to look it up. The first definition I found said, “a house of ill repute,” which wasn’t much help. Basically he was calling Caitlin or Kristin a whore, which was a crappy thing to do because believe me, it wasn’t like I had girls lining
up to blow me, and she certainly wasn’t demanding any payment. I would have liked to maybe see her again even though I only had a day left at Dad’s house, but I guess him walking in pretty well killed the mood forever with Kitten or whatever the hell her name was. (Aside—if you’re ever asked to go to the board in math class and you’re stuck with one of those stubborn boners that won’t go away, picturing your dad walking in on you is enough to make you go limp for hours. I had to take the equipment for a test-drive later that evening just to make sure everything had recovered from the shock. Also to relieve the horrible, nut-busting ache of blue balls that arises when your dad walks in before you get to finish your first blow job ever in proper fashion. Not that I’m bitter.)

That was Memorial Day weekend. Now it was just past the Fourth of July and I was being shipped off to a “therapeutic setting.” Dad said he would pay for it and kind of insisted, after threatening to take Mom and Patrick to court for custody, which they couldn’t afford. He’d decided they weren’t doing enough to ensure my mental health, so he sent two registered letters to Mom and Patrick. Which was two more letters than I could ever remember him sending me.

And yeah, I was sure Mom and Patrick were happy to get rid of me anyway. They could focus on the twins, not have to bother with me, the Troubled One. Great. Dad’s money solved another problem.

This was all the stuff I was thinking as we drove through miles and miles of nothing. Well, not nothing. There was a lot of corn, which I recognized, and some other shorter green stuff, which I didn’t recognize.

BOOK: A Really Awesome Mess
2.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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