It was the sort of day outside that usually meant a horror story was about to begin. The only thing in larger quantities than the thunder was the rain and I was beginning to wonder if the bus was even going to come today. I was really starting to regret failing the driving test. It was a miserable day. And the worst part was yet to come.
My English teacher, Mrs. Kolber hated it when students were late. She had this odd obsession with taking attendance before the late bell even rang. I was in for it. Plus, aside from lunch, English was the only time I got to see my girlfriend. Maria Bette. She was my love. Sure, she had her faults, but she was pretty and smart and she said she loved me for who I was. I don't know why this was so important to me but it was. Maybe because I never thought she'd date another girl. That's right, I'm lesbian. I have been ever since I can remember. Something that never seemed to help my standing in life. My mother did finally get used to it . . . about the time I entered high school. I'm still grateful for my dad's reaction when he caught me kissing my friend on the couch in seventh grade. His words were something along the lines of "Put a sine on the door if you're going to be doing that, Princess," even if it did put me off kissing for a few years, it was better than my mother's reaction that night when she got home. But then, my mother and I have always had differing opinions.
Half an hour after it was scheduled to arrive, the bus pulled to a stop, billowing exhaust and splashing water up to my shins. I stood from the bench I was seated on, and climbed dully into the warmth of the vehicle and flipped out my bus pass for the driver, though after three years of taking the same bus every day, I thought he should probably recognize me. As I sat down, I rubbed the water dripping down from my bangs out of my eyes, remembering too late that I was wearing makeup. Damn, I thought, wiping my finger desperately under my eye to remove any evidence of runny mascara. It was no use, however. It always seemed that when you wanted makeup to last, it never seemed to stay on, but when it got all over your face, it was there until you got home to the makeup remover. The irony of life, I suppose.
I folded my arms around my black shoulder bag and stared out the window at the passing houses, some old, some new, and some just strange. By the time the bus pulled up to the stop next to my school, I was already late. Resigning myself to the inevitable dunce-hat (and I mean that literally) I walked into my class. Esther Kolber was a short and rather heavy woman of about fifty. Her eyes were dark and shielded by bushy grey eyebrows that seemed not to understand that the rest of her hair was thinning with age. I slipped into my seat while she was turned toward the whiteboard, but her teacher senses caught me and she turned, chucking an eraser that caught me squarely in the forehead. Eyes watering I stood up and walked sullenly over to the chair in the corner with a cone hat sitting ominously on it. I must say, I feel the dunce-hat is underestimated. It was the most humiliating thing ever. Maria shot me an irritated look as though I was intentionally not siting by her. Kaillen, the new girl, who had been "the new girl" for three years now and was very much the class jester, happened to be one of Maria's friends. She snickered and gave me a finger wave. I just gritted my teeth and stared at the board as Mrs. Kolber explained how poetry was nothing more than a structured organization of rules. Funny, English used to be my favorite class.
After ten minutes I was able to sit down in my seat again. Maria frowned at me and passed me a note.
'Why do you always have to be late? I hardly get to see you as it is. You're hopeless. XP'
'I wasn't TRYING to be late. The bus was off schedule because of the rain. And I think the bus driver is out to get me ever since I asked him if it was really that hard to make his rounds on time,' I replied. Kaillen snatched the note and read it with a smile, scribbling something at the end.
'I like passing notes too.' I rolled my eyes and glared at her. Maria frowned and ignored her message.
'I have something to talk to you about after school, are you free?'
'I don't know. My mother wanted me home right after school.'
'Don't worry, it'll only take a minute. Please? It's really important <3' I sighed. I thought it was adorable when she used little hearts at the ends of sentences. Kaillen tried to grab the not again but I snatched it away giving her an exasperated expression. She put her head on folded arms in an over dramatic pout.
'Okay, I guess. But really quick. My mother's already on edge.' Maria nodded, though she didn't really understand the situation, and tossed the note into the bin while Mrs. Kolber wasn't looking. Maria then proceeded to pull out a pen and paper and pretend to take notes while I doodled on the edge of my math assignment which happened to be the first thing my hands came upon in the depths of my bag. At least my math teacher liked to look at my art. She was a happy-go-lucky sort with bright pink hair that stuck up in the front where she often ran her fingers through it. I glanced over at Maria and then reached my hand under the table to grab hers. She glanced over at me when she squeezed my hand but dropped it quickly. While I made it no secret that I was lesbian, Maria was more secretive about it. She didn't like people knowing we were going out. She hadn't even told her parents about us.
It wasn't overly surprising, though. I was her first girlfriend. And hopefully her last. Kaillen frowned at me questioningly when I rested my head in my arms, not even pretending to listen to the teacher's lecture on The Color Purple. I can't say I liked the book. For the most part I thought it was just boring.
I don't know why, but Kaillen always seemed to worry about me. She may have seemed like the carefree sort that didn't take much seriously, and it was true I found her more than a little obnoxious, cutting into the sparse time Maria and I could spend together, but she was a good friend. Somehow, she always came through when it mattered. I pulled on a strand of my hair, staring at the contrast of the black agains my paled fingers. Kaillen was still staring at me and I couldn't help but feel self conscious under her scrutiny. Maria was still writing studiously on her paper and wasn't really paying any attention to me. I wondered if she was punishing me for being late. Little things like that often set her off.
I was waiting anxiously for the bell to ring, but at the same time I wished I could just sit and stare at Maria for a little longer. When the bell did ring, signaling the end of class, Maria waved casually at me as we headed in opposite directions, but did not even give me a hug goodbye. Frowning I followed Kaillen to our next class, resenting the fact that I had most of my schedule with her rather than Maria. Kaillen was never really my friend. She just hung out with us. Even when I didn't want her to. I couldn't really bring myself to tell her this, though, because whenever she was upset, she got this look in her eyes like a scolded puppy. And for some reason I couldn't stand it when she looked at me like that.
"Are you okay?" Kaillen asked taking my bag as was her habit. It always seemed to me she had some sort of knight complex. I nodded absently.
"Fine," I muttered, which was far from the truth. Kaillen scowled, seeming to know I was lying to her.
"If you don't want to tell me . . ." she said with a shrug. I didn't respond. I didn't feel like I was able to talk about what was bothering me. Because so much of it was beyond my control. Even if I spoke of it, there was nothing she could do to help.
"Don't worry about it. It's a bit annoying, really," I said. Kaillen glanced at me, seemingly unabashed.
"It's about your parents, isn's it?" she said. I stiffened.
"How do you know about that?" I demanded, "Did Maria say something?" She raised her hands in surrender and shook her head. I was relieved, it hurt to think that Maria would betray my trust.
"No, she didn't say a thing. It was Dustin who told me. We have drama together. I could tell right away he was your brother," she said. I rolled my eyes. Dustin was my kid brother. He was a year younger than me and about as different from me as was possible for two siblings to be. While I was fair with ebony hair and green eyes, Dustin had pale brown hair, blue eyes and tan skin that made him look like he belonged on a beach somewhere far away with bikini clad girls bringing him piña coladas . Reality couldn't be more different though. Dustin was a techie and video game nerd who would rather be surrounded by RPG characters than get a girlfriend. I thought that was cute about him. I'd much prefer the bikini-clad girls.
"He did, did he?" I asked, clenching my teeth. He was much more open about the situation with our parents than I could be. The fact that they were getting divorced didn't seem to bother him. I wondered if he was just hiding it, or if he really didn't care if mother and dad separated. In truth, I didn't much care about them being apart. I was far more concerned about what would happen to my brother and myself. The most important thing to me was being close to my brother and dad.
"Yeah, sorry. I know I shouldn't have been talking to him about it. I feel like I've betrayed you, somehow, that's why I had to say something. It's like lying otherwise," she said, running her fingers through her short blond hair and glancing sheepishly sideways at me. Instead of getting angry I sighed and gave her a shrug.
"Don't worry about it, I don't really care. You would have found out eventually anyway." Kaillen gave a slow nod and set my bag down on my desk.
I hadn't even realized we had reached the classroom until I tripped over the overhead projector that my government teacher used as a doorstop because the maintenance worker in the school refused to fix her door, which had a habit of closing and locking everyone out. Government, in my opinion, was a waste of time. We would eventually figure it out anyway once we left high school, so why worry about it now. At least it was a solid chunk of time where I could write. That was my only reason for even going. Kaillen sat down in the seat next to mine and plugged her iPod into one ear, leaving the other out so she could hear me if I asked her a question. Electronic devices weren't technically allowed in school, but few of the teachers actually cared at this point.
I put my head down on the desk and tried to sleep. My desk was at the very front of the class, but sometimes I wondered if the teacher even knew she was standing in front of a class full of children who were supposed to be learning from the off topic lectures and photographs of her vacations to various islands from which she would return looking like a lobster. I hated high school. Or maybe adolescence was what I hated? Either way, I wanted out.