Chapter 6

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I come home, exhausted mentally and physically. I put my backpack to the side of the front door and kick off my shoes at the same time. I roll my shoulders back, stretching out a couple muscle aches on my higher back. Noticing Kelly's absent backpack, I go to the kitchen and make a giant sandwich. I haven't eaten anything else other than the french fry, and right now I'm practically wasting away to nothing.

"Matthew?" Mom calls out, coming out of her bedroom. Since the event last week, she's been acting like nothing happened. She took Kelly and me shopping for our school supplies and clothes, where I couldn't stop looking at the young women's section. Mom had Kelly looking for jobs that people her age can do legally. And she made sure we were out of trouble, which included annoyingly early curfews.

Today, she's all dressed up in her business suit and black heels. Her hair is pulled into a bun, and her carefully crafted make-up hasn't been ruined. Assuming she had a better day at work, I take a huge bite of my "snack". "Hi, Mom," I greet, still chewing.

Mom tsks. "You know better than to talk while you're chewing," she says. Walking down the stairs, she leans against the counter. "How was your first day of school?"

I take another bite and think while I chew. "It was overwhelming," I say. "Too many eager sophomores, not enough time to talk to my friends." Well, friend. Josh is the only friend I have that goes to Fife, and I'm not sure what Gwen is supposed to be. I think "a girl I can tolerate", judging from how Josh flirted with her during art. Well, tried, anyway. She kept trying to get my attention.

I just hope to God Josh was too busy to notice.

"Ah," Mom says, with a knowing expression on her face. "I know that feeling. It'll get better soon, I can promise you that." Unconsciously, she starts drumming her fingers on her right hand. I know better than to comment on the missing wedding ring on her fourth finger. "Did you make any new friends, at least?"

Nodding, I finish my food and wipe the crumbs off my shirt. "She's new to the district, and really needs someone to rely on until she's familiar with the school," I say. Mom raises her eyebrows in surprise, and I immediately regret telling her.

"Your new friend's a girl," she half asks, half states. "Is she cute?"

"Josh likes her, not me," I respond. Mom's shoulders slump a little. "What? You asked."

"I know. I was hoping a girlfriend might help you right now."

I choke. "W-what? Uh, no, I'm good." I cough several times. "I have my friends, and I have homework. I can keep myself busy with them."

Mom stares at me weird. "Honey, please don't tell me you're gay," she says.

"What?! No!"

"Just checking." Mom stifles an amused smile. She looks down at her watch. "Where's your sister? Kelly should be home by now."

On cue, Kelly barges into the house with a pissed-off look on her face. She throws her stuff next to mine and walks into the kitchen. She slams the cupboards as Kelly searches for a glass. She proceeds to raid the fridge for her special lemonade. Pouring it in the glass, my sister chugs it down in 6 seconds flat. She slams the cup down as she gasps for air.

"I take it today was bad?" I suggest.

Kelly snorts. "Bad? Today was full of shit!"

"Watch your language, young lady," Mom scolds. "You're in this house, and you don't swear in front of me."

Rolling her eyes, Kelly continues, "My algebra teacher gave us a couple worksheets to complete that's due tomorrow. Sasha decided to be a royal bitch--" Mom glares at her, and Kelly snarkily corrects herself, "--I mean, a piece of trash and spread rumors about me, and I don't have any classes with my friends. And forget having lunch with them." Kelly huffs in irritation. "I thought high school was supposed to be fun."

"You're thinking of college, Kelly," I point out. She gives me a death stare. "What? It's true."

Kelly angrily takes the empty glass to the dishwasher and clomps to her room. "Anyone needs me, I'll be getting rid of the fucking stupidity I suffered through with very loud punk rock music." Without letting Mom tell her off about the swearing, my sister slams her bedroom door shut.

Mom purses her lips. "Someday, she'll be in deep trouble with no way out," she says.

"Maybe not. She's a teenager attending public school. It'll pass by."

"Oh yeah, like you grew out of it," Mom replies. "You still throw tantrums at 16."

My jaw drops. "I don't throw tantrums!" I defend. "I, you know, get really mad at unreasonable times," I finish.

Mom laughs. "Sure. Let's go with that." She looks at her watch again. "Oh shoot! I forgot about the meeting I'm supposed to be at tonight!" She climbs up the stairs and to her room. I hear shuffling, and she reappears with her briefcase. Mom walks to the door, pauses, and goes back to give me a kiss and hug. "Behave yourself," she instructs.

"You know I do."

"Sadly, not often enough." I sneer at her, and she sneers back. Mom then shakes her head in amusement.

When she leaves the house, I stand in place. I then think about calling Josh and, I don't know, talk. Unfortunately, the only phone I have access to is mine, and I swear. I forgot to pick it up from Miss Young after school. I was too busy running home to escape. Not that the first day was bad, it wasn't. I needed to get away before any "school pride" seeps into my head. Who knows what can happen. I'd probably sign myself up as a cheerleader and wear a skirt 24/7, shaking pom-poms everywhere I go. Considering how I feel about myself, I wouldn't have minded the skirt. Everyone else would, however.

Suddenly, I hear a door open, and Kelly shouting out, "Is she gone?" Before I answer, she goes downstairs and breezes past me.

"Whoa, where are you going?" I ask, stopping her in her tracks.

Kelly growls in annoyance. "Ellen asked me to go to her house so we can do our homework together," she says impatiently.

Growing suspicious, I reply, "I thought you said you don't have any classes with your friends."

"You dumbass. She and I have the same teacher. I have the bastard third period, and she has him first. Can I go now?" Kelly takes another step towards the door.

I rub my temples with my fingers. I never exactly realized how difficult teenage girls can be. Being around Kelly since she's hit the unlucky 13, you'd think I already knew that. "Then where's your math homework?" I interrogate.

"Ugh!" Kelly grabs her backpack and viciously searches for the sheets. She gets them and shoves them in my face. "They're right here, OK?!" She turns around and gets out the front door, slamming it as hard as she can. The house rattles from the force. "I'll fucking see you later!" she shouts. 

I look up the ceiling, the scene running in my head. I spread my arms and ask, "Why?" I wait, with no answer. But I wasn't really expecting one. I sigh to myself and get myself up to my own room. I have homework to do, but I'm not in the mood to get into it. Besides, I can complete them in the morning and lunch.

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