I grabbed my board and smashed it against my stepmother's spice rack. Fuck you, fuck you, FUCK YOU! My head was spinning. I can't believe she honestly had the gall to slap me, to tell me I was the problem, that I was the one ruining their marriage; my dad's second marriage. I kicked the side of the fridge and turned to glare at Brenda, my father's 22-year-old bride. I'd hated that he'd married her. He was old enough to be her father, too!
"Mary Jane, stop it now!"
"No!" I grabbed at the potted plant on the table and threw it against the wall, dirt clods flying everywhere. "So," I panted. "I'm the problem, huh? I'm what's destroying your happy new marriage? Gimme a break!"
Brenda's face was far past angry. Her nostrils flared, eyes wide and face a shade of reddish purple I didn't think was humanly possible. It looked like her head would pop off. If looks could kill…
She took a deep, controlled breath, and attempted to smooth out her too-tight tee shirt. "Your dad doesn't have to know about this. We can fix -"
"Fix what?" I took a step forward, dwarfed by her sky high stilettos. "Me?" My voice was low.
"I didn't say -"
I cute her off, "WELL, FIX THIS!" I launched my board through the window, but I didn't watch to see the millions of glass shards fall and glitter on the linoleum. Brenda lunged at me, her manicured claws pulling at fistfuls of my hair. I kneed her in stomach and heard her cry out as my fist made contact with her face.
She let go and cupped her nose but I could see the blood spilling out. I kicked her feet out from under her and made a break for it. I jumped over the table and ran out the sliding glass doors.
"Come back here you, you little – Urgh!" I looked back and saw Brenda struggling to stand. With a thundering crash, I fell over a trash can and felt my face hit the hot concrete. I pushed myself up, the side of my face burning.
I ran up the path on the side of my house; it was littered with garbage and bits of glass. My skateboard had landed just outside the kitchen window. I was glad it hadn't flown into the neighbor's yard.
"Mary Jane, you are so grounded! MARY JANE!"
I kicked up my board and, without another look back, took off down the street.
* * * * *
The sun was hiding its shine behind a clump of marshmallow clouds, casting out a blue-gray light in its place. I had been sitting on the beach for a while just watching the waves crash against the legs of the POP Pier. Staring at the water always helped me clear my head. I mean, wasn't I similar to those waves? We both never stood a chance; we were destined for a crash course that was beyond our control.
Except the waves had people that cared. The local surfers took time out of their day, everyday, and it was just to come out and ride the surf. I wasn't so lucky. The only two people who could be forced to deal with me had done everything they could to avoid it. My mom had left almost three years ago and my dad had run out and married the first stripper who seemed remotely interested. They both told me time and time again that it wasn't my fault things ended up this way, but it might as well have been, right?
I folded my hands behind my head and lay back in the sand. The side of my face still burned. Not from the slap Brenda had administered, but from the scrapes I'd acquired busting my ass on a trash can. From looking in a car mirror earlier on my way to the beach, I knew I had two over my left eyebrow and cheekbone.
My stomach growled and I sighed in protest. I didn't have a whole lot of cash on me, and I certainly wasn't going home for lunch. Aside from my board and a few bucks, I didn't have a damn thing. With a grunt I sprang to my feet and headed for the boardwalk. I rode around for a while, ignoring my stomach's persistent rumbling. I could've cruised the streets of Dog Town for hours, but my bladder joined the fight. I decided to stop before anymore of my organs added to the revolt against me.
I pushed open the door of the Venice Noodle Company and heard the little bell ring overhead. I crossed the semi-crowded dining room. Finding the closest empty seat, I kicked my board underneath the table and sat down in the booth, sliding all the way to the wall. How stupid do I look sitting in a booth alone? I propped my feet up on the bench opposite me and folded my hands on the table.
What am I gonna do? I can't go back home now; I'll never hear the end of it. And I can't apologize, not to her, even though it wasn't really her fault, but just the same. No. There's no turning back. I didn't notice the boy with long blonde hair walk up to my booth. He said something but I wasn't paying attention; my thoughts were running laps in my head. But I need my stuff. I'll just have to sneak back and grab it. That's it! I'll go back later tonight when they're sleeping and…
"Can I get you something?" I looked up at him, surprised.
"What?" I realized I sounded kind of mean, but he had surprised me.
"Can I get you something?" He repeated, a little slower this time. Great, he must think I'm retarded.
"No," I just looked at him. He was cute, in a boy-next-door kind of way. The dirty apron didn't help though. He raised an eyebrow, but then a slight smile crept upon his lips.
"You do know this is a restaurant?"
"Huh?" I'd gotten lost in thought again. I looked around me, momentarily having forgotten where I was. "Oh!" I quickly pulled out the menu that was pinned behind the ketchup and glanced at it. What can I get for less than five bucks?
"Can I get a coke, and um… fries, I guess?" I slid the menu back into its place and looked up at the boy.
"You guess?" He was clearly smiling now, a soft rosy color spreading over his cheeks. Yupp, definitely cute.
"Uh, yeah." Embarrassed, I looked down at the table. I heard him turn and walk away. That was smooth… dumbass.
* * * * *
I dipped the last of my fries in ketchup and swirled it around, making designs on the small glass plate. I rested my hand on my head, my fingers getting tangled in my wavy brown hair. I raised the fry in front of me, watching as the ketchup slowly dripped onto my nails.
"Oh, hey, you're still here."
I jumped in my seat and, startled, dropped my fry on the table. I'd been so lost in my own world I hadn't realized how late it was getting. As far as I could tell from the big front window the sun was almost gone and the night beginning to take over. I hadn't even noticed when the lamp hanging over my booth turned on. "Are you okay?"
I looked over and saw it was the same guy as before. Duh, he's my waiter. I picked up the lone French fry and put it back on the plate. "Yeah, well, I dunno," I reached into my pocket and pulled out a five dollar bill and some lose change. "Here," I put the money on the table in front of him. "Sorry there's not much of a tip."
"That's okay. You don't want any dessert or anything?" He slipped his hand out of his pocket and brushed his hair behind his ear; it was almost graceful.
"Nah, thanks anyway, um," I looked away from his face to read his name tag. "Stacy."
"'Kay, well, have a good night." He grabbed the money and shoved it in the front pocket of his apron. Then he took my dirty dishes and turned toward what I guessed was the kitchen. I watched him disappear before I stood up and reached for my board.
What now? I had been lost in thought all afternoon and had yet to figure out a plan. I knew I had to go back for my stuff, at least the essentials, but I also needed a place to put it all. I had no where to stay, and even if I could find one, I was beyond broke.
Before I stepped outside, something by the door caught my eye. No way. How perfect was it that I had walked into this restaurant? Just then I heard a horrible crash of glass against tile. I turned and saw Stacy in the middle of a sea of glass, plates and cups alike. His face was flushed and he was trying to pick up the pieces of broken dishware.
A man I could only assume was the manager came busting out of the kitchen's swinging doors, looking around frantically as if he was being robbed. When he spotted Stacy on the floor scooping up handfuls of the mess his face turned red with frustration. "Damn it, Peralta! You gave me a heart attack! What the hell are you doing? Clean this place up!"
"Sorry, my hand slipped."
"I wasn't asking what happened!" Yes you were, I thought. "Clean up, wash up, lock up. Be here tomorrow at 4 o'clock."
"But tomorrow's my day off!"
"4 O'CLOCK!" With that, the beet-faced manager marched past me without even a glance and stormed out the door. Stacy dejectedly sunk to his knees and continued scooping the shards into a large plastic bin. Without a second thought I grabbed the red and white 'Help Wanted' sign and walked over to him, plopping down on the floor. He looked surprised to see anyone still there. I held up and pointed to the sign.
"Need a hand?"