"What's taking you so long...you should have shot down that tree and we should have been on our way already," Teresa whispered loudly to me as I ran toward her. I knew what her beef was, we were going to the party of a lifetime, the first time that we'd ever been invited to Rex Brentwood's house. He'd seen me with Abe a couple of times and maybe assumed that we were dating or something, cause the last day of junior year, he invited us. Me. I couldn't believe it.
Rex was the popular guy and the rich one. His house had a pool, staff and shit like that. The kind of guy that didn't hesitate to flash his money. His parents were old money. The type that nearly owned everything in town from the local bars, businesses and everything. His great granddaddy bought the land, his granddaddy (his words, not mine) built on it and his daddy profited from it. That's the story in high school. His family's name is on practically every business here. Kind of crazy. Our town's small compared to most towns, but not so small that everyone knows everyone's name.
"Shh," I whispered back then she took my hand and we walked away from my house. I was still panting from jumping from my window to the tree next to my window to the ground. It was weird, I'd done it so many times that I thought it would be easier, not harder.
"I forgot my damn phone. I was trying to get back up!"
She laughed and her Afro puffs seemed to grow as she did it. "Girl, you've done gone and lost your mind. There's no way that you're going to get back up that tree. Besides, it looks as if your mom and Stuart are still up. I wouldn't risk it."
I sighed, looking back at the house and avoiding her dark eyes staring at me.
"Yeah, it's a bit weird. You know Mom's a little robotic when it comes to her routine. And she's always in bed by elev-en." I was trying to catch my breath as we walked to Ava's house. "Last night, she was in bed by eight and then came to my room a couple of hours later."
I wanted to say more, but I bit my tongue, I planned to tell both of them together. I'd hardly slept all night thinking about the moonlight and what it was like to kiss Abe in that moonlight in my bedroom, thinking about what it meant letting Teresa know that she was right. He was into me.
Teresa nodded and then passed me her soda. And then I remembered as I took a sip, why it was hard to get down from the tree. I'd eaten nervously all day, just thinking about the party we were now headed to. I didn't even want to know how much weight I'd put on this year. It was a lot more than five pounds and the number one issue was soda. I was addicted to the stuff, and chocolate and cakes too. The list was endless.
"You going to tell me or are you going to finish my so-da?" She grabbed my hand and took her soda back only to dis-cover that it was nearly finished. So, I decided to tell the latter part of the story, the crappy part. The part that I hated talking about but seemed to repeat it over and over again, because ever since they got married, it had become the story of my life.
"Well at ten tonight, they went to bed and then all of a sudden, they were up and fighting. So, that's why I got dis-tracted. Trying to eavesdrop and get ready at the same time. Because we agreed eleven thirty and I thought – sure enough they'll be in bed, but their fighting was different this time, it was kind of like Mom wanted me to hear it. Usually she would keep it on the downlow, but she was screaming back."
Teresa smiled, while putting a reassuring hand over my back.
"All couples fight. Nothing new. Nothing old. Look, ever since they got married, you've been eating way too much and complaining all the time. What gives? It can't be just be-cause they're fighting. There must be more to it." She stopped in her tracks. "We've been friends a long time. You know that you can tell me anything."
I sighed, thinking about the fact that Teresa was one of my best friends and I loved her honesty but on this occasion, I wished that she hadn't said anything about my weight. We went shopping back in the spring and we were the same size. I went shopping with her today and she looked shocked when I bought something that was three sizes bigger than my normal size. In fact, I was kind of shocked myself. I knew that I'd put on weight but didn't realize how much until today in the store. Then again, it shouldn't have been a big shock, the choice of clothes had been decreasing every month. Before, I could de-cide to wear anything, but lately it had only been clothes which weren't fitted, like my joggers and XXL shirts. Anything else, wasn't even an option.
"It's not that I'm unhappy about her getting married, but there's something not right about them. I don't know. I want to be happy for Mom. I really do. But, it's like she says that she's happy, but then doesn't look it when we're here. When we were away at Gran's house she was smiling and hap-py, just the way that she was when it was the two of us."
Shit, just spit it out. She's your oldest and closest friend. She won't judge you or your mom. She loves you too much!
Teresa shook her head and we started picking up the pace again.
"Your mom is a grown woman. If she isn't happy then she needs to do something about it. Not you. Besides they've only been married six months."
I nodded. "And only knew each other six months be-fore that. They dated for four months, then he moved in. After that, they got married a short two months later. What the fuck? It was all so rushed. It made no sense, and I asked her if she was pregnant. She told me that she was too old for that." I rolled my eyes as I remembered it, remembered how I'd sat back, stunned as I watched it play out. Nobody had asked me if I wanted a stepfather or had even bothered to ask if I liked the guy. Mom had just married him, moved him in, and by her actions, told me to suck it up.
"My parents thought that she was pregnant."
See, I wasn't the only one! I was going to tell her the truth. All of it. Lay it all out on the table, but before it I knew it, we'd reached Ava's house. It was a couple of blocks away so it made sense that it wouldn't take us long to get there. I brushed off the conversation, thinking that I'd tell both of them. This thing was eating me up and I had to tell someone. I couldn't talk to Abe. It had to be them. They were my eldest and closet friends, nothing would change that. Nothing
"Your parents think everyone's pregnant."
We burst into laughter, as we reached Ava's front door and Teresa pressed the bell without hesitation. Unlike Mom and Teresa's parents, Ava's were relaxed about bedtimes and her friends being over. She didn't have to sneak out. Her first alco-holic drink? Her parents gave it to her. Smoking a joint? Her parents gave it to her. They even gave her condoms and took her to the doctor for birth control when she told them she needed it. Not only her mom, but her dad went along with them to the doctor. They were new age parents or from a dif-ferent planet? I could never figure out which one it was.
I asked her mom once why was she so cool?
She told me, that she wanted Ava to make her own choices and avoid mistakes. She'd made her own mistakes one too many times trying to sneak around and being the bad girl, the complete opposite of what her parents tried to bring her up to be.
Why couldn't my mom be like that? Shit, if she was then I wouldn't have to nearly break my neck climbing down a tree to go to my friends' houses or just to get away for a little while.
Teresa had even asked why all moms couldn't be like Ava's?
I've never figured out the answer to that question.
My hand was just about to touch the doorbell when Ava opened the door. The plan was for me to sneak out, Teresa to say she was staying at mine, but she refused to climb down the tree so she waited for me outside, and then we were to meet up at Ava's so we could all ride in her car to the party.
Yeah, her parents bought her a car too!
And then we would be at the party of the lifetime. The one that Abe would be at too and I was saving that piece of information for when we were in the car, but only when we would be stationery like at a stop light or something. I didn't want Ava having an accident.
"We're not going," Ava choked as she looked at us with pitiful emerald eyes that normally lit up the room. She moved her long dark hair from her face as her eyes started to fill with tears. At last, her parents had decided to be strict and normal, like everyone's parents, I thought.
"There's been an accident." She hiccupped her way through the first part but managed to gain some strength as she continued. "The hospital. We need to get there now."
"Why?" I asked scared to know the answer to my own question. Because, I realized that not only was she shaking, but she was talking directly to me.
Sure, we'd spoken on Skype but neither of us had seen each other since we got back. I'd seen Teresa briefly this morn-ing when we went shopping and then when she called to make sure that the plan was still in place, but Ava no. I expected the normal screams and hugs that we would do if we hadn't seen each other in three days. But we hadn't seen each other in four weeks, and she was acting kind weird. That's all I could think about, where were the hugs and screams, not the part where she said we had to go to the hospital. Then she confused me even more and spoke again.
She whispered to me, her eyes welling over with tears. "It's your mom. She's in hospital."
I didn't blink or say a word as Teresa held one hand and Ava held the other as they guided me to her car. So, I could see my mom. In the hospital.
I'd only just left the house and it hadn't taken that long to walk over here. What could have happened in that short span of time? I felt my face scrunch up and looked over at Ava in the driver's seat.
"What happened, Ava?"
"I had a phone call from your neighbor who said that she saw you sneaking out and knew that you would be here," she took a deep breath. Yeah, I wanted to know how Nosey N - our nickname for her - knew Ava's number and that I did this regularly, but I also felt cold, numb, afraid.
The whole thing felt like a tidal wave as I tried to reply to Ava. I could hear my mom and Stuart screaming and then they stopped so I just continued to get ready. I was distracted thinking about Abe and feeling guilty about being back home. Part of me was glad to be back and the other part was just damn scared. What if it happened again? What would I do? Would I go along with it and tell them the truth about what happened when I left? My friends would hate me for keeping it a secret and Mom was so into Stuart, would she think that I led him on somehow? She may think that. Damn!
So many thoughts were racing through my mind, but then the only thing that was going to get me through my fears were answers. Or maybe not?