Authors: Gwen Hayes
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Love & Romance
Copyright © 2012 Gwen Hayes
All rights reserved
by Gwen Hayes
Copyright 2011 Gwen Hayes. All rights reserved worldwide.
Y mother caught me in a lie.
Our eyes met in the mirror, and I covered my mistruth easily. And by easily, I mean I felt my soul seeping out of my pores and icy needles prickling what was left of my insides.
But I did it anyway.
She didn’t acknowledge the lie, but the shadow that crossed her face and the subsequent silence that followed said it all.
The fact that she was going to let me get away with it anyway showed me just how pitiful our relationship had become.
Life hadn’t always been like this. Before my dad left, we’d been tight. You’d think that the void left by his absence would have brought the two of us closer—instead it just created a chasm that separated us from each other and who we used to want to be.
A chasm that separated us even while we were in the same room.
They’re divorced now, but she never got over him. Dad, on the other hand, was completely over Mom, as in getting-married-to-someone-else-in-two-weeks over Mom. That made her moody. On the plus side, we never ran out of chunky chocolate ice cream.
As far as cons go, you’d really have to listen to George Michael sing “Careless Whisper” on meta-repeat to feel my pain. If I had to hear “I’m never gonna dance again” one more time, I’m pretty sure my head would explode.
“So, Hannah’s dad is picking you both up from the dance?” she asked while I sat at her bedroom vanity, watching in the mirror as two strangers pretended to be a family.
Hearing the lie out loud caused the knot in my stomach to tighten with remorse. Not enough to change my mind, but enough to cause a moment of discomfort.
I nodded. “He’s taking us to Sonic and then home to watch movies. You said I could spend the night at her house last night.”
Last night when you were drunk.
I didn’t have a friend named Hannah. And I didn’t ask Mom anything last night either. But she couldn’t call me on it because she couldn’t remember last night after bottle number one.
At first, after Dad moved out, Mom had embarked on a self-improvement regimen that started with a new diet or motivational advice book every week, and typically ended with ice-cream therapy and George Michael by Saturday night. When ice cream didn’t fill the hole anymore, she began self-medicating with a bottle of wine.
At first, it was just a glass with dinner. After Dad’s big wedding announcement, she added a post-supper glass, and then…it became a problem. Weepy and wine-soaked emotions carried her to bed every night. I didn’t even know if she could fall asleep sober anymore.
I’m not proud of the fact that I tried to use the sloshy time to my advantage at first. I never claimed to be valiant. So, overprotective mom gets sauced and typical teen asks for permission to do things that would normally be off the menu.
It worked a few times, but it felt like a clown was twisting my organs into balloon animals. I hate clowns. I made myself sick with the guilt and was just hoping this wine thing was a phase. Loneliness and desperation coated the walls inside our house, and I didn’t want to be the grown-up in charge.
Which was why this night was so important. She was helping me get ready for the ‘80s dance at my high school (having a mom chronically stuck in 1986 finally came through for me.) We’d been having fun so far. Like it used to be.
She’d burned a CD of her favorite hair bands (Poison, Def Leppard, and Motley Crüe) and had consumed only one glass of wine since dinner. Neither of us brought up The Argument that still lay unresolved between us, we just carefully walked around its edges.
And now neither one of us was going to address The Lie either.
“Mom, why am I wearing this belt again?” I asked, smoothly glossing over the fact that my liver resembled a balloon poodle and that I wanted to cry.
It was a valid question. The belt wasn’t holding anything up, and it was on the outside of my pants. Technically, it was on the outside of my oversized sweatshirt. She’d had me cut the neck out so that it exposed my shoulder a la
“It completes the outfit.” She tilted her head sideways and went back to work on my bangs. “I’m almost done.”
Thank God. I was hoping to get to the dance sometime that century.
Under the draped sweatshirt, she’d put me in a white tank top and white stirrup pants. For some reason, twenty-five years ago, girls needed to make sure their pants stayed firmly in place at their ankles.
She also gave me plastic shoes that pinched and were going to leave my feet looking like I’d pressed them in a waffle iron. Jelly shoes, she called them. She used to have a pair in every color.
My hair was the real masterpiece. First came an extensive session with a crimping iron. A white scrunchie (also with a waffle pattern) gathered my ponytail to one side and my bangs were still being worked on with a comb and a can of hairspray. She’d successfully added two inches to my height already, but since she’d just said she was
done, I wondered if she was going for three.
“Ow!” Hairspray in the eye.
“Sorry. But the good news is that we’re done.”
Mom held the mirror up so I could see the damage, and I mean that literally because “ratting out” one’s bangs, which is what the backcombing torture used to be called, has got to lead to serious breakage.
“It looks great, Mom. Thanks.”
She nodded and walked away from me. I guess that signaled the end of mother/daughter bonding time.
We didn’t speak much in the car. Mom was probably stewing in her own angst about The Lie she was letting me get away with, and I had moved on to marinating in my own self-righteousness about The Argument that predated and originated The Lie.
The Argument happened two months ago on my sixteenth birthday. I’d been hoping to get my license that week. Over birthday cake and a nice Riesling, though, Mom had other ideas.
“Teenagers are too volatile to be good drivers, Carrington,” Mom had said mistily. “It’s a very turbulent time in your life. I’d like you to wait until you’re eighteen.”
Eighteen. Why had she let me take the driving course if she had no intention of letting me—I don’t know—
The death knell of my social life occurred the next night when she also decided that I wasn’t allowed to be a passenger either—unless the driver was at least twenty. And guess how many twenty-year-olds I was allowed to hang out with. Exactly.
“You’re being so unfair,” I had argued like a four-year-old. And she was, too. Because The Argument wasn’t about my life being turbulent. It was about
“You are a creature of your hormones right now. Teenagers are only concerned with their own drama—they don’t see the world around them,” she’d answered and then got that faraway look in her eye. She was thinking about Sarah.
Sarah, Mom’s BFF in high school, wrapped her car around a tree and died when she was my age. Mom never told me if Sarah had been drinking or not, but Sarah had been upset enough to peel out in front of Mom and the other kids…and upset enough to miss the curve in the road too.
Which was why I had to meet my date, Grady, in the foyer of the gym after my mother dropped me off at the dance like I was some kind of freshman. She had “Careless Whisper” playing before I had even closed the car door.
I did my best to separate myself from the frosh and found Grady waiting for me in front of the gym doors. “Hey, Carri. You look good.”
I smiled. “Hi, thanks.”
He looked good too…but in a weird way. He rocked a pinkish tank top under a white jacket. He hadn’t shaved that day, so he almost had Crocket and Tubbs stubble. Almost. He packed a lot of cute in one body, and I really liked him. But we weren’t a couple, and I don’t think either of us crushed too hard. We’d probably end up going out, though. We belonged to the same group of friends and were currently the unattached two.
We cruised through the foyer and stepped into the darkened dance. The walls and floor were alight with the pattern of the disco ball, and strains of the syntho sound from the ‘80s filled my ears.
wannabes were everywhere I looked in the gym.
A few guys wore leather jackets and gloves—or to be more clear, one glove. Most of the costume variation came from the girls, and I’m guessing that is because the ‘80s male icons, even the straight ones, were more effeminate than the
dudes. Not a lot of guys wanted to pull off Boy George and Flock of Seagulls.
The girls’ outfits were all over the map. Leg warmers, lace gloves, berets, shoulder pads, plastic jewelry, and even a cone bustier (which technically would have been early nineties—I know because Mom has a coffee-table book about Madonna). It was horrifying and interesting at the same time. I couldn’t look away.
When the song changed to “Jump” by Van Halen, Grady pulled me to the dance floor. I couldn’t believe how many people really went all-out with their costumes. I felt like I stepped into a time warp. I wondered if the dances my mom went to were really like this. I suppose some things don’t change. I think crepe paper has been a dance decorating staple since people lived in caves. The gym probably hadn’t changed that much; in fact, there was still a banner from the 1988 basketball team on the wall. They went all the way to State that year. I heard all about it. Several times. Sometimes several times a night when the wine did the talking. (Mom had dated a guy on the team, so her memories of 1988 were extra sparkly.)
Grady and I danced to a few more songs, had our picture taken, and drank some punch.
“Are you going with me to the beach?” Grady asked, his voice rising to drown out Prince and his 1999 party oath. I remember 1999 because my parents bought a lot of batteries and bottled water. Because the world might have stopped running in Y2K—and everyone knows you have to have flashlights during an apocalypse.
I was still undecided about the beach. Some kids had planned a bonfire after the dance. Not a school-sanctioned one either. The kind where you bring your own bottle. A good number of very cute boys were going, and somebody’s cousin had gotten a beer keg. I couldn’t exactly ask Mom for a ride there, and I wasn’t allowed to ride with anyone else.
I could, I suppose, have had Mom bring me home after the dance and then sneak out later. I didn’t care for the idea, but she’d severely limited my choices lately. Let’s not forget that my mother, the responsible adult who was
an irrational creature who thought only of her own drama and wasn’t concerned with the world around her, was also the same adult who might very well have finished a bottle of wine by the time the dance ended. The sitch was sticky.
Which was why The Lie happened. Don’t judge. I was trying to keep my mom from committing a felony charge on the roadways. And have fun at a party. Valiant? No. Complicated? Yes.
I shrugged my answer at Grady. “Maybe. I don’t know.” I really
to go, but I didn’t really want to go. Again, I’m a complicated girl. The beach and the bonfire sounded great; the lying, not so much.