This is my school. If you go here, your parents are either millionaires or your parents work for millionaires. Neptune, California, a town without a middle class.
Forgive me if I sound jaded. It's Monday and I've had a very bad weekend. Not only did my mom come home reeling drunk on Friday night, but my best friend's apparently been found out to be carrying on an affair with her boyfriend's and my friend, Logan's, much older father. Surely you've heard about it already: the almighty famous actor, Aaron Echolls arrested for statutory rape. It's been leaked to all the papers and magazines and online gossip sites. No wonder Lilly hasn't shown up to school.
I couldn't even sit with my regular group without being berated by gossip and scandalous questions. Madison Sinclair and Shelly Pomeroy must figure that I'm the gossip hub on this matter considering Lilly's my best friend and all. But now, I'm beginning to realize that that title has lost all meaning. There's a part to Lilly I didn't know, one that wrecks things and trashily seduces older men. Sure, I knew she had flings and "lovahs" on the side, but I never knew she'd take it that far.
I take a ginger bite of my hamburger and shake my head in exasperation.
Suddenly, Logan's in front of me and yelling out "You knew, didn't you?". He accuses me. I look at him blankly. "You little –"
"Logan, you're scaring me." I whisper nervously, almost in a hiss. He narrows his eyes and almost opens his mouth again "Do you really trust me so little that you'd think…you'd think I'd keep something…something so monumental from you?"
My eyes crinkle in hurt and his expression falls. He rubs his forehead in guilt as he sits down across from me.
"I'm sorry…I just, I can't-"
"I know." I whisper. "I can't believe she'd do something like that, either."
"…and you know her better than anyone." Logan muses, almost in a mournful tone.
"I thought I did." I say with finality.
"Look." He nods over to another table quietly.
It's Duncan. He's gruffly eating his meal, tough and concentrated. Dick's snapping his fingers in front of him, as if to gain his attention, but alas, no dice. Duncan's always been a good selective listener. I shake my head, willing the tears to stay in my eyes. It's been almost a week since Duncan started ignoring my existence, pretending we'd never been a couple, the couple.
"What? He's still giving you the silent treatment?"
"Vigilantly, in fact." I reply grimly.
I enter my house and go straight to my room. Or at least I try to. I hear a strangled "Veronica?" and stop in my tracks. My mom. I go into my parents' room and find her collapsed on the bed, reeking of liquor. Oh boy. She's drunk again. Go figure. It's become less of an occasional thing and more of a daily habit as of late. She's been getting wasted almost every night since Duncan and I broke up, but somehow I doubt there's a correlation.
"Mom, are you okay?" I ask quietly as I come up next to her.
"Tuck me in?" She asks weakly and I help her into bed. Dad won't be home for a while, he's been staying pretty late since Lynn Echolls found the sex tapes. We've both been telling him that she's sick with some mysterious stomach bug, but we all know he's smarter than that. He's probably already found some the bottles of vodka and rum hiding around the house. "Night, baby." She says softly, even though it's only 4:30. The shades are drawn.
"Sleep well, Mom." I say gently as my hand begins to shake.
I rush out of the room and into my own, snuggling into my own blanket, holding on like it's my only lifeline.
"Oy vey" I mutter as my car doesn't turn on. I didn't think I was that low on gas. My parents could afford to buy a decent car for me, but we always stretch for gas money. We're not necessarily poor, per say, we're just not terribly well off. And what with my mom running through her tiny paychecks as it is, it's pretty difficult to keep my car with full tank. I need a job…and badly.
I call Logan and as he's on his way to pick me up, I leaf through the help wanted pages of the Neptune Register. Among the uninteresting occupations, comes one that actually peaks my interest instead of dulling it: a "paid internship" at the Neptune Register for photography. Score.
"What? The rust-bucket finally conk out?" Logan quips as he pulls up next to me.
"No gas." I shrug and Logan chuckles disbelievingly. "Shut up."
"Hop in." He settles down and unlocks the door.
I get in and we drive to school. He gets out and opens my door to help me out. His hand briefly grazes mine and I look up at him curiously, but he's already looking away…at Lilly. She's just gotten off a motorcycle with a PCHer, no less. Weevil. That's sure to spark at least a few rumors.
Logan's jaw is set stiffly and I put my hand gently on his arm to calm him "Logan?"
He shakes his head sternly.
Duncan comes over, reeling. "Did you two know that-?" He asks angrily and upset. He's speaking to us both, but only giving Logan eye contact. He's still avoiding me.
"Do you think I'd know?" Logan grits out as if the answer should be obvious.
"No dude…I didn't mean to-" Duncan responds defensively and then looks over at me. "Veronica…did you-?" He asks gently.
"What do you care what I think?!" I scoff "Fact is, you stopped caring about me a long time ago." I reply bitingly and grab my stuff to storm away to my first period, leaving both Duncan and Logan awestruck.
One day, I come home from school to find my mom gone. As in cleared out, suitcases packed, indefinitely gone. I collapse on my floor listlessly and look scathingly at the mirror.
Who is this blonde girl with the outrageously long hair? Someone innocent, someone naïve? Someone who's certainly not me. Not the real me, at least. I look like the Lilly wannabe all the 09ers say I am…her shadow. Maybe I spent so much time with her and listened to her so much that I lost my real self.
Bitterly, I storm towards my closet and pull out all my lightly colored shirts, all the pastels I own and throw them on the floor in a fit. Maybe she was right about one thing, that maybe I'm not really yellow cotton but red satin instead.
Fingering my long, highlighted, heavily conditioned locks, I frown in disgust. I'm not that girl anymore, not the one that dreamt about a house in the suburbs and a perfect marriage with Duncan Kane, not the one that thought her best friend could do no wrong. Not her. I take my scissors out of my desk drawer and start snipping, watching as the pieces fall to floor.
I'm not that girl anymore.