Disclaimer: I own what I own and do not own what I do not own.
-Katlyn Marie O'Leary of Hoboken, New Jersey-
I grip the steering wheel firmly as I make my way down the narrow country road. Kids are running back and forth in front of my car, as if the summer eliminates danger and death. They are laughing and splashing in the lake, something I am hoping to do as soon as I reach my uncle's home in Vermont which he left to my brother. The douchebag didn't leave me shit, of course. Oh wait, I take that back. He left me his fucking hanging dice from the rearview mirror of his car. He didn't even leave me the car! Thankfully, Nick doesn't need another shitty vehicle, God knows his band makes enough now that he could afford ten of the one that my uncle gave to him, so here I am, driving in Nick's old Yugo for the last time, on my way to visit my brother and his wife and get my new/old Altima. Nick was always Uncle Freddie's favorite for the simple reason that he is a boy and I… am not. Unfortunately, our father shares the same opinion.
I check my rearview mirror to see if Caroline is still following me. I had been worried that her four-year-old was going to projectile vomit and cause a vision obstruction on the front windshield, which would then cause Caroline to crash or almost do so, as Emma vomited in the car nearly every time I babysat her, but so far the puke has stayed inside the girl. Caroline's boyfriend and babydaddy, Randy, had apparently been worried about the same thing and has been wearing a hat for the entire journey to protect his hair against the damages of stomach acid. I hope that Emma would blow super hat-penetrating chunks just for him. Asshole.
Suddenly, my phone rings in the center console cupholder. I dare to take my eyes off the road for a millisecond in order to fumble for the phone. "Hello?" I answer.
"Hey Katy! Where are you? You're an hour late, and we're starting to get worried," Nick genuinely does sound worried, and it warms my heart just a little to think that he still looks out for his baby sister.
"Yeah, I'm sorry! Emma had to pee like, eighty times through New York. We're on Creek Road. Be there in two minutes. Less than," I reply.
"Cool. Norah bought those awesome cookies from the general store. She got a special bag of peanut butter ones just for you. See you then!" there is a click, and Nick, or, his voice, rather, has officially left my car.
I smile and look down to put my phone back. When I look back up, a kid with black semi-coconut-shaped hair had leapt out at my car, or leapt out in the vicinity of my car, rather, as I am certain that he had no intent to hurt my poor ancient vehicle… unless he has some sort of strange, twisted hatred for old, shitty European cars, I don't know, but in any case, I almost hit the guy and he screams, and I scream, and I hear Caroline and Emma and Randy scream, and the kid's friends scream, and we all almost die of heart attacks. What a way to end a life. "Nick O'Leary (Bassist of The Fuck Offs) Faces Multiple Lawsuits Due to an Accident Involving His Sister Which Resulted in Ten Deaths," "Some Fuckface Jersey Chick in Shitty Old Yugo Hits Innocent Vermont Teen, Causing All Involved to Die of Mass Heart Attacks." Stunning headlines. Once we all finish screaming, there is a moment of complete silence, then the kid starts laughing. Like, belly-laughing crazy chuckle laughter. It's such a weird laugh that I also start laughing, and all his friends start laughing, and Caroline beeps her horn to make us get going, so the situation is over with. "I'm really sorry!" I shout, as I pass the group of kids.
"No problem!" the boy yells back, and we are on our way again.
Less than a minute and a half later, we arrive in Nick and Norah's driveway. It's extremely steep, so I don't chance bringing Jessie the Yugo down to park at the bottom, but instead opt to park at the top of the hill. By the time I get down, everyone else is already out of Caroline's car and are hugging my brother and his wife. Apparently, they already told them about our near-fatal accident as well. "Katy! Only fifteen minutes in Vermont and already you're endangering the population. Ladies and gentlemen, Vermont has just received public enemy number one into its unexpecting arms. Beware."
I blush, smile, and mutter for him to shut up before allowing myself to be engulfed into his hug. "So what's going on in the world of The Fuck Offs?" I asked, though I must admit that I was not entirely certain that I wanted to know the answer.
"Oh, nothing new, really, just Dev being… experimental, with an emphasis on the mental. Thom's great, though. He and Scot want to get hitched, and now that they can in Vermont, well… They're coming up to do it in a few days, actually. I wanted to surprise you!" He adds the last bit quickly when I give him an incredulous death glare for not telling me sooner. "But anyway, how did your thing at Juilliard go?"
"Oh my God, I haven't told you yet?" I exclaim, a huuuuge grin spread across my face.
"Um… no? I'd assume it's something good then?" Nick hasn't heard the story yet, but he is smiling already anyway.
"Way good! I got accepted! Full scholarship!" Nick laughs and we both can't stop smiling as he congratulates me and hugs me and picks me up in his arms to swing me around.
"You're gonna bring that place to the ground, Katy," Nick is still smiling and has put his arm around me instead of continuing to hug me. "Come on, let's go eat some celebratory cookies."
-James Gregory Rushmore of Castleton, Vermont-
I was laughing earlier when that girl almost hit Austin with her shitty yellow car, but I'm not laughing now. In fact, I'm pretty close to tears. Everyone hates James. Mom hates James, Gloria, my sister, hates James, mom's boyfriend, Steve, hates James, and right now, James is starting to hate James. Why does everyone hate James? Well this time, it's because I was stupid and left the grill on yesterday, so now it's out of gas, and all the stores are closed because it's a Sunday, so we don't have anything for dinner. Sure, we could go out to eat, but that would only mean that we'd have nothing to eat a few days from now, when Mom's unemployment check and Dad's social security check runs out. Again. Because of the beer. It's always about the beer. It doesn't matter what kind of beer, Bud, Bud Lite, Coors, whatever's on sale for the week. More like for the day. Well, I guess that was a lie. It's not all about the beer, because then we might have enough money to afford to live in one place for a decent period of time. It's all about the beer and the pot, or the coke, or the meth, or, God save us, the heroin. Whatever the dealer has on sale that week. Oh, sorry, let's not forget the cigarettes. The Camels, the Marlboros, the Galouises, whatever the store has on sale that hour.
It was fine before Dad died. He kept everything in check. Gloria was a straight-A student (something I couldn't accomplish even before Dad went), well on her way to becoming the fucking valedictorian and getting a fucking great scholarship at a fucking great college as opposed to waitressing at the fucking shit Diner a few towns over and having to pay full price to go to fucking Castleton State College. Where she doesn't even know what she's doing as a major. Undeclared. What a bunch of money-wasting bullshit. When Dad was around, sure, Mom did all the same shit, but we never saw it. Dad never let it in the house. When Mom came home drunk or high or stoned or what have you, Dad would send her away to "her friend Martha's," though now we all know that was as much a bunch of bullshit as her habits were. There was no way Steve would have moved in two days after Dad died if it wasn't. I never realized just how much Dad did for us until he was gone. Now, we don't eat half the time, no one cares whether or not we go to school or do our homework, we're encouraged to pick up the evil habits that Mom is hooked on, and Steve has told me that I'm the best damn punching bag he's ever had. Therefore, My Life= Shit. Dog shit that has been placed in a bag, lit on fire, and been stomped on by an unsuspecting old man.
That's why I can't wait until next school year. I only have to survive it here a few more months, and it's off to CUNY in the fall so I can study music. I'm on partial scholarship and the rest is covered by need-based aid. Cool deal, eh? Then, I can live my substance-free lifestyle without worrying about Mom slipping something into my drink because she thinks it's funny.
It angers her that a teenaged boy wouldn't want anything to do with alcohol or any of her drug or cigarette shit. She'll say "I'm offering to let you do this shit underaged, and you won't even take it! What kind of fucked-up teenager are you? I bet you're a fucking homo." And I'll just look at her and shake my head in a sad sort of way before retreating to my room, which makes her even more mad, so she'll come over to my door to pound on it and yell some more. Not that I could keep her out if she really wanted to come in, because Dad took the locks off our doors as soon as Gloria hit puberty and started bringing boys over.
Anyway, today it's a different fault of mine, but it's the same treatment nonetheless. Thankfully, Steve decided to actually go to work tonight, so I am able to escape physical abuse. That doesn't change the fact, though, that my mother is screaming obscenities at me from the other side of the closed door. "You know what, Mom? If you didn't spend all our money on your fucking drugs and alcohol, maybe we wouldn't be partially starving. I'm going over Tim's."
I don't bother to listen to what she's yelling at me this time as I climb out my window and begin to run. It only takes me two or three minutes to reach the general store down the road, where I finally pause to call Tim. The phone only rings twice before my friend answers. "Dear Jamie," Tim sings into his side of the line, to the tune of that Hellogoodbye song.
"Yeah, hey Tim," I reply, ignoring the greeting that he's had for me ever since he heard the song for the first time. "Listen, I'm at Dan's Store, I had to leave, can you come and get me?" Really, the walk wouldn't be too bad, it would only take about fifteen to twenty minutes, but I've already walked it twice today, once to get there and once to get home, so I really didn't feel like doing it again. Besides, Tim has a perfectly functional car which his dad fills up with gas for him.
"Yeah, man, sure. I'll be there in a few, I just have to finish up here. I'm in the middle of cleaning the shower for my mom. She's 'sick' again," I can hear the disdain dripping from his voice. His mom tends to feign illnesses every time something needs cleaning. His parents are filthy rich, but for some reason, they refuse to hire cleaning staff.
"Alright, I'll start walking," We hang up and I begin to trudge down the road. At least it's not r- oh wait, I better not even think it, It'll be a total jinx. I wonder if it would be faster to skip, so I begin to skip, and hey, as long as I'm already skipping, I might as well start singing, so now I'm skipping and singing "Lullabye" by Fall Out Boy, because it's just a silly and happy type of song, and it's completely ironic in my situation. I get a good ways down the street like this, singing and skipping and laughing, so I am almost halfway there when Tim drives up in his brand new Jetta to pick me up.