Homecoming, pt. IRating:
PG/PG13 (language)Summary: Who
doesn’t know Tacey? Actually, she’s kind of the reason we’re here. I mean, we aren’t Homecoming types, if you hadn’t noticed just from the fact that we’re out here by ourselves being all antisocial. She totally dragged us and made us promise to dance at least once. But I think we aren’t going to bother doing it.Word Count:
I think this is the seventh or eighth version of this scene. It's been stewing in my head for a good long while and has changed a lot as I got to know my characters better. I think this is the first time I started with them in the bathroom. Anyway, this may not be the final version, but it's my favorite so far, so enjoy!
Sadie’s examining her reflection again. “You and Tacey are such liars. This dress definitely makes me look fat.” She turns and looks over her shoulder at herself. “God. I don’t think it’s even the dress.”
I open my mouth, about to tell her for the millionth time in the last hour that she doesn’t look fat in the least, just curvy, and the dress only emphasizes her hotness. But I know she won’t believe me, so I just tear some paper towel out of the dispenser and dry my hands.
She’s looking at me, now, as I toss the crumpled paper towel into the trashcan. “What do you want to do now? Hang out in here a while? Maybe take a trip to the quad for snackish purposes?” Anything but go back inside, she means. Because if we had it our way, we wouldn’t be at Homecoming in the first place. We’d be at my house, or Sadie’s, or Tacey’s, or maybe the Vernons’, on a couch, watching TV. Instead, we’re in the girls’ bathroom by the library, wondering how we’re going to avoid Tacey next. It was her idea to come to this stupid dance, and even though she made us promise not to hide out in the bathroom, well, here we are.
“Um. Vending, I think. Then maybe we could go to the benches by the junior high building.” Because Tacey won’t look for us there. But I don’t say that.
She gives me an odd look as she pushes the door open. “But what about the—”
But she doesn’t get to finish. A platinum blonde walks right into us, then pushes between and to the sinks without so much as a sorry. This would bother me, but she’s crying and her mascara’s running and she looks like such a mess. Part of me wants to ask her what’s wrong, and I can tell Sadie wants to do the same, but we don’t know her. We shouldn’t. So I keep walking like nothing happened. Sadie, sweet Sadie, takes a moment to do the same. “She’s crying, Alys,” she tells me, like I didn’t know already, like we should do something about it. I ignore her. She huffs.
We reach the vending machines, and I dig around in the pocket of the jeans I’m wearing for some change. I refuse to call them my
jeans. Like so much about tonight, the fact that I’m wearing them is entirely Tacey’s fault, so I really ought to refer to them as hers. Sadie’s dress is hers as well. Same with “our” makeup. And I should probably stop thinking about that now, because nothing but annoyance can come of it. And I would probably end up blowing up at her next time I see her, which would put me out of a ride to school come Monday.
I hand Sadie a few quarters and try to feed a crumpled dollar bill into the soda machine. After a few tries it still isn’t working, and I don’t have any more quarters. Damn. Shaking her head, Sadie hands me her newly purchased sour skittles and snatches the dollar, smoothing it against the front of the machine before feeding it in. It takes it. “Thank
you,” I say, punching the Sunkist button, and I’m not sure if I’m talking to Sadie or the machine.
“Anyway,” I say, pausing to take a swig of orange soda. “What were you saying before that peroxide chick came in?”
She tears open the skittles. “What? Oh, right. What about the JDs?”
“They won’t bother us if we don’t bother them.” Sadie still seems wary. She’s a little freaked out around JDs, like they’re going to get violent or something, even though the only real danger is secondhand smoke, which is never a problem if you keep your distance from them. She shrugs, though, and we make our way to the far side of the gym.
The seventh and eighth grade classrooms are tucked away in the far corner of the campus, by the back parking lot, library, gym, and football field. It’s like they’re trying to protect them from the big bad high schoolers or something. Between the junior high building and the gym, as with all the buildings at Alderwood, there’s a grassy area and some benches. There are usually a few JDs smoking around the bench nearest the football field, farthest from the doors to the gym. Those benches, along with the ones on the other side of the gym, by the math building, are the only ones we’re allowed to be around during dances. They don’t want us wreaking unsupervised havoc on the other side of the campus. It’s silly, though, because we’re just as unsupervised over here.
For some reason, there’s only one guy here, and not only is he lacking a cigarette, he’s also on the bench across from the usual one instead. Huh. Sadie looks at me curiously. She’s noticed too, then. I shrug and take the bench the JDs are suspiciously absent from. It’s a good place to be, really. As far from the gym as we’re allowed to go. I can understand why they choose it. Sadie eyes it uncertainly before smoothing her skirt and sitting down beside me.
“I’m so glad we aren’t going back in there,” she says, eyes on the gym doors. “God, I can’t believe how some of the girls are dancing. Did you see Janae?”
“Bitch,” I say automatically. I’m not really paying any attention. We only go to dances every now and then, whenever Tacey forces us, but no matter how crazy things were at the last one, Sadie’s always surprised at what goes on.
My eyes wander and settle on the dark-haired guy on the bench across from us. His arms are crossed, legs outstretched, head bent like he’s looking at the ground, but even in this half-light I can see that his eyes are closed. He looks familiar, just a bit, and I wonder what he’s doing out here alone without so much as a cigarette.
Sadie’s still talking. I hold my hand out in front of her, palm up, and she gives me a couple powdery skittles. I eat them all at once. They don’t seem as sour as they used to, as shocking. I wash them down with some of my Sunkist and nearly choke as a burst of music breaks the quiet. Beside me, Sadie jumps and drops her skittles, and across the grass, the guy’s eyes fly open and his spine straightens.
A tall redhead I know I’ve seen before shuts the door, sealing the music back inside. “There you are,” he says, and for a second I wonder if he means me, because I know that voice. But no, he’s talking to the guy on the other bench. “How’d it go, then?”
Sadie picks the back of skittles up off the ground. A few are still in it, but most are sprinkled over the cement.
“Refresh my memory,” the darker guy says. “Why was it a good idea for me to come to this, again?”
Sadie pops one from the bag into her mouth but says nothing, and I realize she’s listening to their conversation as well.
“To get your mind off things,” says the redhead, “since you swore off the better alternative.” That voice
. I know
“Oh, yeah, my mind’s way off things,” the other guy says sarcastically. “I haven’t thought about her once. Not even in the ten minutes we were talking to each other. I gotta say, West, you’re an absolute genius when it comes to this sort of thing.”
West! West, from the coffee shop at the end of Tacey’s block. He looks so different without his black apron and nametag on. But it’s him, definitely him, with his shaggy carroty hair and half-smile that creeps up now as he says, “At least you can joke about it.”
“Yeah.” He takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. “Improvement’s good. How’s Britney doing?” he inquires, a hint of a smile at the corners of his mouth.
West glares. “Shut up.”
“Sara, then,” and he’s full-on grinning now.
“I told you, we’re done. I don’t think she’s even here.”
“How about Tacey?”
I freeze. I hear a sharp intake of breath from Sadie. The strangest reaction, though, is West’s. He won’t look the other guy in the eye as he says, “Don’t go there, man.”
“She’s here, then?”
West looks up at him. “I mean it, Seth. Don’t.” And I remember Orientation, when West looked right past me to Tacey and she gave me a tight smile and said that really, it would only be a minute, she’d catch up, and she and West talked in quiet voices. I wonder how they know each other, why the other guy—Seth, West said—brought her up with some other girls that came across sounding like ex-girlfriends.
“You like her that much, then? Well, I’m warning you, man, she’s not much fun to be around for more than twenty minutes at a time.” So Seth knows her too. God. Sometimes it seems like Tacey’s got another whole life when I’m not around, a whole set of friends she never bothers introducing me to. Then again, Seth isn’t coming across as all that friendly.
“I told you to let it—”
“I’m not just going to let it go! You never let it go when Tabs—”
“So now you’re hassling me about a girl because your bitch ex-girlfriend—”
“Don’t.” And to my surprise, he doesn’t. They’re both quiet for a moment until Seth continues. “This has nothing to do with that and you know it.”
West seems very much like he wants to say something. Instead he clenches his jaw and glares straight ahead. Which lands his gaze on me. His eyes widen. “Alys?”
Sadie shoots me a questioning, wide-eyed look, but I ignore her. “Um. Yeah. Hi, West.” Seth’s looking at West in much the same manner as Sadie. “Nice night, huh?”
His funny half-smile’s back, and it’s brought a raised eyebrow with it. “Articulate.” He starts walking towards us across the grass, and Seth follows slowly and uncertainly after.
“You know me,” I say, attempting a friendly grin. Damn
, this is awkward. “I’m a word girl.” There’s an uncomfortable silence.
“You two,” Seth finally says, “know each other how?”
“She lives downtown and drinks a lot of coffee,” West informs him. Upon seeing that Sadie still looks confused as hell, he adds, “And I work at the Ugly Mug.”
She brightens. “Oh, that place near Tacey’s! I love the coconut special thing you guys had over the summer, with the little umbrellas and all.”
“Tacey?” West’s amused smile dies as surprise replaces it. “You know Tacey?”
I’m not sure how to answer this, after what he and Seth were saying and all, but Sadie gets talking. And, of course, doesn’t know what shouldn’t be said. “Of course we know Tacey. God. Who doesn’t
know Tacey? Actually, she’s kind of the reason we’re here. I mean, we aren’t Homecoming types, if you hadn’t noticed just from the fact that we’re out here by ourselves being all antisocial. She totally dragged us and made us promise to dance at least once. But I think we aren’t going to bother doing it.”
West takes a second to digest this, then forces his half-smile back on and says, “Well, there’s a slow song on right now. Want to dance? Keep your promise and all?”
The other three of us all stare at him, dumbfounded. Sadie because someone actually asked her to dance, Seth and I because we expected a bit more of a reaction from him. The total randomness of his suggestion might have something to do with it too. In this silence I realize that there is indeed a slow song on. Some classic rock power ballad.
Sadie’s opening and closing her mouth, for once at a loss of things to say. I speak for her. “She’d love to, thanks for asking.” I shove her lightly towards West. “Go on, I don’t mind.”
West hooks her arm through hers and the two of them head towards the doors, Sadie looking dumbly at me over her shoulder.
Feedback is much appreciated. I really want to get opinions on this.