High School Soap Opera
Early that evening, after school, I call Josette. I know she doesn’t have practice tonight. She answers on the fourth ring. “Can we talk?” I ask. I am sitting on my bed with my back to the headboard.
“What’s there to talk about, Jenna?” she asks. “You were pretty clear yesterday that you’re jealous of my new friends. Just like you were jealous when I was going out with Thomas. Why can’t you just be happy for me?”
“Look, I’m calling to apologize.” She doesn’t say anything at first, and I wonder if she hung up. I look at my cell phone, and the call isn’t disconnected.
“I’m listening,” she says impatiently.
“You were right. I am dramatic, and I was a little jealous. But I think I was just being scared of what my life is going to be like without you. We both know that we’ve been drifting apart. I’ve realized over the past week-” I stop. It wasn’t really a week, not for her. Not for real. “I mean, maybe it’s best to just admit the truth. We aren’t best friends anymore. It’s not something to fight, it’s already done. I still want to be friends though, even if we both have moved on to new best friends.”
“Of course we’re still friends!” she protests, but I notice that she didn’t object to me saying that we’re not best friends. “But you’re always talking to Talie, or you’re talking to me about Talie. How do you think that makes me feel?”
“Really?” I never realized that I did that. “I’m sorry, Josette.” I stand up and walk to the window. I look outside. My parents still aren’t home from work yet.
“Yeah, you always talk about your theories about what she did to get detention for a year, and your plans to try to make her tell you what she did. You checked out of this friendship long before I ever did.”
“I’m sorry,” I repeat. “I didn’t know you felt like that. I didn’t mean to… you know.”
“It’s fine. It’s just…” She lets her sentence dangle like that, without an ending. I wait to see if she’s going finish her thought, but she doesn’t say anything.
“What?” I ask, but it’s probably not even important. I open a drawer and get out a nail file. As I start fixing a sharp edge, it occurs to me that this is a prime example of what we’ve become. Conversations are forced, or strained, or we both just wish we were doing something else. I would rather groom myself than talk to Josette.
“Nothing,” she says. “I have to go, I have another call coming in. I’ll see you around?”
“Yeah, sure,” I say. But as I hang up the phone, I know that she’s gone. She didn’t even hesitate to use her second call as an excuse to end my call. And I’m okay with that now. I’ll be fine without her. I’ve been through worse things, I think with a smirk.
The next call I make is to Talie. She picks up on the first ring, a fact that doesn’t escape my notice. Josette didn’t get it until the fourth ring. “Jenna!” she almost shouts right in my ear. “Where were you today, are you feeling okay? You seemed fine yesterday, was it just like a 24 hour thing, or are you really sick?” Josette didn’t ask how I am or why I wasn’t in school. I wonder if she even noticed.
“I’m sorry about yesterday,” I say, recalling how Talie got upset when I asked why she was in detention. “I didn’t mean to make you mad.”
“Sorry for what?” she asks, like she doesn’t even remember. Or maybe she just doesn’t care. “Jenna, are you okay? You didn’t answer me.”
“I’m feeling a lot better now,” I say with a smile. “Do you want to go out for pizza? I’m a little stir-crazy from being in my room all day.”
“Yes, I’ll meet you at Pizza Hut. Do you need me to stop somewhere for cough drops or something? Because it’s not a problem.”
“Don’t you have to ask your parents?” I ask. My parents won’t care, Friday night is date night and they’ll be going out to dinner.
“No, I need to get away,” she says. Then she quickly says, “I mean, I was going to go out anyway. They already said it’s okay.”
“Talie,” I start, but then I think about how upset she got yesterday. I can’t ask what’s wrong at home. “Do you want to sleep over my house? My parents always tell me they want to meet you, I’m sure they’d be happy to have you. They’ll probably let you stay all weekend and come to school with me on Monday morning.”
I get to Pizza Hut before Talie, so I wait outside for her. I see a motorcycle on the other side of the parking lot, and I think that maybe I’ll get my own bike some day. Before I can get lost in thought, a taxi pulls in next to me and Talie gets out and pays the driver. I help her get her bags out of the trunk and move them to my car, then she waves to let the driver know she’s done, and he drives away.
“You wouldn’t believe how much I’ve missed you,” I tell her. She saw me yesterday, but to me it’s been a week. I give her a big hug, and she squeezes me back tightly. “I’m so glad you’re spending the weekend.”
“Before we go in, can we just stay out here and talk for a few minutes?” It looks like there’s something big on her mind, and we walk to the restaurant and sit on a bench outside. “I have a question, but before you answer you have to listen to my confession.”
“What’s going on? Are you okay?”
“Do you think your parents would let me stay longer than a weekend?” Tears fill her eyes, and I put my arm around her shoulders. She pulls away, then lifts her shirt on one side. There’s a huge bruise there. It looks like it’s almost gone, but then she shows me her other side, and her arms, and her legs.
“You look like a punching bag!” I exclaim, and then it clicks. “Talie… is this why you wanted detention for a year?” She nods, and the tears fall. I hold her gently and let her cry, I think about Amelia holding Olivia when she was crying the morning she told us Ambrosia had been shot. I’m not scared to step in anymore. I can be proactive in my life, and in Talie’s if that’s what she needs. “You can stay as long as you need to, my parents won’t mind. But you have to show them what you showed me. You have to tell them the truth, okay? Can you do that?”
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” she says.
“Of course not. Nobody deserves to be treated like this.”
“No,” she says, shaking her head. “I mean, to get detention. I don’t have to stay after school every day. I just talked to Mr. Chapman after class one day and said that my parents don’t want me home alone after school, and asked if I could go to detention every day even though I wasn’t in trouble for anything. And he said he didn’t care, as long as I let him tell other teachers and students that I had gotten in trouble.”
“We can keep going if you want,” I say, “or you can just tell everyone that you got off for good behavior, and come home with me instead.”
“Sounds like a plan,” she says with a smile. “Let’s go in. I’m starving.” We go in, and a hostess tells us we can sit anywhere we want. We go to a table far from the kitchen, and I sit facing the windows. “Oh my god,” she whispers, “don’t look now but the waiter is really cute. He’s coming over.”
“Can I get you a drink?” he asks, and I freeze. It’s not possible. Then again, lately my life has been full of impossible things. I look up, and it’s him. He even has a name tag that says Jack. He hasn’t even noticed me, he’s looking at Talie.
“Are you a goofy guy?” I ask, and he drops his pen and looks at me.
“Jenna?” he asks. “What are you doing here?”
“I live here,” I say. “How did you get here?” I look at Talie, and she’s looking at me in surprise. “Sorry, can you just excuse us for a minute?” I stand up, then bend down and whisper in her ear, “I promise to tell you everything later.”
Jack picks up his pen, then leads me to the door. “I need to take my break now,” he says to the hostess. He opens the door for me, and we sit on the bench. “I can’t believe it’s really you.”
“Wait, before anything else… You remember being in Spruce Ridge with me for a week, right?” He nods. “Because I came back home and it was the same day I left.” I think about the show. When I got back, I think I actually saw a few lines that I had already seen before leaving. “Actually, it might have been a few minutes earlier. I thought I was crazy.”
“Crazy beautiful,” he says, and I laugh.
“No really, I don’t understand any of this. How are you here in my world?”
“You left when you admitted that you didn’t belong in my world,” he says. “And I guess you came back here. I tried to be okay with it, but I’m not. It was not okay for you to leave me. I realized that without you, I didn’t belong there either. And you even said that I wasn’t a character on the television show you watched, so I didn’t think it would matter if I stayed there or not.”
“I’m sort of with you,” I say, “but I still don’t know how you got here.”
“You don’t know how you got there or back either,” he reminds me. “I don’t know, I watched you disappear, and then Olivia and Nick walked back in and I saw how happy they were together, and I just knew I couldn’t let you go. I thought maybe it was in the words you said, so I said out loud that I didn’t belong in that world, that I belong wherever you are. And then… poof! Next thing I knew I was in the kitchen wearing this apron and name tag.”
“How long have you been here?”
“Only about ten minutes,” he says. “Why?”
“I got here fifteen minutes ago, I just had to wait for Talie before I could go in. So whatever power brought me to you and then back here, it must have brought you to the place you needed to be to see me.”
“Wait, that was Talie?” he asks, trying to see her through a window, but there’s a tree in the way. He grins. “Did you tell her about me? I know girls like to talk about boys all night long.” I playfully hit him on the arm, and he leans in and kisses me. “There,” he mutters. “You can tell her about that too.”
“No,” I whisper. “I haven’t told her about you yet, but I’m going to.” I smile. I just can’t believe he’s here. “So I’m seventeen here,” I say. “No lie.”
“I’m 24,” he says. “Still. But I still don’t care about the age difference.”
“Me neither.” He kisses me again, and it’s the kind of long, strong kiss that you only share when you’re very much in love. Then I pull away. “Let’s go back inside. I want to introduce you to Talie. And you’re on the job anyway.”
“Yeah,” he says as we stand, “and I need to keep this job. I didn’t get to bring my millions with me, I’m broke.”
“Don’t worry,” I say. “I always tip well when I have a hot waiter.”
“Yeah,” I say, “and if you let me put the money down your shirt, I’ll tip even more.” He laughs and follows me back inside and to the table, where Talie is waiting. “Talie, I’d like you to meet Jack. My boyfriend.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Jack says grandly. “I’ve heard quite a bit about you.” I sit back in my seat across from Talie, and Jack sits down next to me, even though he’s supposed to be taking our order.
“I’m sorry if I seem flustered,” she says, “but I haven’t heard a thing about you. Why have you been hiding him, Jenna?”
“I didn’t want to say anything until I was sure it’s going to last,” I say, and it’s true. If Jack hadn’t shown up, I would have never told anyone about him. “He’s going to follow us back to my house later,” I say, turning to him, “on his motorcycle.” He looks confused, then puts his hand in his pocket. He pulls out the keys in amazement. Somehow, I knew that was his bike outside. I turn back to Talie. “He doesn’t have a place to sleep right now, so I hope my parents will let him stay in the guest bedroom until he gets an apartment.”
“You don’t have to do that, Jenna. I wouldn’t want to ask your parents…” I know what he means. He doesn’t think his seventeen year old girlfriend’s parents would let her 24 year old boyfriend stay at their house. To be honest, I’m not sure they’ll agree to it, but I’ll probably tell them Talie feels safer with him around or something.
“Just returning the favor,” I whisper in his ear, then I kiss his cheek. He looks in my eyes, and for a minute I forget that we’re not the only people in the world. This whole experience is crazy, right? This can’t be real. Things like this only happen in movies.
“I can’t stand the cute,” Talie says, startling me. I look at her. “You guys! You are so cute together! You look like you’ve been together for years.”
“It hasn’t been quite that long,” he says.
“No,” I say. “I swear, it feels like we just met.”
I’ve decided to post my NaNoWriMo novel on my blog this year, chapter by chapter. I hope you enjoy it! And remember, this is all about having fun and writing a whole lot in a short period of time, so please don’t give me “corrections.” I’m not planning on going for publication anyway. Start at the beginning: Chapter One