Read Anything but Normal Online

Authors: Melody Carlson

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Anything but Normal (6 page)

BOOK: Anything but Normal
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“You want a bag?”

Sophie blinked. “Yeah, if you don’t mind.”

The woman took out a bag, snapped it open, and slid the test into it. As she handed Sophie the bag, she smiled, revealing some seriously yellowed teeth. “Good luck, girlie.”

“Thanks,” Sophie muttered. She clutched the bag and hurried out of the store. Who did she think she was fooling?

When she got home, both her dad’s pickup and her mom’s car were in the driveway. She parked on the street and tucked her package into her bag. She wished she’d thought to bring a larger purse. This one looked stuffed full. What if they noticed? What if they asked where she’d been? What if she looked guilty? What if it all hit the fan?

She rehearsed her answers as she slowly walked up to the house. She’d say that she’d gone out for a bite to eat, run into friends, visited awhile, then remembered she had homework and skedaddled for home. She actually planned to use the word
too. Give them something to think about.

But her parents were snuggled up on the sectional in the family room, apparently watching the TV, although it wasn’t even turned to ESPN. They barely noticed her come in.

“I’m home,” she called out. “Got homework.”

“Okay,” her mom called back.

“Good night,” her dad added. Like maybe that was a hint. Really, that was fine with her. What she was about to do needed no adult interruptions or distractions. It would be better if they weren’t even home, but she couldn’t have everything. Sophie went straight to the bathroom and locked the door. She pulled out the box, opened it, and carefully read and then reread the instructions until she was certain she knew how to do it. She took out the strip, removed the cap, and realized that she could barely “make a stream,” which was supposed to last seven seconds. She counted and only made it to six. Why hadn’t she thought to drink a couple of glasses of water and just wait? Now she had wasted a strip.

Just the same, she decided to wait the full five minutes, just out of curiosity. She laid the strip on the edge of the bathtub, then sat down on the toilet seat lid. With her eyes on her watch, she waited.

It was the longest five minutes of her life, and she really didn’t expect to see any change on the stick—not with only
seconds of urine. But when those five minutes finally ticked by, she went over to look at the stick and was stunned to see that it had changed. The stick now had
two stripes

Two stripes meant positive—and positive meant pregnant. She sank to the edge of the tub and wondered if she was about to have a heart attack. It felt like her chest had imploded and she couldn’t breathe. Like the bathroom was beginning to spin, or maybe it was tipping sideways. She clung to the sides of the tub, feeling like she was about to slide in and be sucked down the drain. She wished she could go all the way down the drain and just vanish from the face of the planet forever.

Afraid she was about to faint, she dropped her head between her knees and attempted to breathe. If she fainted in the bathroom and crashed to the floor with a loud thud, her parents would dash up and bust down the door. They would find her passed out on the floor with the evidence of the pregnancy test—and the telltale strip showing TWO stripes.
Two stripes!
How could it be?

Finally her heart rate seemed closer to normal, and breathing became slightly easier. Sophie picked up the pregnancy test box and looked more carefully at it. It was kind of faded and old looking. Maybe it really hadn’t worked properly. Was it possible that there was a shelf life or some kind of expiration date on a kit like this? Or that it really needed the full seven seconds to work properly? She wanted to try it again but knew that wasn’t going to work just yet. So she drank six glasses of water and just waited and waited and waited. But it just wasn’t working.

Finally, feeling like a failure—like, how can someone be so dumb as to mess up a simple test like this?—she put everything from the kit back into the bag, not leaving a trace of it behind. She shoved it back into her purse and retreated to her room.

Maybe the test was faulty. Maybe she’d done it wrong. Because whatever those two stripes were trying to shout at her,

Sophie did not want to listen. She couldn’t believe it. And until she could do the test correctly or possibly get a new test, she refused to believe it. She would push the skewed test results from her mind and would focus on homework instead. The queen of denial still reigned.

She went online to do some research for a journalism project, but soon she got distracted in researching home pregnancy tests and why they did or did not always work. To her relief, there seemed to be all kinds of reasons that her results truly were inaccurate. It seemed perfectly clear that her pregnancy test had not worked. Plain and simple, it was wrong. As far as she knew, she was NOT pregnant. Most definitely NOT. Really, God wouldn’t allow that to happen. He wouldn’t do that to her.

Just to be sure, she prayed. She confessed and repented and begged God to forgive her, to wipe her slate clean, to make her new, to give her a fresh start. And she promised that she would never, never, never break her vow to him again. If he wanted, she would become a nun. Okay, she wasn’t even Catholic. But she could convert.


It was about one in the morning when Sophie woke up with a strong urge to use the bathroom. As she was climbing out of bed, she remembered the pregnancy test. Seven seconds . . . Maybe she should just give it one more try. Hopefully it would work properly now. This time there would be only one stripe showing. And then she could rest easy.

She fumbled in her purse, trying to keep the rustle of the paper bag quiet as she took out the kit and removed a test strip. Then she put the kit back in the bag, shoved it back in her purse, and hurried to the bathroom.

Seven seconds was no problem this time. In fact, she probably could’ve done several strips. Satisfied with her effort, she set the damp strip on the edge of the bathtub again and then waited. And waited. She wasn’t sure if it had really been five minutes, but she decided to sneak a peek.

Two stripes were showing again.

Sophie stuck the telltale stick in the pocket of her T-shirt to deal with later as she flushed the toilet. She returned to her room, climbed back into bed, and cried herself to sleep.

“Wake up, sleepyhead.” Her mom was gently shaking her shoulder. “You’ll be late for school.”

Sophie jerked awake and stared up at her mom. Did she know? Had she found the kit? Was Sophie’s nightmare about to turn into a waking reality?

Her mom smiled. “You must’ve been really tired. Did you know it’s ten minutes until eight?”

“No way!” Sophie looked at her clock. “I better get moving.” “I’ll go toast you a bagel and you can eat it on your way to school,” Mom called as she hurried away.

“Thanks, Mom.” Sophie threw back the covers. There, twisted in the sheets, was the stick from last night. The nasty, awful, horrible stick.
What if Mom had seen it?

Sophie slipped the stick in the bag that was still concealing the test kit. When no one was around to see, she would dump the whole works in a restroom trash can at school—get rid of the evidence. What she would do after that . . . well, she was pretty much clueless.

She quickly dressed, grabbed up her homework things, then dashed downstairs. She snagged the bagel, thanked her mom, and hurried out the door. Maybe she should get up late every morning. It might make life easier if she didn’t have to look her mother in the eyes. As for her dad . . . well, he was fairly oblivious to anything that didn’t involve sports or tires.

As Sophie drove to school, she decided there was only one way she would be able to make it through this day, and that was to pretend that nothing whatsoever was wrong. She would pretend that she wasn’t freaking out or about to have a total nervous breakdown. And if Oscars could be given to teenage girls who were able to delude everyone—including best friends, parents, teachers, neighbors, maybe even God—she would do whatever it took to win one.

By the end of her day, she felt she had succeeded. Joking had always been her best defense against any form of discomfort. Whether it was a mean girl taking a poke at her weight, an idiot boy gaping at her bustline, or a thoughtless teacher making her out to be “teacher’s pet,” Sophie had learned early on to deflect these situations with humor and wit. She’d realized this was a skill that would carry her through almost anything. Almost. “Hey, Sophie, are you going to stick around for the yearbook meeting this afternoon?”

Sophie turned around to see Wes Andrews trailing her. She and Wes had been friends since middle school. They’d both been journalism nerds for years now. Last year they’d been on the newspaper staff as well as the yearbook committee.

Sophie frowned. “Maybe not.”

“Maybe not?” Wes looked shocked. “Why not?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know . . . I guess I’m not really into it.”

He came over and dramatically placed his hand on her forehead. “Are you sick or dying or something?”

She pushed his hand away and faked a laugh. “No. I just thought I’d take a break.”

“Take a break from yearbook during your senior year? Are you serious?”

Sophie blew air between her lips as she struggled to come up with an acceptable answer or a joke. But neither came.

“Come on, Sophie,” he urged. “We need you.”

“I don’t see why. I mean, if I’m not there, someone else can step in and—”

“No one can take your place, Sophie. You’re brilliant.”

She smiled. “Thanks, but if I’m not there, someone else can be brilliant.” She tweaked his nose. “Maybe even you.”

“This is so wrong.” Wes grabbed their journalism teacher before he went into the classroom. “Talk some sense into her, Mr. Young.”

“Huh?” Mr. Young adjusted his wire-rimmed glasses and turned to look at Sophie and Wes. “What’s up?”

“She’s abandoning the yearbook.”

Mr. Young frowned. “Is that true?”

Sophie just shrugged.

Mr. Young pressed his lips together, then slowly shook his head. “Sophie, Sophie, Sophie . . . have you thought this through carefully? Surely you realize that being on yearbook and the newspaper looks good on your college applications. And that your participation could possibly lead to a, well, some sort of scholarship.” He peered closely at her. “Are you willing to risk—” He was cut off by the bell. “Sorry, I have to go. But make sure you think this over carefully, Sophie.” Then he hurried into the classroom.

“So?” Wes’s brows lifted.

Sophie let out a quiet groan.

“Seriously, what’s the problem?” He studied her face as if looking for a clue. Suddenly she remembered what a great reporter Wes was, how he had a nose for news, and how he was an expert at getting to the bottom of a story.

“There’s no problem,” she said lightly. “I guess I was just daydreaming about possibly having a life. You know, something beyond staring at the computer screen for hours on end, cutting and pasting and all that.”

He frowned. “But that is a life. I mean, don’t you want to take journalism in college? Don’t you plan to work in it after you get your degree? That’s what you’ve always said. When did you change?”

She considered this. “You’re right, Wes. And I do still want that. It’s just that—”

“I know.” He held his pen up in the air like a torch. “You got a boyfriend, didn’t you? During summer vacation you went and got yourself a serious boyfriend. Am I right or am I right?”

She shook her head. “No, you’re definitely wrong.”

But he didn’t look convinced.

“What time is the yearbook meeting?” She knew when it was, but it was a good distraction technique.

“Four. Same as always.”

“Fine. I’m going to run home and take a nap, and then I’ll see you at four.”

Wes grinned. “Be there or be square.”

She rolled her eyes. “More like be there
be square.”

“I better get to class before Mr. Young marks me late.”

“Just tell him you talked sense into me and I’m sure he’ll excuse you.”

Wes nodded and hurried into the classroom, closing the door behind him. Sophie just stood there and sighed. It seemed crazy to get involved in yearbook committee. That was a long-term commitment. And who knew where she’d be by the end of the school year?

Yet she knew that to quit those normal activities would only draw attention—raising a red flag that something really was wrong with her. Better to just play the game. Keep up the act. Maybe eventually she would figure a way out of this mess.

In the meantime, she just wanted to sleep. But as she started her car, her cell phone rang. She was tempted to ignore it, but it was her dad. And since he never called her, she was concerned. What if something had happened to Mom or Bart? Or . . . what if her parents had somehow figured things out? What if she’d left some scrap of evidence in the upstairs bathroom? What if someone had spotted her disposing of the pregnancy kit at school? What if they’d run a DNA test and . . . Okay, she knew she was being ridiculous.

“Hey, Dad,” she said. “What’s up?”

“Hey, Pumpkin,” he said in a surprisingly friendly tone. “Can I ask you a huge favor?”

“Sure, what?”

“Well, Marge broke a tooth eating Corn Nuts, so she’s got to run into the dentist, and I need someone to watch the front desk for a couple of hours. I remembered you get off of school early now. Would you mind?”

She so wanted to tell him to forget it, but he was being so nice that she just couldn’t. “Well, I have yearbook at four and—”

“That’s perfect. Marge was sure she’d be back here by four.” “Okay . . .”


“You want me to speed?”

“’Course not . . . just don’t dawdle.”

“Dawdle . . . yeah, right, Dad.” She told him good-bye and closed her phone. Great. Just what she needed—two hours of breathing stinky tire-rubber fumes.

Her dad knew she didn’t like working at the tire store. They’d been over that enough times over the years. Fortunately her mom supported her on this subject. But sometimes when he was in a pinch, like now, she’d help out.

BOOK: Anything but Normal
12.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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