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Authors: Margaret Lesh

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Normalish (7 page)

BOOK: Normalish
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October 10, Even Later -
Tears,
Star-Crossed Lovers,
And Cocoa

 

Mom took one look at me and started asking
a million questions at once.

“Stacy! What are you doing home? What’s
wrong
? What’s going on? What
happened
? Didn’t you get a ride? Why didn’t you
call
me? You know I don’t want you out walking alone at night.”

I sighed, took a deep breath, and told her a story about my evening. About me and heartbreak. Me and betrayal. I conveniently left out the part about the pervert and his roll of duct tape, axe, and hammer because then she’d never let me out of the house again. I started to cry—not my first choice.

“Oh, Stacy. Come here,” she said as she put her arm around my shoulder and pulled me in close. “It’s okay, baby. It’s okay. Everything’s gonna be okay.” Which made me sob. And we just stood there in the middle of the living room. I was crying with her arms wrapped around me, and we didn’t say anything for a while. And it wasn’t just about my broken heart, it was everything all rolled into one—everything that was supposed to be that wasn’t. Everything about Mom and Dad growing old together and watching Jill, Becca, and me grow up and have families of our own. Everything about the whole of life that we’re all going to miss out on; everything that’s different now. I didn’t have to say all of those things, because they didn’t need to be said. The way you can just look into someone’s eyes and tell what they’re thinking sometimes, that’s kind of how it was with Mom and me.

“Come on,” she said as she handed me a tissue to wipe my eyes. “Let’s make some cocoa. How does that sound?”

“That sounds really good.”

I sat on a stool in the kitchen and watched as she made us hot cocoa from scratch, with milk and cocoa powder and sugar and vanilla. We chatted as she stirred it on the stove, like I was a little kid again.

We settled in on the couch with our cocoa, and she put on the DVD of
The Way We Were
with Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford—the same one we’ve watched a thousand times before. I got the box of tissues, and we sat sharing a blanket. At the end of the movie— when Katie and Hubbell see each other on the street, and they feel all wistful about how their lives could have been together, the star-crossed lovers—we cried like we always do.

When the movie was over, Mom told me all about Becca’s visit to the doctor and how he made a referral for her to see a psychiatrist. I tried to absorb the whole idea, but it just didn’t seem real to me. How could it?

October 11 -
Cheese Omelets
And Cheesy Movies

 

I woke up too early
—the morning after the horrible football game and possible serial strangler encounter—and noticed Becca’s empty bed, and when I went to the kitchen for a glass of water, she was sitting at the kitchen table, pouring so much syrup on her toaster waffles that they practically floated on top of her plate. A cigarette burned in the ashtray next to her, her hair was a tangled mess, and her eyes were caked with makeup—who knows how old it was.

She stared at me.

“Hey, Becca.”

She gave me a blank look. I went back to bed, and when I got up later, Mom was making omelets.

“Have you seen the syrup? I could’ve sworn I bought some not too long ago. I thought it would be nice to have pancakes,” she said as she flipped an omelet over in the skillet.

Becca was in the living room, sitting cross-legged on the living room floor cutting out newspaper articles.

“What’s with her?” I asked Mom, who shrugged and gave me this eye-roll look.

“She’s working on a school project.”

“Can’t we make the scissors go away?” I whispered, and she gave me a look, one that meant that was going to happen very soon.

Jill joined us for breakfast, and we ate our cheese omelets as Becca sat with two Pop-Tarts and a glass of orange juice.

At work I did random, boring things that were still better than being at home avoiding Becca, and when Rose called me to see how I was feeling after the horrible football game betrayal, I told her I was great, which wasn’t true at all, but I was about three percent better than when she last saw me. Really, though, I was just feeling numb.

After work I went to the movies with her and Bethany, even though the two of them have
terrible
taste, and it was a
horrible
slasher film, a remake of
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
. I sat through half of it with my hand covering my eyes.

When I’m in the mood for a scary movie, which is rare, I prefer old-school horror like
The Blob
or
I Was a Teenage Werewolf
, even though they’re corny and ridiculous. At least they don’t have all the blood and body parts.

I’ll never let Rose and Bethany pick the movie again.

October 13 -
Why I Don’t Like Mondays

 

For a lot of reasons besides my usual ones
, I was
not
looking forward to school today. When I got up, I could feel a pimple coming to the surface right in the corner of my mouth, where the really sensitive skin meets the face, so I squeezed it. I
know
you’re not supposed to, but who doesn’t? Nothing happened, so I kept squeezing until I saw a little pinprick of blood.
Not a good sign
. The corner of my lip started to swell, and a few minutes later when I looked at myself in the mirror, the pimple had apparently turned itself inside out and was now swelling to the size of a pea, or a small country.

Not only did I want to avoid Summer, the traitor, and Anthony, the other traitor, I wanted to avoid every other person I knew. And it’s not like you can put a bandage on your face to cover a zit. That just doesn’t work except in stupid teen movies. Ugh. It looked like I’d been stung by a bee.

I scanned my closet looking for something that wouldn’t call attention to my face. Not having a bag to put directly over my head, I found a black sweater and black pants. Not only would I not stand out, I hoped, but it fit my dark mood. A bonus.

Mom took one look at me. “Oh, no. What happened?”

Ugh. “Mom, I
really
can’t go to school looking like this.”

I pleaded with her to let me stay home. Just this once.

“Oh, Stacy, don’t be ridiculous. It’s not that bad. Nobody will even notice. Don’t worry about it. You’re fine.” Spoken just like a mom (who, in fact,
had
noticed).

In homeroom, when I walked to the back of the class to throw something in the trash, Summer saw me, and by the horrified look on her face, I could tell she saw “it.” (Of
all
people to have to deal with at this moment!) She got up out of her seat to meet me.

“Stacy! What happened to your face?”

“What does it
look
like?”

“What’s
your
problem? I was just
asking
.” She gave her beautiful golden hair a flip with her hand like she always does and walked away. I could feel myself starting to boil over; my fingernails were digging into the flesh of my hands. (I don’t know how to express just how much I hated Summer at this moment.)

“I
saw you
with Anthony Friday night,” I said through clenched teeth.

“Yeah? And?”

She stared, defiant, with a hand on her hip. I just wanted to smack her face. She shocked me, how unconcerned she was about this. I forgot about Mr. Mandel.

“God, Summer. I can’t believe you. I thought you were my friend, and you stabbed me in the back. You’re a backstabber, Summer.”

On the verge of tears, losing it, my hands began to shake a little.

“Oh, come on, Stacy. It’s
my
fault he didn’t call you?
I’m
supposed to stay away from him forever just because
you
like him?”

“God, what a bitch,” I said, turning to walk back to my desk. She stopped me though, putting a hand on my shoulder, which I smacked away.

“You’re completely out of control, Stacy,” she hissed.

“You know what, Summer? I just wanna slap your face right now.”

Summer pushed herself up close to me.

“Come on. You want some? Right now.”

I imagined the two of us rolling around on the floor with me pulling her hair.

“Is there a problem, Ms. York? Ms. Phillips?” Mr. Mandel asked.

“No,” we said at the same time.

“Then get back to your seats, please.”

I gave Summer the evil eye. “Whatever, Summer. You two deserve each other.”

She stomped away, all pissed off.

My next two classes, I was in a very dark mood. And everyone was looking at me. They were trying to figure out what this thing was on my face. Maybe they thought I had herpes or ringworm or some other disease. I should’ve worn a little sign that said, “Hi, I’m Stacy, and this is my pimple. Don’t be afraid. It may be the size of a small island, but it won’t hurt you. Just don’t feed it.”

In English class, Chad turned around in his seat.

“Whoa, Stacy. What happened to your face? Did you walk into something?”

“Not in the mood right now, Chad.”

Why
is it that I like him again?

“You know, I hear they make stuff for that.”

“Thanks, Chad. I didn’t know that. Grew up in a cave.”

“I’m kidding. It’s not that bad.”

“Yeah, sure.” I felt the little devil on my shoulder, and I couldn’t resist poking back at him just a little. “So I saw you at the game with Vanessa.”

“Oh, yeah.” He looked a little embarrassed and gave a shrug. “We’re just friends.”

“Just friends, huh? You two looked pretty cozy there.”

Sometimes I wish I’d keep my thoughts to myself. Now he thinks I care about him. I
really
need to stop talking sometimes. But he laughed and went back to his work, still insisting they were nothing but friends.

At lunch, I met Rose and Bethany in front of the library.

“Hey, guys. Meet my pimple. I’m thinking of naming it soon. I’m thinking of naming it Summer, as a matter of fact.”

“Oh, come on. It’s nothing,” Rose said, completely non-convincingly as she and Bethany looked at each other with eyebrows raised, like, “Whoa, did you see the size of Stacy’s zit?”

We walked to the cafeteria, and I
felt
people looking at me. We grabbed our trays, and I knew something was up when Roman walked over with this look on his face. He was supposed to have first lunch with Becca.

“Roman, what’re you doing here?”

He was all fidgety, like he didn’t know what to do with his hands, and looked more pale than usual.

“Um, Stacy, uh…Becca wigged out on the lunch ladies a while ago. Um, she just went off.”

I tried to process this information: she wigged out. This could mean a lot of things. I turned it over in my head, wondering exactly what he meant.

Roman looked right at me and brushed his straight, black hair out of his eyes.

“What happened? Roman, come on. What?”
Oh god. Becca, what did you do?
My mind was reeling with the possible nightmare scenarios; Roman looked like he’d rather be anywhere in the world than telling me this.

“She started throwing things. Flipped a tray of food over.”

Oh God, Becca.

“Um, there’s more.”

“More? More? What more?”

He swallowed hard, then bit his lip.

“Tell me.”

He looked like he wanted to die.

“She took her shirt off.”

“Why?” (
Why?
)

Roman sighed, and he looked like he was about eight years old, just like a little kid. “She said she was hot.”

Oh God, Becca.

“Please tell me she was wearing a bra.”

“Yeah, she was.”

Thank God for small favors. He filled me in on the rest of the horrible, awful details as I contemplated changing my name and coming to school in a wig and dark glasses. I’d been kind of waiting for something to happen—hoping it wouldn’t be at school—with Becca showing her colors to the world and exposing herself (but not so literally as taking off actual clothing).

So Becca caused a scene in the cafeteria and started a fight with the lunch ladies. I repeat. The lunch ladies. She wanted veggie burgers, and all they had were hamburgers and fried chicken.

Why did it have to be fried chicken?

And the poor lunch ladies. They’re actually very nice, and I know they don’t get paid enough to deal with my crazy, psycho sister.

Roman told me all about it, about how he tried to calm her down, and she just pushed him away, flipped the tray. After that, she whipped her shirt off in about two seconds.

Becca was agitated, started yelling, and the security guard ended up escorting her to the office, the whole time trying to get her to put her shirt back on. Oh God.

So that’s it. People know Becca’s crazy now.

“Roman, I gotta go. We’ll talk later.”

I brushed off Rose and Bethany’s offers to go with me. Their faces were sympathetic, and I couldn’t deal with
that
too. I practically ran to the school office. People were looking at me, but this time, I knew it wasn’t my pimple they were looking at.

BOOK: Normalish
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