Authors: Julie Anne Peters
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Social Issues, #Adolescence, #Dating & Sex, #Homosexuality
He frowned a little. "You can't see the difference?"
I could. I mean, mine was … comprehensive. Along with everyone else I'd drawn the apple. Then it dawned on me. "Oh, you only wanted the apple?"
Mackel threw back his head and laughed.
No fair. "I thought you wanted the stool and the desk and the easel behind it …"
Mackel slapped his forehead. "My God, She doesn't even know she's a genius."
My eyes fell. "Get real." Did he mean it? I compared my drawing to the others again. It was better. More realistic looking. I'd done some drawing on my own over the years, just fooling around, sketching animals and people. I never thought of myself as an artist.
Mackel glanced at the name on my paper and said, "Holland." He raised his bushy head. "You really should consider transferring to a higher class. Level II or III."
"Do I have to?"
"No, but I don't know how much you're going to get out of Drawing I. Besides the basics."
I thought about it. Not for long. "I'll stay. I need the basics. I'm sure I'll learn something," I reached for my drawing.
He snatched it off the desk. "Please," he said, clutching my paper to his chest. "May I keep this? As the first of your magnificent masterpieces?"
He was so weird. "Hey," I waved him off, "line your birdcage."
He gasped. "I shall treasure this always."
Nutcase, I decided as I scuttled out of there. Totally devoid of frontal matter.
Mom called me at lunchtime to remind me to stop by the career centre. Why didn't she just buy me a beeper, or one of those electronic devices convicts wear on their ankles? She also told me I had an envelope waiting at home. I could tell by her barely concealed excitement that she'd either opened it or knew what it contained. She disconnected before I could ask.
Mrs. Lucas was in a meeting when I arrived at the career centre. Her door was ajar, and I heard the principal, Mr. Reynardi, snarl, "That kid's dangerous. I don't want him in this school. It you don't do it, Bonnie, I'm calling the cops." He charged out, almost bulldozing me down. "Excuse me," he mumbled.
I'm glad I wasn't the subject of that discussion.
"Holland, there you are," Mrs. Lucas bustled out of her office. She looked frazzled, as usual. "I have a box of goodies for you. Catalogs and applications, financial aid forms and resource books. Did you get your invite?"
She clapped a hand over her mouth. "I didn't say that."
I eyed the box on a folding chair near her door and heaved a sigh. More audible than it was meant to be.
Mrs. Lucas furrowed her brow. "You okay? You look tired." She reached for my cheek.
I backed away and forced a smile. "I'm fine. I'll just take this stuff. Oh, do you have a catalog for Western State?"
"You're not thinking of going there?" She looked aghast.
"It's not for me. It's for Kirsten."
"Oh. Well." She walked past me to the door, where the catalogs for the state schools were stacked along the wall.
Accompanying me down the hall, Mrs. Lucas launched into a lengthy discourse on all the academic scholarships and government grants I could qualify for. How my SATs and ACTs were high enough to get me into most institutions. An institution, I mused, sounded more exciting than college. We reached the main intersection and she added, "On top is the information on schools the offer pre-law programs."
"Pre-law? Who said I wanted to do that?"
"Oh." Mrs. Lucas flinched at the sharpness of my voice. "I thought that was your goal, to attend law school. Your mom said –"
That's all I heard. Muttering a quick thanks I charged off toward my Jeep. To my own space, my own time.
"Holland, wait up," someone called at my back.
I had the exit door scoped out and had to skid to a stop.
I glanced at my watch over the two-ton box. Shit, I was already ten minutes late for work, "Sure," I replied, exhaling my frustration.
"You're a terrible liar," she said. "You should work on that."
I sneered at her.
She shouldered her backpack. "What's that stuff?" She indicated the box.
"College crap. You want it?"
"Sure." I wasn't serious, but she relieved me of the box anyway. I might forget she had it. "Where are you going to college?" she asked as we walked together.
"I don't know. I don't know if I even want to go. Where are you going?"
"I'm not sure. Metro Urban, probably. I haven't thought mush about it, since I'm only a junior."
"You are?" That surprised my. She seemed so much older. More together.
The second wave of the blizzard that was forecast to sweep in never materialised, but an arctic wind was whipping up eddies of cafeteria debris around the parking lot. Cece, head bent, hurried with me to my Jeep. "Since you're student body president, can you tell me why you don't have a lesbigay club at Southglenn?" She had to raise her voice to be heard over the wind.
"A what?" I yelled.
"Lesbigay," she yelled back.
"A who –" Oh. It registered. "I guess … no one ever applied."
"Well, I want to," she said. "How do I do it?"
We reached the Jeep and Cece balanced the box on the door handle, anchoring her baseball cap on her head with her free hand. "Get in," I said. "We can't talk out here." I unlocked the door and took the box. She climbed in and reached across the seat to unlock my door.
I circled around front and hefted the box into the back, then jumbed in and slammed the door. "God, I hate the wind. I don't mind cold, but I hate wind."
"Yeah, me too." Cece scanned the interior, eyes stopping on Seth's camping gear behind my seat. "Is this yours or his?"
"The Jeep? It's mine," I said. "Well, it actually belongs to the bank, but I'm letting them extort money from me for nine or ten more years."
She smiled. "About an LBGT club?" Her eyes rose to meet mine from under the bill of her cap.
"Yeah." I shifted to face her. LBGT. "What's the T stand for?"
"Transgendered," she said. "Should probably add Q for Queer or Questioning. And I for Intersexed."
Intersexed? I'd have to look that one up. "Okay, well, you have to submit an application if you want to form an official school club, which I'm assuming is what you're asking. You'll need to have a mission statement …" Why was my heart beating a drum solo? Cold. That was it. I turned on the ignition and revved up the heat. "And you'll need a faculty advisor."
"Anyone. Anyone who'll agree."
"Why wouldn't they?" she snapped.
"I didn't say they wouldn't," I snapped back. I didn't mean to, it was reflex. "I'm just telling you how to go about it, okay?"
She nodded once, then turned to gaze out the window. "Do you think it'll get approved?" she asked.
"I don't know why not."
She burst into laughter.
She twisted back to me and shook her head. "Where do I get an app?"
"I'll get you one. Why do you think it wouldn't get approved?"
Her head tilted to one side. "Oh, I don't know. ESP?"
She was being sarcastic. Why? I mean, we'd never gotten a request for a gay club. Probably because there weren't all that many gays at our school. Two now, counting her. "I'll pick up the form for you tomorrow."
One side of her lip cricked. "Cool."
"Can I take you somewhere?" I checked my watch. Going on twenty minutes late. I hated for Judy to think me irresponsible.
"That's okay," Cece said, "I have my car."
"Which one is it? I'll drive you there."
Cece reached for the door hand. "It's the blue Neon. Parked right here next to you." She shot me a grin and leapt out. I idled in place until she'd gunned her motor and zipped out of the slot. Her rear bumper was crammed with stickers: HATE IS NOT A FAMILY VALUE, GRRIZ KICH AZZ. The frame on her license plate read: 2QT2BSTR8. I had the strongest urge to follow her. More than an urge. A need.
"A need?" I questioned my brain out loud. "Grrl, the only thing you need is to get your azz to work."
The letter that had come in the mail was an invitation to attend a dinner at the governor's mansion. Apparently I'd been selected to the Governor's Gold Circle, which honoured the top high school scholars in the state.
"Wow," Neal exclaimed at dinner, passing the invitation back to Mom. "How'd you fate that?"
"My question exactly."
"Neal," Mom scolded him. "In case you hadn't noticed, my daughter is brilliant."
"Get real, Mom. I don't even have a four-oh."
"It's not all based on GPA," she said. "You have to demonstrate community service and leadership skills. Your participation in sports was a bonus. Not to mention that Bonnie was on the nominating committee."
"Mom! God. Did you put Mrs. Lucas up to this?"
"Of course not." Mom looked offended. "It was her idea."
I bet, I thought, gritting my teeth.
Mom inserted the invitation back into its crisp envelope, running her index finger across the raised governor's seal. "You'll need something new to wear," she said. "A dress. Not pants." Mom handed me the letter.
I snatched it from her and tossed it onto the credenza behind me. "I haven't decided if I'm going. Anyway, it's not until March."
"Of course you're going."
Hannah fussed and Mom spooned another glop of liquified turkey into her mouth.
"I have a better idea." I scraped back my chair and stood. "You go. The governor'll like you better, I'm sure."
"Holland –" The hurt in Mom's voice stopped me. Without turning around, I said, "Mom, just let me make my own decisions, okay? I think I'm old enough now." I twisted to meet her eyes. "Don't you?"
Deadpan, she said, "You make me sound like some kind of horrible, meddling mother."
Neal snorted. I appealed to him, but he threw up his hands and said, "Hey, I'm out of the one."
Mom urged another spoonful of turkey into Hannah's mouth. "I trust you to make your own decisions, honey. You'll do the right thing. You always make me proud."
Tears filled my eyes. Charging down the stairs, I screamed inside, When? When, Mom? When have I ever made you proud? Never. If I work my butt off to get straight A's, I'm not taking hard enough classes. It I swim a personal best, I should've chosen a sport where my best would be good enough to win. I should get a better job, a better car, a better grip on my reality.
Mom had looked shocked when I told her I got elected student council president, like I couldn't possibly have achieved anything so impressive on my own. The one choice I'd made in my life that she approved of was Seth. She was gaga over Seth.
Shit. I'd go to the stupid dinner. But hell would have to freeze over before I ever wore a dress.
I stalled around my locker waiting for Cece, watching the time. I'd cut my laps short so I could run to the office and pick up a cup application for her. It was getting late. I didn't dare linger past the warning bell for fear of Arbuthnot. The bloody wrath of Arbuthnot. Earlier this week she'd verbally bludgeoned a girl to tears for being two minutes late. She'd ranted on and on about being responsible, showing respect for her, for our peers, for all of us who made the effort to be here on time. Needless to say, the girl dropped the class. A lot of people had dropped. I would've too, if I didn't need another lit credit to graduate.
The bell rang. No Cece.
After lunch I sprinted up the stairs to art. She was sitting at the table nearest the window, talking to Brandi. Some compulsion drove me to interrupt their little téte-á-téte. "Cece?"
She blinked up at me. "Yeah?"
"I have this application for you." I searched my stack of spirals to find it. Ignoring me, Brandi continued, "So, anyway, if you want to come over tonight I could pick you up after work."
"Here." I shoved the app at Cece.
"Okay, thanks." She smiled and laid it on top of her books. To Brandi she said, "I'll call you."
Mackel flew in the door. "Heads up," he chirruped. "Everybody got their supplies now?"
I stumbled to my table. Winslow was already there, doodling on a tablet. "Yo," he said.
"Yo back." I took a deep breath and tried to clear my head. What was wrong with me? A simmering sort of anger had been festering all morning, even before school started. It began with Mom cornering me in the kitchen to remind me that Faith was staying over this weekend and would I mind not making myself so scarce? Yes, I'd mind. That was the master plan. At the end of class this morning Arbuthnot added
to our list of required readings, like I had all this idle time. I couldn't fathom in calculus why we even had to learn about rectilinear motion, and if Mackel gave us homework I'd torch his hair.
He must've felt my fire. "We'll do an in-class exercise today," he said. "You should be able to finish it. I want you to create a completely different object out of a familiar one. Alter your mindsets. Expand your vision."
I had no idea what he was talking about. Familiar. I surveyed the room. Everything in here was strange, unsettling. Her, whispering with Brandi. Stop looking at her.
I forced my eyes to the table, to my tablet. My left hand was spread across the paper. Okay. Familiar. I traced around my fingers. Studied the outline.
Turkey. That's all I saw. Winslow reached over and drew the gullet under my thumb. We both cracked up. Had to bury our heads on the table to smother the laughter.
Winslow actually handed in the turkey. I did a pencil scraping over my Jeep key and labeled it, "Not a key. Expand your vision."
On the way to my locker after school my cell rang. It was Seth reminding me about ice skating tomorrow, like I'd spaced it. Which I had. He said he'd pick me up at ten, then added, "Good luck at your meet. I wish you'd let me come cheer you on."
"Not now, not ever." We'd been through this. He knew how much I hated people in the audience, how freaked I got knowing someone was out there watching me, expecting me to perform. Swimming wasn't about the competition. It was about … I don't know. The team. Me. The girls.
As I slipped my key into the Jeep door, I noticed something stuck under the wiper blade. It was solid and square and wrapped in red foil. Throwing my junk in the back, I clambered onto the seat and shut the door. Running a fingernail under the Scotch tape, I folded back the wrapper and removed the object.