AN: It's been almost three years since Avalon High was completed (yes, I DID finish this!) and I honestly believe this story was instrumental for my growth as a writer, and I've grown a lot since then. But here I am, posting this story in its original form (sans a few typos and wording issues) for all to read because, yes, even though it's been years, I am still proud of myself for completing something this size ( about 140,000 words!) and sticking with it. So, without further adieu, I present to you, Avalon High!
Herbert skidded into the kitchen, humming the tune of "La Vie Bohme" from RENT as he bent his lithe body around the kitchen`s isle and came to the oven. He reached for the oven`s door and peered inside, checking how the Stouffer`s Vegetable Lasagna- a staple in Herbert`s diet- was coming along.
"Not ready," he proclaimed to the world, not that anyone would care. Reaching for the cardboard box, he double-checked that it wouldn`t be much longer for his lunch to be made. Just a couple of minutes he told himself as he read over the directions.
He knew his father wasn`t going to be happy with the meal; Mr. Swampcastle proclaimed vegetables as "rabbit food" and his diet consisted of hardy meats and foods drenched in oil. Smiling to himself, Herbert thought of a line from the song he was just humming.
And one pasta with meatless balls.
It tastes the same… if you close your eyes.
To occupy himself, Herbert reached for the collective notes and mail that gathered by the telephone on the counter. On the top of the pile was the shopping list that Herbert`s father had written on a piece of scratch paper.
"To buy-" Herbert said, leaning against the counter replacing his own sing-songy voice for a gruff impersonation of his father. "Miller Beer, Newport Pleasure, Steak…"
Stuff that`ll kill him in the end, Herbert couldn`t help thinking, but discarding that thought as he dug deeper into the pile. "Ooh," he squealed with excitement upon stumbling what he was looking for, pulling out the flimsy paper stack and grinning ear-to-ear. "Walgreen`s coupons!"
Just at that moment, the phone began to ring. "Get it!" A voice grumbled from the living room. But Herbert didn`t need to be ordered around to follow that direction- for he could see on the caller ID that it was Robin Poule calling.
"Hello?" He asked as he took the phone off the receiver.
"I found it!" Robin squealed into the phone without a proper greeting.
"What?" Herbert was curious.
"Guess," Robin commanded smugly.
Herbert placed his elbows on the marble counter and juggled the phone is his hand as he moved. Beating his foot against the floor in rhythm he thought jokingly. "Uhh…the secret to true happiness? The Holy Grail? A three headed monster in the woods having a tea party?"
"No, no, and yeah, right," Robin snickered. "Alright because you`re such a horrible guesser I`1l tell you. It`s the car!"
"The car," Herbert echoed, bouncing on the balls of his feet. "Really?"
"You bet your bottom dollar," Robin swore, giving something like a chuckle into the phone. "It`s in my price range and only has about ten thousand miles on it. Giving it`s age- that`s pretty damn sweet. I took it out for a test-spin and I`m about to finalize it-so I was callin' to ask if you want me to pick up and take you back to the dealership with me to sign the ridiculous amount of paperwork and the drive it around town."
"Can we drive it to Walgreens?" Herbert asked, curling the cord around his finger and avoiding the true question Robin had presented him.
"Walgreens- no way," Robin tutted as a response.
"Aw c`mon!" Herbert whined. But he couldn`t resist smiling. "I got my own coupons and everything!"
"I`m not taking you to Walgreen so you can flirt with the check-out people while I pretend to be looking through People magazine," Robin told him, truly stern. "Can you just ask your dad if you come with me?"
Herbert looked over his shoulder- his father wasn`t looming over him. He turned his tone of voice to a whisper. "You know he`s going to say no."
"He could also say yes. Listen, just ask your dad and call me back with his response. I need to go, the salesman is getting impatient. Bye."
"Alright," Herbert sighed. "See you later. Love."
The phone clicked as Robin hung up. Sigh, Herbert slammed the phone back onto the receiver and scuttled the papers he was looking at into a neater pile than it was when he picked them up.
Just at that moment, the timer for the forgotten lasagna went off. Herbert snapped into action, reaching for the oven mitt with the faded design of garden vegetables on. Tugging it onto his right hand, he used his left to pull open the door of the oven and snatch a dish rag to aid the hot pan of pasta.
He set the pan upon the counter and kicked the oven door with his foot, shutting it fully with his hip.
"Vegetable lasagna for lunch again."
From the archway, there stood Herbert`s father. Beefy, ruddy-faced, and as hairy as Sasquatch with the exception of the top of his head that was balding, Mr. Henry Swampcastle was a figure to be frightened of indeed. He casted a dark shadow into the kitchen as he stood in the doorway blocking out all light from the living room.
"Yeah," Herbert squeaked like a mouse, crippling his father`s shadow. "But- uh I think there are some microwavable dinners or something in the fridge."
"I know what`s in the fridge," the father snapped as he walked in, shoving off his son backwards as he passed him. Mr. Swampcastle pulled the door open and pulled out a TV dinner for himself- beef drenched in gravy, corn, and mash potatoes.
His son scurried out of the way as his father opened the packaging of the dinner on his way to the microwave, which was above the oven. Disdainfully, Mr. Swampcastle threw the dinner into the microwave and set the exact time that it needed to warm up. It hummed as the dish turned circles on the platter.
"Uh, father, do you mind if I ask you something?" Herbert asked timidly, summoning all his courage.
A grunting noise was Mr. Swampcastle`s typical "yes". He was too busy looking at the mail to articulate a full answer.
"Well my friend Robin is getting a car today and he asked if I could get picked up to go to the dealership and then around town to test it out," Herbert said, preparing himself for what he knew would come next. "So could I go?"
"No" was a different story. Mr. Swampcastle always spoke up whenever that was the answer.
"But why?" Herbert whined, slumping his shoulders down.
"Because you need to unpack, that`s why," Mr. Swampcastle answered, eyes fixed on the spinning dinner in the microwave.
"But father - we can unpack any old day…," Herbert began in protest, but was immediately shut up, but the slamming of a hand against the marble counter.
"Don`t talk back to me, Alice," Henry roared, glaring into his son`s blue eyes with a squinted gaze.
Herbert hung his head, pinching a bit of his tee-shirt and rubbing with his thumbs. "Herbert," he corrected in a tone so faint, that it was barely audible to his father. Trying to be brave and stay silent about the matter, Herbert cut up a square of his now-cooled lasagna and placed it onto a paper plate.
He wasn`t going to win this.
With Henry Swampcastle, no absolutely meant no.
Lucky emerged from her home into the bright sunlight, with a long, tall glass of lemonade in hand and her nearly completed romance novel tucked under her arm. It was a perfect late summer day- the sun shining brightly, the sky a cloudless blue, and the afternoon heat was perfect for a swim. The sound of heavy metal rock- no doubt from Roger`s mp3 in the speaker- blasted in the background. It was too much to believe that this was the last time she`d experience this perfect paradise for a long while.
"I can`t believe it`s the last day of summer!" She whined as she shut the door to her home after two balls of fluff jumped out onto the pathway.
The two Pomeranians followed in her shadow as she walked over the relaxing chairs, tramping behind her every footstep that clacked with the snapping of her Gucci sandals against her heels. Her friends, Aggie, Tristan, and Olwen, all lounged in their own chairs, soaking up the sun`s rays as they read their own romance novels and editions of People magazine. Roger, on the other hand, was floating on a raft in the pool, sunglasses obscuring his eyes as he looked up into the sky.
"It goes by so frickin' fast," Tristan observed, pulling herself from the latest gossip in her magazine. "Always. It`s all like, "Hey three months of freedom" and then, before you know it, that`s all gone and you have to be dragged back in."
"I don`t remember anything past Fourth of July," Lucky admitted as she set her ice drink down and sat down in the chair, trying to finish the last twenty or so pages she had left in her novel.
"Yes you do!" Roger corrected from his raft. "Remember, family Paris trip?"
Lucky thought for a moment then admitted, "Yeah, but half the time mom was in a café, working on her laptop or trying to get in touch with someone in America. Not really what I`d call a family trip."
Still, Roger shrugged a shoulder. "You`re so ridiculously lucky and you don`t acknowledge it. I got stuck helping out with my dad`s lawn business all summer."
"Lucky`s my name, don`t wear it out," she returned with their cheesy saying whenever how privileged she was arose. They read and floated in silence for a moment, all enjoying the last bit of summer in peace.
"Hey where`d you parents head off to?"Olwen asked, adjusting herself in the chair. "They were here when we arrived and now they`re, like gone."
Lucky at the time, had her mouth filled with lemonade, as she was trying to avoid chocking on the ice chunk she had accidently swallowed. "Mom went to go over see a move that really isn`t required for her job, but, you know. Dad- I think he went to the country club for a round of golf or something."
More silence. The words of the sultry, steamy novel she was reading barely made comprehension in Lucky`s mind as it wandered to the subject of Roger.
"Hey, Roger," she called, peeping up from her book. He sat up on the raft and looked in her direction. "What are we going to do about your hair? You said you wanted to do something with it."
Roger`s hair was currently a mousy brown shade that hung past his shoulder with thick, swooping bangs. Grabbing a lock to examine it Roger confessed, "We`ll I`ve always kinda wanted to dye it blue."
"Blue?" All four girls' jaws dropped along with their reading material. The two dogs, now curled under Lucky`s chair, could even sense the surprise that the girls had.
"Yeah." Roger`s face was turning the hue of a ripe tomato. "Like electric blue …"
"You sure you want blue hair?" Lucky asked, eyes widening. "What`s next, a tongue piercing?"
Roger`s expression was not one of amusement. "You know I have a phobia of having someone taking a needle and stabbing anywhere in my body."
"I was just kidding," Lucky returned. She knew they were at the point of no return and she wasn`t getting back to her reading material. "To the mall!"
At a much less exclusive pool party, Lance was trying to enjoy himself. Chicago`s Saturday in the Park played on the radio that was set to an oldies channel. The incessant sound of laughing, talking, screaming, giggling, war whooping made him to want to plug cotton balls into his ear. The Shalott annual end-of-summer barbeque pool party was never a function that had even a second of silence, from when the first guest arrive and splashed in the pool until the last little kid had to be carried by his father to the car.
The youngest children splashed and giggled with delight in the blown up-kiddy pool located by the porch so they could always be in an adult`s view. The Elementary school kids ran helter-skelter across the back yard and dove around others in the ever-going squirt gun war that sometimes claimed innocent victims who insisted on not getting wet. Lance`s own brothers were part of this said war. The teenagers were, for the most part, corralled in the pool, laughing; the girlfriends upon their boyfriends' backs in a tournament of chicken. Lance had played a round or so, but he had gotten out of the pool to enjoy a couple of snacks and talk with some of his friends. The adults hung around on the back porch, sipping their margaritas, discussing everything from their kids to politics, and waiting around for another batch of hamburgers that Mr. Shalott was making on the grill.
Food covered the buffet table at the end of the porch, and Lance held a Styrofoam plate with a pile of barbecue chips and a half eaten hot dog in one hand and a bottle of diet Coke in the other. He was leaning against the railing of the porch as he sipped his drink, his blue trunks dripping with dampness from his dip in the pool.
Just then, Connor, who was always referred to by his last name Bedivere, came up to the table with Patsy. Lance tried not to crack a smile seeing that Bedivere was wearing his extremely garish Hawaiian shirt with macaws and tropical flowers all over. A summer Bedivere tradition.
"That`s like your third hotdog," Patsy observed Bedivere critically, but he was to talk because he was grabbing another hamburger.
Bedivere, who had already taken a large chomp of his hotdog, returned with his mouthful, "But I`m starving." He swallowed, noticing Lance. "Oh hey Lance. Having a fun time?"
"Yeah, you?" He took a swig of his soda, it`s fizziness trickling down his throat.
"Other than the fact that I`m concerned that Arthur possibly broke his spine doing that back-flip, I`m good," Bedivere answered, shooing away a fly from touching a wedge of watermelon. "Ready for school tomorrow?"
"Who is?" Lance retorted, setting down his soda and whipping a bit of ketchup that was in the corner of his mouth. "I`m not ready for another year of scrapping by in English."
"If you use mnemonics like I suggested, it would help," Bedivere told him.
"You can`t use nu- new… whatever the hell that word was, in English," Lance said frowning.
"Just try," Bedivere said, taking himself and his hotdog over to the other side of the deck in order to discuss something with Tim Hara.
Patsy smiled faintly and shrugged. "He isn`t great at advice," he told Lance, reaching for the bottle of ketchup to squirt on his plain hamburger.
"So I`ve noticed."
"It`s best to go along with him," Patsy advised before turning to head back to the rest of the gang in pool.
Lance sighed, all alone again. Until he felt a hand slap against his arm. He faced the slapper, who turned out to be his best friend- Dennis Galahad. The other boy`s long, bleach blonde hair was wet and hung to his shoulders and he was quite tan- obviously from spending the entire summer outdoors.
"Hey, there he is! Back from France, the man who knew enough French to qualify to go on a school-funded trip to Paris, but hardly knows his own native language to pass tenth grade English!" Dennis teased loudly, but it was unlikely that anyone heard it from the increased volume of the crowd.
"Shut up!" Lance slapped his friend playfully back. "You nearly flunked eighth grade Civics!"
"By choice," Dennis corrected. "Because I told the teacher straightforward what a wrong with the government and she wasn`t going to hear it."
"So, have a good time in `ol Paree? More importantly, met any hot French girls?" Dennis asked, leaning back on the railing.
"It was fun, but no, we were in a tour group so I didn`t talk with any girls." Lance sipped at what was left of his Coke. "I really liked going to-"
Lance never finished, because a set of identical twins came strolling towards them. It was hard to determine if they really were twins, or just one of them a clone of the other. Especially today, were they both were clad matching white sundresses and had their long blonde hair down and pushed back by white headbands. "Hello," the one on the left greeted in this breathy, flirtatious voice. "Lance, Dennis."
"Zoot, Dingo," Dennis said, straightening his posture. Lance knew that those were just the twins' nicknames. Their birth names were Carol and Catherine Morison.
"Have you been working out?" The one on the right asked, smirking at Dennis and Lance`s chest. "It shows."
"I have, gotta stay buff for football, you know?" Dennis winked at the twins, just as the right twin reached for a banana- a normally unconventional treat for a backyard cook-out- from the fruit bowl. "I love bananas," she purred, unwrapping the fruit from its peel. She got a mouthful and sucked on it.
Lance froze. He knew very well what she was implying. Looking at his best friend, he noticed that Dennis was turning a crimson red. The strange thing, was Lance wasn`t blushing in the slightest form. In fact, he felt his face contort into the grimace of disgust and stumbling back away from the twins.
Did they-? Oh god no. What did he miss while he was in France?
"You`re so naughty, Dingo!" The left one, now showing her identity as Zoot, slapped her sister on the shoulder.
Dingo took a small bite into the banana and swallowed. "Wicked, evil, dirty me," she agreed, smirking ear to ear. "You`re just as bad, Zoot."
Rolling her eyes Zoot motioned to the pool. "I think I`ll go for a dip, if you boys want to join me. I`ll see you there." She pivoted on her feet towards the steps leading from the wooden porch to the pool. Dingo followed suit. But just as she was about to leave, Dennis reached forward and gave her a strong spank on her bottom. The girl froze, but then looked over her shoulder, casting off a flirtatious smile and accompanying wink.
"Wicked, bad, naughty Dennis," Lance commented, setting his drink and hotdog on the railing. He decided to go for a swim, but not with Zoot and Dingo Morison.
Just as he had expected, Elaine Shalott was waiting for him as she floated in the pool on her raft that Lance had sworn that in one more summer and it would be just a bunch of plastic. "Cuddle-fish!" She called, instantly springing up to roar with her hands to the edge of the pool. "Come in here! We need to become the crowned champions of checked like we did last year."
Smirking to himself, Lance threw himself in a cannonball formation into the pool, becoming the cause of a tidal wave that drenched several couples. When he surfaced for air, Elaine was leaning in for a quick kiss. Lance threw himself up and planted a smooch on her lips.
"And we`ll be the champs again next year," she mused dreamily when the broke apart.
Gwen felt like she had been kicked off a cliff into the whirlpool. Of course, every moving day was like this. Her head was spinning, slight nausea threatened in the pit of her stomach. She didn`t know what to do. To direct the brawny men taking her couch out of the van, grab a couple of boxes and carry them inside, or to just sit and think. Currently, she was standing stupidly in the middle of her new lawn, pondering what to do.
Sweat tickled at the roots of her hair on the back of her neck. It sure was a hot one today. She winced up at the sun, observing that it was perfectly cloudless. It wasn`t until she heard a car pull up that she tore himself from the sky.
Much to her surprise, it was a red Porsche that glistened in the sunlight. The woman driving, who could be seen since the top was down, was just as primped and pampered as what the status of her car suggested. She stopped in front of the new house, and exited the vehicle while collecting herself with a clipboard.
"Hello!" She greeted as she rounded around the car and approached the girl fearlessly. It took a Gwen a few awkward moments before she managed a shy little "hi". This woman`s hair was pulled up into tight bun that gave no room for any spare hair to let loose and fall. She was clad in a red business suit that somehow made her hips and bust look bigger than they probably were and made Gwen feel underdressed. Gwen was wearing her typical summer uniform- a red tank top, jean shorts that were frayed into Daisy Dukes and aquamarine Old Navy flip-flops that had seen better days. Sliver bracelets tinkled around this woman`s wrists, and her expensive looking heels clicked as she walked up onto the lawn.
"I`m Joy Conell. I sold this home, so I thought that it would be nice if I stopped by and see how thing are going for you. " She explained herself, extending a hand for Gwen to shake, which she accepted.
"Gwen Ramirez and they`re okay."
"Gwen- that`s a pretty name." Joy`s smile was so brilliant that Gwen knew that it had obviously been bleached. "Well it`s a pleasure to met you. Is your father here?"
"Yes," Gwen answered, nodding. "He`s around here… somewhere. I think he`s putting the coffee table in the living room. He`ll be out in a minute."
Awkward, unwanted silence and tension filled the air; so thick that it could have been chopped by a sword.
"What grade are you going into, Gwen?" Joy asked. Obviously small talk would be a way out of this ditch of awkwardness.
"I`ll be a junior," Gwen said, but she could almost guess what the next question was. "I`m going to Avalon High school."
If Joy`s smile could go any farther it would of possibly tore her face in half. "Oh really? That`s fantastic. I have a daughter who goes there, and she`s your age. Maybe you`ll have a class together."
As if he had been summoned, Mr. Ramirez, Gwen`s father, came jogging up behind them. He was even sweatier than Gwen was, obviously from his hard work from the move. Perspiration made his skin and dark black hair glisten. "Oh Joy, glad you see you," he huffed between deep breaths. "I see you`ve met Gwen."
"I did." Joy stood as straight as a pole. "I was just saying that I have a daughter in her grade."
"That`s great." Mr. Ramirez was just starting to regain control on his breathing. "Gwen- do you mind bringing a few of your boxes up to your room while I talk to Joy for a bit?"
"No problem," Gwen said, pleased that she was excused. Finding a box that said Gwen`s Things wasn`t that difficult to do since they we`re all organized by room from earlier that day. She grabbed a lighter one, but even still she had to bend backwards to compensate for the added weight in front of her.
Dodging mover and people offering to help, Gwen made her way up the stairs into what would be her bedroom. The door was shut closed, so she had to drop the box and open it, then turn on the lights. Slowly, they flickered on and casted a weak, almost yellow glow in the room.
"Great," she said, looking at the hideous combination of an ugly shade of pink on the walls and blue, stained carpet. Surely, whenever she would get the chance she would paint over the pink and make it green.
She grabbed the box and squandered into the middle of the floor with it. Tiredly, she plopped the heavy weight and herself onto the floor.
She was curious what exactly was in this box, so she picked at the tape and managed to spit it apart to open the box. And then her heart fell.
Lakeview Fighting Bullfrogs read the yearbook on top of the stack. It was her yearly from her old school, the one she had moved away from. Disheartened, she shoved the box far away from her and sighed.
She was going to need a lot more mental preparation for her year at Avalon High.