Authors: J.A. Templeton,Julia Templeton
Table of Contents
Thin White Line
Thin White Line by J.A. Templeton
Copyright 2013 Julia Templeton
This book is a work of fiction. Characters and events portrayed in this book are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or actual events is entirely coincidental and not intended by the author.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author.
Cover Photograph by Korie Nicole Photography
Cover Illustration by MaeIDesign
Editing by C&D Editing
Formatting by Gail Northman - Lasting Impressions eBook Creations
To my husband, Kip—my very own tattooed bad boy.
You still make me feel like the fourteen-year-old girl who fell head-over-heels in love with you all those years ago. Together Forever, Babe! I love you!
I stare out at the misty Washington rain beading against the windshield, wondering what my best friend, Ange, and the rest of my California friends are doing at this moment. It’s guaranteed that not one of them sits in the passenger seat of an SUV with a virtual stranger—dressed in black from head-to-toe—while listening to metal rock that is so loud it vibrates the windows.
My cousin, who I haven’t seen for ten years, has been quiet, aside from a quick “hey” and a head bob, since picking me up. I try to think of different things to say, anything that will engage her, but instead of conversation, she cranks the music up louder.
Oh my God. This is going to be the longest day of my life.
As the final notes of the song play out, Brooke finally turns down the stereo and looks at me. “I fucking love that band. They’re so good.”
That is debatable, but I won’t argue with her.
She pulls the sun visor down, grabs a cigarette out of the pack with her teeth, and offers me one.
I shake my head and try to hide my surprise that she smokes. A decade before, I’d been the rebellious one. Rebellious meaning, I fed my green beans to the dog beneath the table when Grandma wasn’t looking.
She lights the cigarette with a lighter she fishes out of the middle console. Taking a deep inhale, she leans her head back and releases the smoke in a steady stream.
I guess that explains why the headliner of the SUV is yellowed.
As I watch her from the corner of my eye, I wonder where the bubbly girl has gone that I had spent every summer with at our grandma’s ranch in northern California. Brooke’s once brown, wavy hair is now dyed black and cut into an asymmetrical bob that’s been flat-ironed into sharp points. Her caramel-brown eyes are heavily lined with black makeup, she has a diamond piercing in her nose, and I count six earrings as well as one metal bar through her ear cartilage.
She glances at me like she’s waiting for a reaction, and I remember her comment about the song. “Yeah, great band.”
Her lips quirk and she gives a little chuckle. “You’re so full of shit. You always loved that bubble gum, pop music.”
If I recall correctly, she had a thing for those same bubble gum bands and, in particular, one blond, blue-eyed boy band member who she had sworn her undying love for. Somehow I don’t think she’d like me to remind her of those days.
This is so not how I saw our reunion going down. I shift in the seat, hoping we get to school soon while Brooke cracks each knuckle slowly; the sound making me cringe. My wish is answered when we approach a sprawling, brick building. “Well, here we are, Kenz. Say hello to your new prison.”
I follow her gaze to the weather-beaten sign that reads,
Pacific High School. Home of the Eagles.
Pacific High definitely isn’t anything remotely close to Saint Catherine’s School for Young Ladies, the place where I spent the past decade of my life. There is no tall, wrought-iron fence surrounding the school that protects students from the outside world, no armed guards in a booth that ask for identification from any car coming onto the property. There also is definitely not a dress code like there had been at my private school.
The days of plaid skirts, white button down shirts, blue cardigans, tights and flats are over for me. I look at a group of girls crossing the street towards the school, dressed in everything from yoga pants to short dresses that barely cover their asses. Yep, apparently anything goes at this high school.
I brush my hands over the soft denim of my skinny jeans, hoping I don’t stick out like a sore thumb.
Extinguishing her cigarette in the overflowing ashtray, Brooke cracks the window and blows the smoke out just as she pulls into the already packed parking lot. “No smoking policy,” she explains, flashing the peace sign to an older woman, wearing a parka and boots, who stands by the gate with a clipboard in hand. “Ass-breath is head of security and such a bitch.”
Did she just call the lady “Ass-breath”?
“If she catches you with a lit cigarette on campus, or even in the parking lot, you’ll be suspended for three days.” The peace sign switches to the bird as we pass Ass-breath, who I hope hadn’t caught the gesture.
“Have you ever been suspended?” I ask.
Brooke looks at me as though it is the stupidest question she’s ever been asked. “Um, about ten times now. So be careful.”
I don’t tell her that I’m not worried about that particular rule since I don’t smoke and I’d never been in trouble at Saint Catherine’s. Well, except for egging the head master’s car the day he retired, but I keep that information to myself since I’m sure Brooke couldn’t care less.
Brooke screeches into a parking spot near the front entrance of the school. She grabs her backpack from the backseat amongst fast food wrappers that smell like they might have been there for a while. I remember my mom commenting that her sister is OCD when it comes to cleaning. Apparently, that trait didn’t spill over to her offspring.
She looks into the rearview mirror and smoothes a hand over her hair before turning to me. “Hey—for what it’s worth—I’m sorry about your parents. That really sucks.”
My throat tightens at the mention of my parents. “Thanks.”
I knew the topic of my parents’ separation and impending divorce would come up eventually. I had just hoped it wouldn’t be seconds before I entered my new school.
“I was shocked to hear your dad’s girlfriend is twenty years younger than he is. I mean, I always liked Uncle Tony, but that’s just fucking creepy. Let’s face it—she could be his daughter.”
I definitely don’t need a reminder that my dad left my mom for a woman half his age and that my life has taken a dramatic turn for the worse because of said affair. I’ve gone from living in a nearly ten thousand square foot estate in San Diego’s most prominent community, to a nine hundred square foot apartment in an old home in Vancouver, Washington; a bedroom community across the river from Portland, Oregon. I clear my throat. “Yeah, I was surprised, too.”
“Is your mom doing better now?”
“Well, considering she’s been replaced by someone twenty years younger than her, has had to downgrade her BMW for a Honda, and her mansion for an apartment, I’d say she’s doing a damn good job of keeping it together.” I can hardly believe I said the words aloud. I hadn’t kept the snark from my voice, either.
Brooke lifts a brow and the side of her mouth follows. “That slut isn’t half the woman Aunt Melissa is. You wait; your mom will have the last laugh.”
I hope she’s right. I want my mom to be happy again. As it is, I haven’t heard her laugh for months. I force a smile. “Thanks, Brooke.”
She squeezes my hand. “And at least your mom had your dad during his prime. I’m not saying your dad’s not a good looking guy, but the hair plugs and gold chains aren’t really working for him.”
I look down at my hand and twist the ring around my finger. Sure, I’m furious with my dad for leaving my mom and our family, but I’m not ready to hear someone else talk shit about him, either. I’ve listened to my mom cry every single night since she found out about the affair. It’s caused a bit of a role reversal in the past few months with me being more of her friend than her kid. I’ve listened for hours on end to her bitch about everything she hates about her life.
This new mom is a far cry from the mom who kept me sheltered from any gossip. She used to be the kind of mom every kid yearned for. The kind who didn’t miss a school event and who was always home to greet us, regardless. I’m the first to admit that I’ve had a gifted life; despite the fact that my mom has kept a tight leash on my brother—a freshman at the University of Washington and the golden child of our family—and me.
Life is going to be different from now on. My mom will be working with my aunt, Brooke’s mother, who is a photographer that specializes in taking commercial pictures. Mom will finally be building a life for herself
a new identity
and I will do everything I can to make this move worth it. Even though I hated leaving my friends and sunny California, being supportive of my mom during this time is what counts.
“You have everything you need?” Brooke asks, pulling me out of my thoughts.
She gives me the once over, her gaze lingering on my lower half. One side of her mouth lifts in a smirk that makes me second-guess my clothing choice of a long-sleeved, cream-colored shirt with a large, funky belt; dark-wash, ultra-skinny jeans; black ankle boots and a black leather jacket. In California, the style is popular, but from the expression on Brooke’s face, I wonder if this rage hasn’t quite made it to Washington just yet.
My blonde hair wouldn’t cooperate this morning. It lays flat and sort of listless against my shoulders. Hopefully, I have a hair band stashed in my backpack because my straight hair can rarely hold a curl in good weather, let alone the drizzly rain I’m fast becoming accustomed to in Vancouver.
“Come on.” Brooke pops something into her mouth before walking in long strides towards the school. As I try to keep pace with her I wonder if she’s trying to lose me. Is she embarrassed to be seen with me? I’m sure she wasn’t thrilled when her parents told her to pick up the cousin she hasn’t seen for years and show me around school. I try to think of how I would feel if the tables were turned.
Despite her less than ecstatic enthusiasm, I’m still thankful she picked me up. I would have hated coming here alone, pulling into the parking lot in my Honda with California plates.
“Just think, Kenz. This is where you’ll spend the next year-and-a-half of your life.” She glances back at me with a mischievous smile. “A far cry from Saint Catherine’s, huh?”
There is that knowing smirk again.
“I can hardly wait,” I say with forced enthusiasm. My heart is beating so hard that it’s a roar in my ears. What I wouldn’t give for Ange to be here with me. She’d tell me how great I look, how amazing the upcoming semester will be for us, and pretty much hold my hand.
Brooke pulls a sucker from her pocket and rips off the wrapper before shoving it in her mouth. “Teachers will get pissed if they smell smoke on your breath,” she says around the sucker.
As other kids walk past us and stare at me, I wish more than anything to be back in San Diego and back to the familiar.
Damn my dad for ruining my life
, I think as I dig my nails into my palms. Why couldn’t he be the one to move over a thousand miles away? Why did we have to leave so my mom wouldn’t have to see him driving around town with that twenty-four year-old home-wrecker who has completely destroyed our family?