This is mostly an Irene-centered chapter and most of it is from her point of view.
Today was my birthday. I was turning 14 and will no longer be considered a kid. Good. I was done with elementary school! It was boring beyond comparison and I could only hope high school would be better. Or that, at least, the teachers would be more competent.
“Morning, sis,” Gerald shuffled out of the bedroom, looking sheepish. “I guess you won’t play with me anymore?”
“What makes you say that!? I wouldn’t abandon you, Gerald, what makes you think I would?”
“I dunno,” he mumbled “You’ll be bored with me when you’re having fun with high schoolers, no?”
“Come here, you doofus,” I pulled him into a hug “There’s no way I’ll find some high schoolers more fun than my own brother. Besides, you’ll join me in high school soon enough.”
We played outside for a while, until the guests began to fill in.
“Katy!” Gerald rushed to Maya’s foster kid with a huge smile on his face, “You made it.”
“Of course,” the girl responded “You did invite me, after all.”
Was it just me, or was my little brother crushing on Katy? No wonder he always got shy when she was here. It was sweet.
Soon Mom called us all inside and we headed for the cake.
“Happy Birthday,” sang the guests, as I officially became a teenager. Tomorrow will be my first day of high school, but for now I’ll just have to wait out till the party was over. Seriously, I didn’t mind these people’s company, but not all of them at once!
Well, high school was certainly more interesting than elementary school. These teachers knew what they were doing, at least our math teacher did. That’s why I was sitting out here, in fresh air trying to get some more work done and understand these equations. Luckily, I had a pretty solid math base already and it wasn’t too difficult. Still, this homework juiced me!
Needing to cool off, I decided to walk at least part of the way home. I didn’t want to end up yelling at my folks because I was annoyed by the amount of my assignments.
Walking by the police station felt a strange sense of being watched. Turning around I discovered one of the guys from my school, sitting by the fence and humming something, but most certainly staring in my direction. Ok, what was his deal?
“Is there any particular reason you’re staring at me?” I confronted him.
The guy’s face became quickly annoyed “What makes you think I’m staring exactly at you?”
“Oh, I don’t know, a pair of eyes?” I retorted “That gives of creeper vibes, you know.”
“Oh well, maybe I’m trying to give off creeper vibes?” he offered. “But seriously, I’m trying to annoy the folks inside the station enough to return my skateboard. They confiscated it because, apparently, I was skating in a ‘No Skate Zone’. I figure if I’m enough a bother they’ll just give up and get it back.”
I couldn’t help but laugh “That’s the craziest plan I’ve heard of. And not in a good way. You know, they’ll just be angrier at you and make sure you never get your board back.”
“Really?” his face soaked in the facts. “Well that sucks. Do you have a better plan?”
“Maybe,” I offered, sitting down next to him. “But it involves some effort. I’m Irene by the way. You?”
“Micah. Micah Sheppard,” he introduced himself. “So what’s your genius plan?”
“Nothing genius, Micah. Just common sense and some schmoozing,” I admitted.
“Ugh, why do we have to play along with the authorities?” he sounded annoyed.
“Do you want your board back or not?”
“Then let’s go.”
Three hours later, we were walking out of the theater, with the police officer’s honest promise to return the skateboard to Micah on Monday without any fines needing to be paid.
“How did you know that helping the officers out during their play performance would make them give back my skateboard?” he wanted to know.
“Just some common sense. They had a banner on the station door about their officers’ play happening at the theater tonight. The banner called for volunteers. Helping at the theater is a sure way to show them you’re not a juvenile delinquent and that you appreciate fine arts. And they were pretty happy for extra audience. Happy officers make friendly officers, see?” I explained.
“Well, thanks for the help, genius. Hey play rock-paper-scissors with me for a bit, will you?” he asked.
After I lost for the last time, he smiled “The loser owes the winner their phone number!”
“Seriously,” I groaned “It’s no big deal, you just had to ask.” After exchanging phone numbers, I headed home. It was now pretty late and I was sure my parents were worried. But at least I met Micah. He was pretty cool, even if he didn’t necessarily see the easiest most efficient way to accomplish a goal. And, I had to admit, despite the crazy hair and rocker wannabe style, he was pretty cute.
At home, everyone was asleep. I hoped they didn’t worry too much—I’ll explain that I ended up having to help a friend out, which was true.
The next morning began as usual. Gerald was doing TV exercises, Mom was brushing the dogs, and Dad was out in the garden.
“Morning, guys,” I called out, while checking my phone for anything new.
“Young lady, do you have any idea how worried we were last night? Where in the world have you been until 12 at night?” my mother blew up at me.
“Mom! I was just helping a friend out. I didn’t realize it would take so long, I’m sorry!”
“Sorry? You could have texted us, at least to tell us where you were!”
“I know, I’m sorry Mom, really. I ended up at this play event and didn’t realize until it ended how late it was. I came right home afterwards, though,” I realized I should have texted home last night, but you know how they say, hindsight is always 20/20.
I was still in trouble, I knew that. Breakfast that morning was very awkward, with both parents glaring daggers at me and Gerald not really understanding why—I guess he’s gone to sleep early last night and didn’t realize there was much drama going on.
I didn’t help matters either “How long are you guys going to not talk to me? You are supposed to be the mature adults, after all.”
“Don’t start with me, Irene” my father shot back “You know we’re right to be worried. Stuff happens to young people and we don’t want it to happen to you.”
“Oh come on! I’m not a baby! What are you trying to keep me in a cage?” I shouted back, knowing even then that I was making a mistake
“Irene, don’t yell at me. I don’t care how old you are, I still am your father!”
Ok, no thanks. My father almost never got angry, and I didn’t want to be the one causing any outbursts from him. It was bad enough that both Mom and I had awful tempers. Rather than engage in the conflict I headed to my room to cool down.
After a few minutes by myself I already felt calmer. Then the text came. “Hey, wanna hang out? Micah.”
“Yes, where and when?” I texted back.
“Meet me at the junkyard in half an hour.”
Good, getting away from home was a good idea right now. And Micah would be the perfect distraction with his antics.
“Leaving, sis?” asked Gerald as I exited the house.
“Yeah, I need a breather right now. See you later, bro,” I waved as I left to meet with my new friend.
I knew I shouldn’t have lost my temper with Irene the way I did, but I couldn’t help it—we were so worried for her last night that all the nerves from last night showed themselves this morning. And it didn’t help that she had a temper to match.
Now she was gone from the house again and I kept thinking over what our conversation trying to figure out why I didn’t handle the situation better. As I watched the swimming fish in the aquarium, I remembered my own upbringing. My father and brother were very traditional and often tried to limit how much time I was away from home. They didn’t do it out of strictness, of course. They did care about my wellbeing. But that didn’t detract from the fact that I grew to resent that constant overlook and constantly craved independence. I never wanted my own child to feel that way.
Soon, Gerald’s friend Kate Forbes came over and I was temporarily distracted from my worries by their playful interactions outside. Maya’s foster daughter was nothing like me in appearance, but I knew from long discussions with her that she was as environmentally concerned and head-strong as me. It was somewhat amusing that Gerald was crushing on someone so similar to his own mother.
“Hey, don’t worry, Celi,” Simon approached me. “Irene won’t do anything crazy, I’m sure of it.”
“Thanks, Si. I’m just sad that we had a fight. I didn’t want to be that parent, who flips out so fast.”
“Well, you were right to worry. She’ll understand. She just needs to cool down.”
I hoped so, I really did. That evening, she still wasn’t home when it got dark. I began to worry, but then Simon got a text from her. Irene was at the local karaoke club and she promised she’ll be home before midnight, telling us not to worry, that she wasn’t alone, and that she’ll get a ride home. Not that these facts made us worry less, but she was making an effort to calm us down.
I knew then that I raised a daughter, who despite having my temper also had a good head on her shoulders.
It didn’t take long for Micah to show up at the junkyard, even though he lived quite far away from the place.
“Yo! Why the long face?” he asked, seeing my upset expression,
“I ended up in an argument with my parents. That almost never happens and now that it did, it really ruined my mood, that’s all,” I explained, somewhat reluctantly.
“That sucks,” he agreed. “Fighting with the folks is never fun. What was the reason, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“They flipped ‘cause I came home late yesterday and didn’t text them about it,” I admitted. “But seriously, I can’t predict every situation in life, how was I to know I’ll be busy till dark?”
“Sorry. If you haven’t been helping me out, this situation wouldn’t have happened,” he realized.
“Dude! I made the decision to go to the theater of my own free will; I could’ve walked away from you yesterday. It wasn’t your fault,” I hurried to reassure him. The last thing I wanted was for Micah, who was supposed to distract me from the problem, to be all apologetic.
“Say what,” he offered, “why don’t we turn today around for the better? Let’s go out on the town!”
“Aren’t we already?” I laughed.
“Yeah, but the junkyard is pretty dead today and there isn’t any cool thing going on. Let’s head into town. What do you say about a karaoke bar?”
“Yeah, that can be fun. Music is always good entertainment,” I agreed.
The bar was pretty empty, considering that it was a Saturday.
“Well, that sucks. I thought we could listen to some songs,” I complained.
“Listen?” Micah laughed. “Come on to the stage. We’ll be the ones singing!”
“What! I don’t sing!” I tried to resist. “I’m totally tone deaf!”
“Everyone is tone deaf at some point. Try it! Karaoke is pretty fun,” he insisted, picking out a popular duet song “Seriously, I’m going to need a second performer for this.”
Oh, well. I might as well try it.
As the song started, Micah took the lead part, and all I had to do was follow along. Surprisingly, we didn’t sound half-bad. But of course, it turned out that Micah had a great voice.
As we sang, I couldn’t help but notice how natural he looked on stage. Maybe the whole wannabe rocker act wasn’t totally an act after all.
As we finished and he belted out the last lines of the song, the few people at the bar gave us a solid applause.
“Wow, you’re a really good singer!” I complimented him.
“Thanks, my music teachers are due for their thanks. I’ve been taking after school music lessons since I was 5,” he admitted.
“Looks like they paid off,” I admitted.
“I’ll play guitar for you, someday. I’m actually a way better guitarist than I am a singer,” he smiled in a way that made me wonder why my face was heating up. I mean, I was usually pretty level with my emotions around the other sex.
“Your parents must be really proud of your talent,” I wondered.
“My dad is. He’s also a musician and he’s always been supportive of my musical leanings. Mom always thought it was a waste of time and kept urging me to do something more serious, like mathematics or physics. It doesn’t matter now though. She doesn’t live with us anymore,” he admitted.
“Oh. I’m sorry,” I expressed, feeling bad for my friend.
“Oh, don’t be. Dad and I are actually pretty much happier now. At least there’s no more yelling between them. It might sound cynical to say that about my own parents, but I never understood why they married. Dad was always really serious with his music—he never planned to change his life and Mom knew it. So, why she married a guy who couldn’t provide her the lifestyle she wanted, I don’t understand. It was totally not a shotgun wedding, so she didn’t have an unplanned pregnancy to worry about. Anyways, she actually met some rich producer dude and got with him a couple of years ago.” He went quite for a bit. “And I think even if she didn’t meet that guy, they would’ve called it quits soon. That relationship just couldn’t be fixed by this point.”
“Well, that just blows. At least you and your dad are handling it pretty well,” I noted, suddenly realizing that I had my arm around him. Ok, Irene, I told myself, that was so not cool—the guy was just telling me about the end of his parents’ marriage and I’m making a move on him?
Micah however didn’t seem to mind and actually leaned in closer “Well, like I said, its fine. They’re both now dating people they’re happier with, so I’m happy too.”
“That’s good, I guess, that you’re not upset. I can’t imagine what I’d do if my parents decided to separate. Probably something really immature and angry,” I admitted. “Which reminds me; I should let them know where I am. One argument about my absence was one too many for me.”
Sending the text I was too aware of Micah sitting close to me. It unnerved me that I allowed myself to get so handsy with him when I barely knew him. Micah clearly didn’t mind a bit, since he was smiling like nothing was wrong.
“So, I was wondering,” he ventured “I know prom is kind of overrated, but hey, it could be fun. Would you go with me? I mean, you don’t have a date yet, do you?”
“No. No I don’t,” I measured him up. “And you’re not going with anyone else?”
“Nope. Not it a relationship,” he stated as a matter of fact. “Although, our date seems to be going pretty well, so I’d say this could be a start of a cool thing.”
“Us?” Was he flirting with me? Of course he was. “Dating?”
“Well, I know you think I’m cute,” he smiled slyly “And I think you’re cute. And we’re both single. And I think we have pretty good chemistry.”
Woah, this guy was going fast. Although, I couldn’t say I didn’t find it attractive. “How do we know that we have chemistry? We only know each other for two days,” I argued.
“There’s no time limit on these things,” he looked at me flirtatiously. “Besides we can always double check if the chemistry is there.”
“Oh yeah? How?”
“Like this.” And he pulled me into a passionate kiss that lasted for longer than I previously believed possible. Boy, he was good. But he was right, I did like him.
“Alright,” I managed as we pulled away from one another. “Prom is on. We’ll see where it goes from there on.”
Coming home I was both exhilarated from what turned out to be my first ever date and worried that my parents were once again angry with me for staying out late. I did send them a message to reassure them, but maybe they were still angry I left in the first place?
My parents were both still up. I thought they were going to yell at me, but they both pulled me into a hug instead.
“What? You aren’t mad at me? I’m sorry I just left, but I didn’t want to keep fighting with you two.” I was confused to their behavior.
“I know, hon,” explained my mother. “You did make us very worried last night, but I know I also overreacted this morning.”
“Mom, you did nothing wrong! If anything, I understand why you were angry,” I exclaimed.
Mom laughed “Oh, yes young lady. I certainly am going to establish some rules about when you can and can’t be out alone. But also I want us to be able to talk things out peacefully.”
“Deal,” I agreed. “I can follow the rules and I’m all for talking things out!”
“Good. Now go to sleep before your brother comes asking where you are!” urged both parents.
I headed to sleep happy. This day started off horribly, but it certainly turned around for the better.