Sunday, October 4, 2015
1st 5 Pages October Workshop - Caldwell
Name: Alicia Caldwell
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Title: Failed Innocence
Sex before marriage is the second worst sin, just after murder. That’s what my mom tells me regularly. And that’s what has been replaying in my head since I woke up in a stranger’s house. I don’t usually give my mother’s religious warnings much thought, but this morning, I can’t quiet her voice. The stranger is now sitting across from me. I’m sitting at her table, in her kitchen, drinking her coffee, but I don’t know her. Or at least, I don’t think I do. Taking another sip from the steaming mug, I choke back the two Tylenol she gave me to stop the persistent pounding in my head that’s sparking memory flashes.
I do my best to suppress each recollection and the sense of dread that accompanies them, while at the same time, wondering if I should ask if she knows what happened. If I knew her name I could thank her for letting me crash at her house.
“Some party last night, huh?” Starting off with the obvious seems safe.
The girl jerks her head to the right, then looks back at me and mouths, “Shhhh.”
The woman who enters the kitchen is tall and looks like an older version of the girl across from me.
“Good morning, Gwen. Who’s your friend?” she asks, only looking in my direction for a brief moment before getting a coffee mug out of the cupboard.
Gwen, Gwen, I repeat in my head, trying to conjure up anything containing her name or her face.
Gwen answers, “This is Bree Moore, Mom. I hope you don’t mind that we had a last minute sleep over.”
“Of course not, dear. Your friends are always welcome here.” Either she’s the coolest mom in the world, or she just wants me to think that. Then after I leave—which I’m not sure how I’m going to leave since I’m pretty sure my car isn’t here—Gwen will get reamed for opening her house up to yet another random friend. From the look on her mom’s face, though, she seems like she really doesn’t care that some strange girl slept in her house all night. Gwen must take in stray friends she hardly knows a lot.
Her mom walks over and offers her hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Bree.” She clasps my hand so lightly, I’m afraid to squeeze back and give my usual firm greeting in fear I’ll crush her frail fingers. We release our pathetic handshake and she strolls back across the kitchen to the window where she opens the blinds.
My head stings at the harsh morning light that forces it’s way in and streaks the hard-wood floor. Immediately chunks of a memory spark. The full moon is glowing high in the sky above me. And pain. Everything else remains fuzzy, but that small recollection shoots shivers up my spine. There is one thing I’m positive of: I had been drunk last night . . . really, really drunk.
“How do you know Gwen?” her mom asks me while sliding into one of the adjacent chairs with a steaming cup of her own.
Looking back at Gwen, I’m not sure what to say. If I say the wrong thing, I might get her in trouble. No matter how hard I try, I’m just chasing vague memories around in my head, and none of them seem to contain meeting Gwen.
As soon as I’m about to give up trying to remember, I clasp on to an image of Gwen behind the wheel. I was in the passenger seat . . . crying.
Oh great. I was an obnoxious, emotional drunk. I don’t usually like to show my weaker side to strangers, or even my friends. But sometimes—usually with the help of alcohol—my pathetic, heartbroken side makes an appearance when I least expect it, venting about my non-committal boyfriend and my inability to leave him because every time I try to he turns around and becomes Mr. Wonderful again.
“Oh, we’ve been friends for a while.” Gwen quickly answers for me. “She doesn’t go to my school. That’s probably why you haven’t met her before.”
“What school do you go to?” her mom asks.
Finally, a question I can answer.
“Eldorado,” I say, not realizing until now how hoarse my voice is. The raspy, one word response makes me sound like a smoker. But I don’t smoke. Never have. I take another sip of my coffee to try and wash it away, wondering, and hoping, that I didn’t decide to take up the nasty habit last night. I’m pretty sure if I had I’d still be able to taste the nicotine.
Then, as soon as I think it, I do remember the taste of cigarettes. But it wasn’t my tongue coated in the nicotine flavor; it was someone else’s.
“That’s a great school. If we lived just two blocks North, Gwen would be going there, too. I worry so much about the gangs at Manzano.” She puts her mug down just long enough to press her hands together and gaze up at the ceiling. “Please God, let her make it through one more year. Just one more year.”
“Oh, come on, Mom. It’s not that bad.” Gwen rolls her eyes and gives me a “my mom’s a freak” look.
“Yes, it is that bad.” Gwen’s mom picks up her half-empty coffee mug again and shakes it at her daughter like it’s an extension of her scolding finger. “Don’t you watch the news?”
“No, Mom, I don’t. And for good reason. Look how crazy it’s making you.”
“I’m just so glad you’re dating Trey. It comforts me to know he’s around to protect you.” As she places her hand over her heart, the sun glints off the diamond in her wedding ring, triggering another flash.
The silhouette of a head. Its face hidden in shadows.
Involuntary shakes start in my shoulders and quickly spread down my arms. I grip my biceps to get them to stop before anyone notices.
Gwen stands, gulping down the rest of her coffee and setting the cup on the table with a low thunk. “Well, I’m starving. Let’s go get something greasy for breakfast.” She opens her eyes wide at me as if saying, “Let’s get the hell outa here.
Earlier, when I first awoke, I had swung my legs out of the unfamiliar bed and looked down to see I was wearing pink and white pajamas bottoms. Now I know they’re Gwen’s. I just don’t know if she had to change me, or if I was capable on my own. These little details I’m okay with not knowing. They don’t make my insides twist up in knots.
What does make me cringe is when Gwen hands me my clothes.
“I washed the puke out of your shirt,” she says.
That explains my smoker voice. I stare at the now clean shirt, a memory of throwing up in the backyard at the party floating to the surface. Someone had been with me, holding back my hair. It wasn’t Kendra, my best friend, who had been with me when I first puked in the gutter. And it wasn’t Tristan, my boyfriend, who had held my hair over the toilet after that.
Oh my gawd. How many times did I puke?
The silence is unsettling as Gwen drives us to breakfast. I know I have to ask her what happened last night.