Miranda Killgallen had never been so utterly humiliated in her life; not only was she spending the day with her crazy aunt Titi- her father's younger sister and the furthest thing from "maternal" one could ever hope to be- she was being dragged along to some heinous "mother-daughter" workshop that she had no business being at. Titi was not her mother- thank goodness for that- and she had much better things to do with her Saturday afternoons than attend some dorky knitting class.
"Chin up, Merdea!" Titi said enthusiastically as the two of them trooped down the hall of the community's recreation centre to get to hell- err, the knitting class.
"My name is Miranda." The thirteen-year-old eighth grader corrected through clenched teeth; Merdea was her mother's name.
"Oops! Sorry, Miranda. It's just that you look so much like her." Titi trilled, half-skipping, half-bouncing the next few steps. Today she was outfitted in a black dress with several thick, bejewelled golden chains around her neck (how she could wear that in the humid summer weather was beyond Miranda, but the girl was secretly hoping her aunt would melt in a puddle of her own sweat). Miranda shot her aunt a glare for that last comment before Titi pushed open the door of room 602: the knitting class.
Miranda advanced into the room cautiously while Titi swept right in; acting as though she owned the place. Her espresso-brown hair was nothing more than a giant frizz ball atop her head and the bright pink lipstick decorating her pouty mouth made her look like a hooker who was temporarily out-of-work. Miranda suppressed a groan of misery and shuffled into the room, it made her feel as if she was back at school.
Miranda's sharp, dark eyes darted around the classroom, taking in all the mother-daughter pairs. The youngest was probably a twenty-something-year-old and a baby that couldn't have been more than a year. The infant was crying, her face all red and wrinkled as she wailed. Miranda smirked.
I feel ya, kid.
And then her wandering eyes caught sight of red hair. Frizzy, dark red hair. Familiar hair. Ginger Foutley hair.
Just then the girl in question looked up, meeting Miranda's hostile glare with her own uncertain, wavering one. Miranda shot her a hollow smile before her aunt summoned her to the pair of desks she'd found. At once the teen's expression changed, she grudgingly pulled out the seat beside her eccentric relative and lay her head down on the desk with a resounding thump!
Miranda groaned. The Foutley girls' heads were obstructing her view.
Stupid Dad for enrolling me in this mindless class. Stupid Aunt Titi. Stupid red hair. Stupid Ginger and her stupid collection of stupid plastic ponies. Stupid, stupid, stupid!
Another weekend into the class and Miranda was ready to run away and change her name to something inconspicuous so that her father wouldn't be able to track her down. Titi was, of course, a livewire just crackling with energy. She didn't seem to notice that Miranda wasn't taking fondly to the whole idea of "bonding" with her (either that or she just didn't care), and she kept addressing her by Merdea.
Halfway into the class, Phillipa (the instructor) decided that it was time to "switch things up". While the others may have been oblivious to Miranda's poorly-concealed discomfiture, she'd been keeping track of it. She knew the girl wasn't interested in this at all and she figured that it was time to change tactics to get her to pay attention.
"I want everyone to grab a pencil from that cup over there," Phillipa nodded at the wide-rimmed coffee mug that served as a pencil and pen holder in the back corner of the room. "I'll be handing out pieces of paper. Once you're done, we'll mix up the names and choose your new partners for today's class." While the females shuffled about to retrieve a writing utensil and get back to their desks, Phillipa ripped up a piece of foolscap paper with her fingers and passed a scrap around to each of her pupils. Once they'd all written their names down, she borrowed a hat (Titi had a plastic fireman's hat stowed away in her bag. God knows why) and dumped the scraps of paper into the bowl. Phillipa grinned at the small crowd, closed her eyes, and plunged her hand in.
Miranda peered at the teacher through narrowed eyes. Please don't give me Foutley. I can't handle that whiny snot-nosed loser.
Ginger was sitting ramrod straight in her seat, praying to God (or whoever might be up there listening) that she and Miranda would not be paired together. I hope it's not Miranda. She's going to eat me alive!
Phillipa pulled out the first two names, cocking her head and squinting at the names scrawled down.
Miranda and Titi.
Well, that just simply wouldn't do! Smiling a secret smile, Phillipa turned her big brown eyes back to the class and called out the first "randomly selected" duo.
"Miranda and Ginger!" She called, observing Ginger's subsequent flinch and Miranda's growl of infuriation. "Well," she eyed them both expectantly. "Don't just stand there girls! Take your seats!"
Titi jumped out of her chair quickly and offered it to Ginger, whose "thank you" smile came out as more of an "oh shit" grimace. The redheaded girl took her new spot gingerly, slanting a timid look at her long-time antagonist.
"Don't. Even. Speak." Miranda grumbled, slamming her head down on the desk once more- Ginger winced, that had to hurt- not a word more was exchanged between the two as the rest of the partners were picked.
"… I don't know, Mom. The whole point of this class was so that you and I could bond. Last time I checked, me being paired with my worst enemy didn't count as 'Mommy and Me' time." Ginger Foutley expressed her concerns to her mother that night as she helped set the table for dinner (beef penne pasta casserole).
Lois only snorted at her daughter's objections. "Don't you think you're being a bit overdramatic?"
"You don't know Miranda." Ginger intoned wearily; she'd never been very good with confrontation. Girls like Miranda Killgallen ripped her to shreds on a regular basis. "It's my summer vacation; I shouldn't have to see her."
"See who?" Carl Foutley, Ginger's younger brother, interposed as he stepped into the kitchen. His clothes- a costly Zoo York hoodie and baggy pants- were stained with a coal-black substance that smelled sickly-sweet. Lois raised an eyebrow at her youngest; Carl had a reputation for being the family's "mad scientist". He and his best friend Hoodsey spent a lot of their time in Carl's "secret laboratory" of sorts (it was actually the doghouse of their old pet, Monster).
"Miranda," Ginger frowned. "What's on your shirt, Carl?" She pinched her nose for emphasis.
"Hoodsey and I were doing some exploring by the dump. Dwayne gave us a ride in his garbage truck." Carl grinned and Lois shook her head in an exasperated manner.
"I don't even want to know." She intoned, she knew better than to pry into the life of her youngest, what with all the outrageous schemes he had bubbling in his twisted brain. "Go wash up before we eat."
"Sure thing Lois." Carl saluted her before dashing over to the counter, picking a glob off the casserole, and sticking it in his gaping mouth. Before Lois could reprimand him, he'd sped off to the washroom to clean up.
"Ugh." Lois sighed, rolling her eyes.
"Do you think Phillipa will switch it back to the way it was next weekend?" Ginger wondered with more than just a trace of hopefulness in her voice. Lois regarded her preteen with an even gaze, seeing how truly anxious this new partnership with Miranda was making her.
"I don't know, Ginge." She responded honestly. "What gives you reason to think that this Miranda girl is so bad, anyway?"
"Mom, are you kidding me? She's been terrorizing me since the sixth grade! She hates me!"
"Hate's a strong emotion, I mean; you girls aren't even in high school." Lois pointed out, placing the glass pan holding their dinner on the table. "Do you hate her?"
Ginger thought about this as she sat down; Lois cut her a square of casserole. "I don't know." The girl responded, chewing thoughtfully. "She definitely scares me, but I don't know if I hate her."
Lois sighed. "Look, Ginge, it's not my place to say anything… but until you've walked a mile in Miranda's shoes, you'll never know what her life is like."
"Miranda's got difficulties at home, Ginge."
"How do you know? And what kind of difficulties are you talking about here?"
Lois only speared a piece of casserole and shoved it into her waiting mouth; she was pressed for time again today. Her shift at the hospital started at exactly six o'clock and ended at a quarter to one.
"Look, Ginge, I've heard some of the gossip from the rumour mill. But it could mean nothing… just be nice to her, alright? She may not seem like it, but deep down that girl is hurting."
"Huh." Ginger considered this. Miranda? Hurting? What could she be suffering from? The fact that Courtney was maybe starting to prefer Ginger's company over hers? The fact that Ian Richton was not interested in her?
But Lois spoke not a word more on the subject, and by that time Carl had emerged from the bathroom smelling like citrus Lysol. Ginger let out one of her typical "confused by life" teenaged sighs and finished up her dinner. After she'd cleaned up, she went to her bedroom to write a lengthy entry in her diary…. She had no idea what obstacles her archenemies had to face, and now she was curious as to what was going on in Miranda's life. Ginger sat up in her bedroom with her pen lying, uncapped beside her on the bed and her diary open to a fresh page in her lap.
Maybe I should just be nice to her… Ginger thought, Mom's right, I don't know much about her. For all I know she could be experiencing something really awful! Ginger shook her head and retrieved her pen; she couldn't let her mind jump around too much.
The following weekend, Ginger Foutley arrived in room 602 with a big, optimistic smile on her face. Phillipa greeted both she and Lois with a cheery wave and the redheaded duo found their own desks. Lois was carrying the big plaid purse with all of their knitting supplies. Ginger gazed around the room, wondering where Miranda was. She knew the mean girl preferred to arrive "fashionably late" but most of Phillipa's students were there already and she was starting to explain the basics of knitting a blanket. Eventually, Ginger started to relax… she wouldn't have to face Miranda after all!
"Sorry we're late!" Titi yelled as she bounced jovially through the door with a sullen Miranda skulking behind her. "I had car troubles!" She announced to the whole of the class. The infant in the corner started crying; her mother scooped her up from her carrier and tried shushing her, shooting Titi a dirty look in the process. But the frizzy-haired woman took no notice as she claimed a desk and folded her hands overtop of the wooden surface primly as if she were no more harmless than an obedient schoolgirl.
"You girls are late." Phillipa stated the obvious. "But that's alright, I'm sure your new partners will fill you in on everything I've already covered." She shot Ginger a swift smile and the youth gulped nervously in reply. She had to be the one to dictate instructions? Miranda wasn't going to like that very much!
Once things had settled down and Miranda and Ginger were seated next to each other, the redhead inhaled deeply (it wasn't easy, talking to your worst enemy!) and started to reiterate Phillipa's instructions. Miranda turned to her sharply, her dark eyes filled with unsuppressed hatred.
"Save it, Foutley!" She snarled. "I can figure this thing out by myself!" She looked down at the heap of tangled pink yarn resting on her lap and picked it up. Ginger turned away quickly, though through the corner of her eye she could see Miranda struggling with doing anything productive to the yarn at all.
"Are you sure you don't want some he-"
"Quiet, Foutley!" Miranda seethed, grabbing the shapeless mass of yarn and squeezing it between her fingers. "I know what I'm doing!"
"Okay then." Ginger rolled her eyes and went back to her own work, avoiding conversation with her partner for the rest of the day.
This was going to be a long day.