Sunday, May 29, 2011

Off Limit - Excerpt

As promised the first 25 pages of my second nitty gritty story, Off Limit. This story is about Lindsay, a spoiled rich girl with a dirty little secret and Megan, who knows all about faking a life. Two misfits who are thrown together and who discover real friendship has nothing to do with money. Teenage life is not pretty. Can two teens find their voice or will the real adult issues they face drive them to the edge.

Off Limit
Book II in the Nitty Gritty series
By Renee Pace


“You coming over tonight, Rebecca?”

I make the question casual, like it’s no sweat off my back if my best friend can’t come over tonight. Inside my gut twists and rolls with the thought of being alone. She plays with her dyed blonde ponytail, pulling the strands tight to her head to fluff it up higher. She’s not paying attention to me. Rebecca’s one focus is Blair. Blair’s main focus is Rebecca. They make me sick.

“Can’t Linds. I’ve got plans.”

I hate that nickname and no matter how many times I ask her not to call me that she doesn’t listen. She dismisses me with a swish of her ponytail and walks over to plant one on Blair’s lips. I cringe with disgust. For the life of me I can’t understand what she sees in him, besides his muscular body. Muscle or not, it’s not something I’m into.

I re-read the text from my mom and resist the urge to type a pleading note back to her not to spend another night away. Mom’s been at a conference all weekend. I had Friday, Saturday and even Sunday night covered. It’s Monday. She was supposed to come home tonight. Now I’m left scrambling for an excuse to spend the night somewhere else or begging a friend to come to my house for a sleepover. Worse, I have to make my impromptu sleepover sound casual, like it’s an afterthought that me, the so-called perfect girl in this Prep school, wants a friend or better yet friends to spend Monday night at her house. No one has sleepovers on Monday. Even I know that. Thing is, I’m all into bucking the trend. Especially when a friend will keep me safe and they won’t even know it.

Taking the time to look at my reflection staring back at me thanks to my handy-dandy locker mirror I reapply my pink lipstick, add a bit more black eyeliner around my bottom lids and flick my long blonde hair off my shoulders. I look cool and sophisticated thanks to Mom’s recent shopping spree and my practiced ‘I’m fine’ look. I’m totally decked out in designer duds, from my shoes to my new hot purple matching bra and underwear, which no one will see. It’s the top of the line on this bod. Just once I wish I didn’t feel like trash. They say clothes make the woman. My clothes, like the make-up I carefully apply are my body armour. The only scars I have are carefully concealed thanks to my long-sleeved sweater. They are my shame. My dirty little secret I can’t tell anyone.

Armed with my new Coach purse, another gift from mom, I saunter to class. It would not be cool for me to be late so I never am. Appearances must be maintained and just like my good grades, which are totally expected, not accepted, I play my part to a T.

The class is totally boring and I can’t absorb one freaking word the teacher is droning on about. Something to do with DNA, mitochondria and cellular fusion. I hate biology. You of course would never know that. My last test was a ninety-eight percent and I participate in class even though inside it kills me.

“Mr. Turner, I didn’t catch the last part of what you were saying, do you mind repeating it?” I make sure to bat my eyelashes at him and throw in a flirty smile. Sometimes using my looks makes me sick. Not today.

“Sure Lindsay, as I was saying…”

This time I take notes. It helps me concentrate on his class, forcing my mind not to wander into that dark place. An itch starts at both of my wrists but I don’t scratch. Scratching it would ruin the plastic surgeon’s work and piss my mom off to no end. My mom and I don’t talk about the “incident”. That’s her word, not mine. I have another word I like to use, but uttering that causes my mom to break down. Trust me, it’s not pretty.

We went from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Mexico, just the two of us, but not once did we talk about anything of meaning. The five and a half hour flight might have never happened. But it did. The “incident” happened and now…now, I am supposedly all better. As if! And like all mistakes, we wiped all memories of it clean from our lives. Well, that’s how Mom viewed it. Me, not so sure.

Now we live in Toronto. To say I hate this place would be an understatement. Gone is my tree. The one tree that grew up with me. Mom planted it in our backyard, blubbering away about “us” making our own memories when my dad walked out on us. I should have known then. She never once looked back at that relationship, except to look at me. I should have been the wise one.

Make one stupid mistake Lindsay and viola, you end up moved away from all you know, including the stupid silly things that shouldn’t matter, but do. Take that tree, which was originally on a piece of property that had been in my mom’s family for close to two hundred years. Mom sold off the acreage to some developer, but not before we trekked a mile back into the bug-infested woods for that damn shrub. Cedar. That’s it. We didn’t think it would survive but that tree did. It grew and grew, so much so, that it became my own special tree. Now, that’s gone. After all the shit that’s happened in my life, I honestly can’t believe I miss that stupid tree.
My mom couldn’t live with the shame of my so-called accident. The reality is she couldn’t live with the gossip and still to this day, a full six months later, she is not interested in learning the truth. I tried to tell her it wasn’t an accident. That didn’t go so well.

“What did he say?”

Without turning my head I answer Megan. She’s sitting next to me, only because she got assigned that seat. Megan, with her mousy-brown hair, is about as boring as you can get. The cosmetic ladies would have a field day with her face. I bet she doesn’t even own lip gloss. I can’t even fathom why she doesn’t try.

Beggars can’t be choosers.

“You doing anything tonight?” I turn my head slightly, giving her a bit of my attention but not all of it. Inside my head I am still going through all my friends, trying to figure out who might say yes to coming to my house tonight. Most of my friends on Monday night have cheerleading practice. Since I couldn’t even try out for the team because of my “weak” wrists lie, I’m not on it. Neither is Megan.

She hasn’t answered me, so I’m forced to look at her. “Megan, you busy tonight?”

She gives me a puzzled expression. “No. Why?”

“Want to come over?”

“Over. Like, as in to your house to do homework or something?”

I can’t help notice how her uni-brow furrows in frustration and she’s got a pack of whiteheads on her nose that could seriously use some medication. What she really needs is a good make-over.

Oh. My. God. I am a genius.

I move my chair slightly closer to her. “Look, come to my house tonight and we’ll give each other make-overs.”

Her eyes widened and honestly the biggest smile on the planet lights up her face. I feel like a heel. What the hell am I thinking? Oh, I know I’m not thinking. I’m desperate. I can’t believe Megan is my last hope.

“Sure. That would be great. I can come over for a bit.”

A bit. I need her to commit for the night. “I was thinking…you know, there’s nothing going on…why don’t you spend the night?” I gulp. It’s too late to swallow back the words but I know I have just committed social suicide. For a second I wonder which is worse.

“A sleepover?”

Thank god she asks the question in her whisper-like voice. “Yeah,” I nod. “A sleepover, that’s a great idea.” I am so royally screwed. I made her think sleeping over at my house was her idea. It’s not, but if it will get her to commit, I don’t care what she thinks.

“You sure?” she asks.

Not really, but I don’t have anyone else to ask and you’re my last hope. I nod, making sure my smile is bright and full, stretched taut across my face. I notice she’s still taking notes. How the hell can she concentrate on this boring stuff when my guts feel like they are being twisted into pretzel shapes?

“Just you and me, tonight at my house for a make-over. Come around six and we’ll have time for a movie later.”

“You sure your parents won’t mind? It being Monday night and all.”

“My mom’s not home. And my stepfather does not care what I do.” And that’s the truth. He only cares about one thing but that’s not going to happen—if she comes over, that is.

“You are so lucky. By the way, I don’t have any make-up to bring.”

“Don’t you worry. I have enough stuff to outfit my own store. When I’m done with you tonight you can take whatever you want home with you.”

“I wish I had your life.”

I gulp. A flash of terror slides through my skin at her words. If she knew my real life, if she knew what went on in the dark, behind my closed door when mom’s not home, she most certainly would not want my life. I can’t say anything for a full minute. Instead, I start to take notes again. My heart’s hammering away and sweat glides down my new shirt. I’m glad now I put on my sweater.

“You okay?” she asks.

“You bet. Just plotting out in my head what we’re going to do tonight.”

The bell rings. Class is over. I gently close my laptop. No one carries scribblers or school books at this private school. It’s high-tech all the way. The sickening part is that with it being mid-morning, religious class is next. I am not one bit Catholic, even though my mother said we were. I fake my way through religious class much like how I pretend being happy. Guess I learned how to lie from a pro. The worse part about my next class is with it being Monday that means it’s mandatory confessional. Honestly, some of my best lies take place in the privacy of a wooden closet. Just me and the priest, hidden by a silly wooden barrier. I should journal some of my “indecent” things I confess. They even sound exciting to my ears so I can just imagine the hard-on they give that fat, disgusting priest. If there’s one thing I have learned in the past year it’s how to spot a pervert. Trust me, he’s just like Greg, my stepfather, who ever since I turned fourteen liked to sneak into my room to show me his idea of loving. The concept of that type of love is not something I want. If that’s loving, I will take hate any day.

I know something most of my fellow students don’t know. There is no hell in the afterlife. I’ve been there. Died for a good three minutes. I didn’t feel a thing. Only this life is living hell.

“See you at six,” I remind Megan, as we casually join the mass exit from class.

“Can’t wait,” she says.

I can’t help noticing the bounce in her step. It should make me happy. It doesn’t. I don’t even

like Megan. She’s a pathetic excuse for protection but she will have to do.


I’m doing time calculations in my head. There is no way I can make it home, which takes me a good hour and get back in time to meet Lindsay at six. Shit! What the hell was I thinking? Oh, I know I was thinking maybe I could pull this off.

Moving away from the school, I wait until it’s totally clear before calling home. No sense getting caught. Using the one public phone within miles, I drop my quarter in and dial, praying no one I know walks by. It’s so not cool to not own a cellphone but like mom points out, “It’s not the end of the world.” Maybe not to her, but for me, it makes me a social pariah.

“Mom, is it okay if I stay at Lindsay’s house tonight?” I tell her about a huge assignment we so don’t have but if lying will make my life easier, I do it. She asks me a bunch of other questions and even threatens to drop off my clothes. Like that’s going to happen? Mom’s been in a wheelchair for the past decade because of MS and the thought of her attempting to make her way to one of the accessible subway lines makes me shiver.

“Seriously, Mom, stop being so over-protective. All is good. Lindsay says I can borrow some of her clothes. Wouldn’t that be cool and amazing. It’s no worry and not a bother. I’ll give you a call…what, what…I can’t hear you. The line’s getting fuzzy. Don’t worry. I’ll call you in the morning, okay? Love you.”

I hang up before she asks once again to talk to one of Lindsay’s parents. Like I’m about to let that happen. No way!

I officially have a good hour to kill before I walk to Lindsay’s house. I know exactly where she lives. Everyone in the school does. She lives in the mega-mansion at the end of the cul de sac about two blocks from the school. Must be nice to only have to get up ten minutes before class and not worry about being late. For a second I let that jealous feeling harden, like a peach pit in my stomach. Then I remember the look on Lindsay’s face when she asked me to her house. It wasn’t a look normally plastered to her polished façade.

Slowly making my way to the city’s library I pass four coffee houses. I’m dying for a cup but yesterday I calculated how much money I’ve been spending on java and figured the money I save by not buying will go to a better use. My mom’s been saving for two years now. She needs at least twenty thousand to cover all her expenses for the MS liberation procedure. At the end of this year, with my no-coffee-buying money I can contribute over four hundred. With my part-time army reserve job I can add another three thousand. It’s not a lot but every penny counts. That’s her motto and me and my older brother live by that. Or, we used to.

I try hard not to think about him. My skin starts to get clammy and for a second I think I’m going to puke. Right there on the sidewalk with all these rich kids walking past me like I’m dog shit. Forcing my gag reflex to stop, I get a grip on my emotions.

Flashing a smile at one of the librarians, I head to my usual haunt. Up two flights of stairs, take a left and you enter the world of specialized literature. It’s my favourite part of the library. The books are all hard cover and bible-thick. Some are written in foreign languages, but most are in Latin or old English. If the kids at school found out that in my spare time I like to study Latin I would be a laughingstock. Wait a sec, I’m already that. Hunkering down in the only chair in this part of the library, I make sure the coast is clear before I haul out my thermos. Time for my own homemade brew. It’s a little cold, after suffering a day in my small locker, but I am not about to pass up a much-needed jolt of caffeine.

Removing my sweater, I think about what I can say to Lindsay. Not a lot comes to mind. We are night and day. She’s rich, spoiled and Cosmo beautiful. Everyone loves her. Me. I’m a nobody. The only reason I’m at the private school is thanks to a scholarship I got through my reserve unit. If my so-called school friends, none of which I really have, knew I was there at the Prep school only because of my scholarship, or if they had an inkling of where I hail from, well I might as well get lice. Seriously, I would be the biggest social outcast and I am not going to let that happen. This school is my stepping stone to getting into a university. Nothing and no one is going to squash my dream. My mom’s counting on me. And that’s why my mouth is shut. That’s why my identity in school has to remain hidden.

I realize I’ve been moping about my life way too long. Checking the time on the large old-fashioned round clock mounted high on the wall, I repack a piece of my sandwich, which as usual, I didn’t dare open or unwrap in school. Tucking my thermos back inside my bag, I get up and stretch. Why did I say yes to Lindsay? Now, I’m going to have to wear my clothes twice in a row, which is so beyond cool I’m thinking of cancelling and going home. But home isn’t home anymore, and I never get asked by anyone to spend the night with them.

I make my way out of the library and head toward her house. My stomach’s feeling sort of queasy. Maybe cold coffee wasn’t such a hot idea. I step up to Lindsay’s house and I’m about to knock on the large mahogany door when it startles me by opening.

“Took you long enough. I was getting worried.” She actually looks like she was. She opens the door wider and in I enter a world so beyond my two-bedroom apartment I almost make a dash for the exit.

Her hand grabs my arm.

“Lindsay, is there someone here?”

A loud booming male voice invades the space as I allow Lindsay to haul me inside the large, airy foyer.

“Yeah, there is. My friend Megan’s spending the night, Greg. That’s my step-father.”

She whispers the last part like I hadn’t figured that out. I’m not stupid. Proof in point the twenty thousand dollar scholarship I got to go to school. What I can’t figure out is if Lindsay meant what she said. Am I really her friend? Or by her panicked expression, am I just the body she needed tonight so she didn’t have to be alone with her step-dad? The fact I understand her body language causes goose bumps to form all over my own.


I thought for sure Megan was going to be a no-show. I can tell by her startled look, with those piercing green eyes of hers, she’s wondering why I’m acting like I am. Well, if you had to worry about being alone with Greg, you’d act like a freak too. Forcing myself to get a grip, I watch her take it all in. I can just imagine what she’s thinking. Spoiled rich kid. She’s got part of that correct. Spoiled. Check one. Rich. Check two. Kid. Not so much. I stopped being a kid the moment Greg snuck into my bedroom over two years ago. Kids cry. Kids run and tell their mommy they’re hurt and their mommies make them all better. Not my mother.

“This place is amazing,” she says. “So where’s your room?”

She’s acting so nonchalant I don’t buy it. Again, I’m wondering if I’ve made the biggest mistake of my life. Then I hear Greg moving around in the kitchen. He’s looking for the beer I hid. Last time I did that, he flipped out on me. Again, mother-dearest wasn’t around. I pleaded ignorant but when he found the liquor a few days later, he poured a can all over me, ruining one of my designer shirts mommy dearest bought. His only joke was I should enter a wet-T shirt contest. I didn’t bother responding. He’s such a fucking prick! I did the only thing I could. I marched into my room, locked the door to the washroom—that’s the only room with a lock—and took a shower. Then I threw out my clothes. I didn’t mention the incident to mom. Why bother? He’d twist it into something gross and disgusting and make mom hate me more than she already does.
“My room’s upstairs. Where’s your bag?”

The minute I ask I see panic leap to Megan’s face. Oh shit, if she’s thinking of leaving I will seriously lose it.

“Don’t worry if you forgot it. I’ve got lots of clothing. You’re welcome to borrow anything you want.”

“Are you serious?” She follows me upstairs.

We’re almost at the top when Greg saunters out of the kitchen, shirtless and all. I resist the urge to flee with Megan but I’m hoping she won’t notice.

“Hi. You must be Lindsay’s friend,” says Greg, walking up the freaking stairs like its normal to walk around half-dressed.

“Nice to meet you,” says Greg. He’s a step below Megan and holding out his hand for her to shake. I feel sick. Normal dads do not walk around half naked. He’s flexing his chest muscles for Megan and I can’t resist rolling my eyes at him. Of course he notices and flashes me one of his sexy smiles. I don’t think they’re sexy, but he does. If a shark can smile and look harmless that’s exactly how Greg looks when he flashes his pearly whites. They are only pearly white because of all the enhanced cosmetic attention his teeth, face and tanned body receive thanks to my generous mother. She likes to throw out the comment to anyone listening, he’s her boy-toy and really good for one thing. Thinking of that one thing makes me want to puke.

“Nice to meet you Greg. I’m Megan.”

“Lindsay’s never mentioned you before.” He’s goading her on to annoy and embarrass me.

I flash a smile at Megan but it’s hard to do since I’m a step ahead of her on the stairs. She turns her head and smiles at me, but the smile doesn’t reach her eyes. Funny how I notice that.

“That’s okay. We sort of just became friends, didn’t we Lindsay,” she says.

I nod, feeling robotic with my movements. “Yeah, we did. Anyway, Megan and I are busy tonight Greg. We’re doing girly things.”

He laughs. I notice Megan doesn’t.

“Well, trust me I don’t want to get in the way of girly things. I’m about to order pizza. You girls want some?”

“Sure that would be nice,” says Megan, before I can tell Greg to fuck off and leave us alone.

He nods. “The usual Linds.”

When Greg calls me Linds I almost hurl right there on the steps. He’s such a waste of a human being. I manage a curt nod and then race up the rest of the stairs. Only when I hear Megan’s echoing footsteps does it dawn on me I’m being rude.

I flop down on my bed. She stands in the middle of my room. Her eyes aren’t looking at my room though. She’s looking right at me, like she can see me with all my scars and it scares me shitless.

“Should I have told your step-dad I’m a vegan?”

“What?” I say.

She laughs, the sound startling soft. “I was kidding, Lindsay. Just kidding.”

I’m so happy she didn’t call me Linds I sit up and smile. A real, thank you smile, letting the tension ease from my body.

“So what’s your usual?” She’s still talking about the stupid pizza.

“The works, loaded with onions.” I give a nervous laugh. She doesn’t understand that onions make me reek, and just like garlic for warding off vampires, onions ward off Greg.

“Sounds delicious.”

“Oh, it is.” For the first time all day, I think this night might be okay.


My face is so loaded with makeup I don’t even recognize myself.

“See, I am a genius.” Lindsay turns my head back to the bathroom mirror. I can’t help but gawk.
She’s right. She’s an artist when it comes to my face. I keep blinking. I think there is too much mascara on my eyelashes. I swear to god I had a dozen zits on my nose this morning when I woke up. After she made me put on a smelly mud facial wrap they got peeled off. My uni-brow, after all that painful plucking, is gone.

“I might have overdone it a tad with the mascara.” Her head is so close to mine as she peers into the large mirror I can smell the lilac perfume she sprayed on her neck. I would have loved the perfume but my ingrown worry of smell setting off one of mom’s wicked headaches made me politely decline her generous offer.

“No. It’s all great.” And it is. The outline of the dark green eyeliner makes my eyes look like they are neon green.

“Makeup makes you look a lot older,” says Lindsay. “Now I know why your parents don’t let you wear it.”

I turn my head to look at her. She’s outlined her eyes in heavy black eyeliner, giving her a sexy Goth look. It makes her look like she’s twenty or something instead of sixteen and it doesn’t suit her. “I don’t think your mom would like the Goth look.”

“Trust me, she hates it and since I’m not into forcing a pissing contest with her I don’t go around looking like this.”

She starts removing the makeup with a delicate makeup remover. I didn’t even know there was such a thing.

“So, what’s with your parents anyway…all teens wear make-up. It’s no biggie,” she says.

I resist the urge to tell her I don’t have parents, only my mom, and half the time her meds knock her out so she’s not someone I can count on. Not that I blame her one bit. Between her headaches and constant joint pains, I’m sure I’d pop pills for relief.

“My mom’s like super-sensitive to scented products. I even have to use no-scent deodorant,” I say, hoping she’ll drop it.

“Oh my god, I heard of people like that. You know what, let’s go to the drug store right now and buy some no-scented make-up.”

Shit. This isn’t what I want to do at all. First off, I don’t have any money for make-up and second, even if I did have money I don’t want to spend it on lip gloss, eyeliner and other stuff that will only make me feel guilty whenever I use it.

“Scratch that idea. Let’s go pop up popcorn and watch Scream II,” she says, letting me breathe easy for a moment.

In the course of three hours I have discovered Lindsay likes to bounce from one thing to another. It’s like she’s not comfortable in her own skin or in her own house.

“Now that sounds like a plan.” I plop down off the bathroom counter and follow her back into her bedroom.

“You girls having fun?” asks Greg.

I wonder how long he’s been standing quietly inside Lindsay’s bedroom. The guy creeps me out. By the sheer look of terror on Lindsay’s face the feeling is mutual. Her entire body has gone from being relaxed to stiff like the gobs of mascara on my eyelashes, in seconds. She’s fisted her hands together by bunching up the material on the long baggy sweater she’s wearing. The sweater is ugly and not at all what I thought she would ever wear in public. Then again, we’re not exactly in public.

“Yeah, loads of fun,” I say, because Lindsay’s not speaking.

“Get out of my room, Greg.”

Lindsay doesn’t move a muscle. She’s speaking through her teeth and staring at him with a look most people at our school could easily decipher. Loosely translated, her expression says fuck you! You’re dog shit and not worth my time of day. I know that look. She’s used it on me more than once. Again, I wonder what I’m really doing here.

“Don’t use that tone with me, young girl,” says Greg

“Get out of my room now!” says Lindsay. She’s still standing straight as a toothpick but with a more menacing look on her face. It’s like the two of them have forgotten I’m in the room. An awkward tension fills the space. I long to say something to diffuse it but don’t know what I’m supposed to say. I say nothing.

“Your mother called and she’s not coming home tonight,” says Greg. He gives a dramatic pause.

“I figured you already knew that.”

Lindsay sneers at him. “Yeah, I did. Don’t feel like you need to babysit us, Greg. We’re fine on our own. Right, Megan? In fact, Megan and I were just about to go out.”
We were. I think that but don’t speak it.

“I know the security code so it’s cool if you want to spend the night elsewhere.”

Greg laughs. “What, and miss all the fun? Sorry Linds, I promised your mom I would keep an eye on you and you know how she can get. She’s so over-protective.” He says the last part of that sentence to me, like he’s sharing a secret.

“I bet my mom’s more over-protective.” I catch a weird look from Lindsay. Shit, I should have kept my mouth shut.

“Leave now, Greg. We’re going to get ready.”

“See you later girls. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” he laughs as he exits Lindsay’s room.

“So, what’s with you and your step-father?” Lindsay yanks out clothes from her mega-designer closet like there’s no tomorrow.

“Here, I think these will fit you. I need to get out. And in case you haven’t figured it out, I hate him!”

“I pretty much figured that.”

“You’re so lucky your parents are together.”

I give a soft, hurt laugh. “Yeah, think again. My dad died when I was three and my mom…well, she’s kind of busy.” Busy coping with MS that is.

“Shit. I had no idea.”

I shrug. “Most people don’t. I’m a private person.” More like I’ve got no friends and no one at school ever cared enough to ask.

“So it’s just you and your mom?” asks Lindsay, urging me to try on a purple skin-tight shirt that I love but know will make my large breasts look like melons.

“Now, it’s just Mom and me.” My brother…he’s kind of out of the picture now. She’s holding the purple shirt out for me to take. I shake my head and pick up a dark brown shirt that looks a bit baggier.

“No way, Megan. This shirt was made for you. It will look fabulous on you. Trust me.”

I look at Lindsay. Trust her. I don’t even know her. Without a doubt she doesn’t know me. With trepidation I take the shirt.

“You can change in the washroom if you like.”

“Thanks, I will.” I take the shirt and a black skirt she also hands me. There’s a big smile on her face.

“I’m okay with wearing my own clothes, Lindsay. You don’t have to give me yours.”

“Are you kidding? Have you seen the amount of clothing in my closet? Please. You are doing them a favour. I didn’t even know I had that purple shirt.”

I laugh. “So are you saying your clothes have feelings?”

She laughs this time. “You’re funny, Megan. At school you’re different…so quiet.”

“That’s because no one talks to me, Lindsay.”

A pause fills the space. “Except you,” I say.

“That’s not true,” she says.

I shake my head. “It is. You just don’t notice.”

“Well, Megan, all that’s about to change. You hang with me girl and with these clothes and that face…” She twists me around so I can look at myself in her mirror hanging off the back of her door, “others will discover you.”

I gulp. I don’t want anyone to really discover me. I flash a smile at her and say thanks. Then I head into the washroom to yank the clothes on. There’s a part of me that likes the feel of the designer fabrics on my skin, but as I stare at myself in the mirror I know something Lindsay doesn’t. Change in my life has never been good.

The first time change happened Dad died. The second change was when Mom got diagnosed with MS. The third change happened a few months ago when my brother, Johnnie, got high and brought his best friend over for the night. That didn’t go so well for me. Johnnie left the next day after I told him what happened and Mom and I haven’t heard from him since.
Things changed in our house after that. She only asked me once if we had a fight. I think he must have called and told her some excuse why he wasn’t at home anymore. I never asked her. I used to be sick with worry about what he was doing but realized after two weeks of living through that hell, the only person hurting was me. Now, that worry has fizzled like stale ginger ale into simmering anger. For that alone, I hate my brother.


I have no idea what came over Megan. One minute she was dressed like a queen, wearing my best clothes and I know she liked them, and then violà, she said no thanks. Who the hell turns down wearing designer clothes?

We make our way down Spadina Street. It’s dark but there are as usual lots of people. Some homeless, a few Goths who followed us for a good block and enough weirdoes to fill a loony-bin. All of them, like us, are roaming the streets. In Halifax that wasn’t always the case. On my street in Clayton Park when it got dark most people stayed inside. There was a path I could walk and I often spotted deer on it. Not here. The only wildlife are squirrels the size of large housecats and rats, almost as big.

“I really don’t want to go to a drugstore,” I say.

“Me neither.”

“How about a drink?”

“Coffee, right?” asks Megan. The way she says it gives me an idea.

“Have you ever tried to get into a bar?”

“Lindsay, anyone can go into a bar, we just can’t order a drink,” says Megan, like I’m nuts.

“Want to try?” I blurt out, feeling adventurous.

She’s looking at me like I’m nuts and partly like she’s up for trying it. “You serious?”

“I am now. Come on, there’s this bar I heard of that’s a bit dingy but supposedly Rebecca and Blair got loaded there last weekend.”

“Are you kidding?” Megan’s fidgeting with her sweater.

“Nope. We have to take a subway to get there. I still haven’t figured them all out.”

Megan pushes her bangs off her face. “Now subways I know all about. I heard you came from out East. Don’t they have subways?”

I stop so abruptly a girl collides into me. She mumbles sorry and walks around us, her earphones still in place. “I came from Halifax. It’s the biggest city in Nova Scotia and it’s nothing like this place. They don’t have subways. They’ve got buses but my mom would never let me take one. Here she seems to think subways are safer than buses. She of course would never set one foot on the platform.” I chew my bottom lip, thinking I’ve said too much.

“I hate the subway. It always stinks like stale air and body odor. But buses here aren’t as fast. I’ve never been outside of Toronto. You are so lucky you get to travel.”

I wish I could tell Megan the truth. My mother’s so busy I’ve never really travelled. I don’t count our trip to Mexico as a vacation. The only thing I saw there were the four yellow-painted walls in my room. I heard from Mom the weather was great. She of course stayed at a nearby resort and popped in daily to brief me on her pool life. The only good part had been she’d ditched Greg. I originally thought she had done that because she believed me. Now I know different.

“You know what I miss the most about moving?” I fall into step with Megan who has slowed down.



I force myself to laugh. This is the role I’m supposed to play. Gone is the old Lindsay. Only the “new” Lindsay is allowed to take the subway, go to a bar and order a drink. The old Lindsay would be wallowing in self-pity and walking down that long dark road of why me? Not anymore. Wow, my psychiatrists would be so proud of me. Too bad she only hears the lies I’m allowed to say. Even telling her the truth has consequences.

“Here’s the entrance to the subway. You sure about this Lindsay?” Megan’s looking at me with a mixture of worry and hope on her make-up free face.

I stop. Take out my handy-dandy make-up bag and urge her to move to the side of the steps leading down to the subway line. “Stand still and do not move. I’m only going to apply lipstick and black eyeliner. The make-up will make you look older.”

I wait for her to complain. She doesn’t. I apply my magic and flash the hand mirror at her. Megan smiles. I wish a bit of make-up made me happy.

“You okay?” asks Megan, jarring me away from my dark thoughts. She’s too perceptive.

“Fine. Lead the way.” I follow her down to the platform. She’s right. The place stinks of urine and body odor.

“Told you,” she says, catching me off guard. How the hell did she know I was thinking of what she had said earlier?”

“You’re wrinkling your nose so I know you’re thinking I’m right. Let’s just hope the subway comes fast. This place really stinks. I bet homeless people have been sleeping here.”

“Really?” The thought repulses me.

“Of course. At least it’s warm in here. However, most times the police kick them out. Ohh, feel that.” She looks down at the grime-crusted floor. “That vibration means the subway will be here in a minute. You feel it, than hear it, than you see it.”

A minute later she’s correct.

“See, told ya.”

She steps through the doors like a pro. Me, I still hesitate. It’s not like I’m about to fall in between the space separating the platform and the subway but knowing it’s there always makes my steps hesitant. Keeping my head up and ensuring my smile is plastered to my face, I walk into the subway thinking this is not exactly how I had planned our night.

My other thought echoing in my brain is that if my mother finds out she’ll kill me. I resist the urge to laugh. I tried to die and she wouldn’t let me. Instead, she made me promise to never talk about what happened. Then, to better erase all evidence, we moved to better pretend all is fine. Our lives are nothing but lies. I might as well add this night to my growing list of sins.


Lindsay is sucking on the bottle of white wine like there is no tomorrow. “My turn.” I swipe the bottle from her slippery fingers. She doesn’t resist. I think all that hyper energy she had got diffused when we didn’t even make it past the door of the bar. Guess we both look young for our ages. The bouncer laughed when we told him we were nineteen. His exact words were something like, come back in five years. Lindsay told him to fuck himself, while I urged her to move on.
Now my butt is frozen and I’m chilled to the bone. For early November we’re lucky we’re not sitting on snow. Another month and it will be Christmas. I wish I hadn’t thought of that.

“You going to drink it or stare at it?”

“You, Lindsay are a surly drunk,” I say. She barks a dry laugh and snatches the wine from me.

Taking a large swig of it, she wipes her mouth when some of it drips down her chin.
Brandishing the bottle up in the air like it’s a trophy she says, “At least I managed to get us this.”
“I tried.” And was mighty happy when I failed. I had thought she wouldn’t get the guts to venture into the corner store. Wrong. She waited thirty minutes to gather her nerve but then sauntered in the place, looking like her usual million bucks self. The clerk didn’t bat an eye. I know because I spied at her from the side window. Lindsay even flicked her hair over her shoulder like a pro. Then we hide our stash under my large jacket and took the subway back to her place. We never made it to her place though. Her bright idea—drink our illegal alcohol on the school grounds. Nothing like adding an element of danger to our strange night.

“My butt’s frozen…you want to head inside soon, Lindsay? We could watch a movie now.” I’m sure it’s well after midnight but I’m desperate to get warm and inside. I hate scary movies and that’s all she had picked earlier but at this point I’d take watching Scream or even Saw if it warmed me up.

“Almost done.” Her voice sounds more slurred than it had a few minutes ago. I look at the wine she’s guzzling in earnest and realize I’ve only had about a cup of it. She drank the rest of it.
When Lindsay stands she almost stumbles off the school steps. I’m glad I insisted we move to the back part of the school to drink our stash. I picked it because it’s the darkest area.

“What the fuck are you two doing?”

Even in the dark I would know that voice anywhere. Instantly, I grab Lindsay before she topples down the steps. “Just hanging. What are you doing here, Peter?”

Normally I would want Peter Spencer to come closer just so I could get a whiff of his expensive cologne he wears at school. Even though our trendy school has a no scent policy not one student follows it, except me. My excuse for following it has been I keep with the rules. The reality is that’s a lie. I’d love to wear expensive perfume but I love my mom too much to put her through that.

“Is that you, Lindsay?”

His voice is full of concern. God I hate that. As usual he doesn’t notice me. Same old, Same old.

“Yeah, it is, Peter. Go fawkooff,” says Lindsay, brushing off my hand that’s trying in vain to keep her standing. She stumbles down a step and Peter Spencer pulls a freaking Superman move. He’s there to catch her so fast I want to hurl my disgust on his designer high-tops.

“Jesus, Lindsay. You’re drunk. It’s Monday night, what’s going on? And why are you here, Megan?”

He’s looking at me like I’m the culprit. I wish he had kept walking by us. Right now with him this close to us I can’t help noticing how his brown hair looks messed. A vision of him lying warm in his bed hits me. My face flushes with warmth and even though it’s dark where we are, I’m sure he notices.

“Let me go, Pete. Megan’s sleeping over. Want to join us?” Lindsay leans more into Peter than I like.

“She’s wasted. Why did you let her do this?” asks Peter.

“It just sort of happened,” I say, meaning it.

“Well this is your fault as much as hers. If her parents find out they won’t be impressed. You’re lucky it’s just me that’s walked by you two. What if a cop came by or something? Trust me, you don’t want that.”

The way he says it makes me wonder if he knows from experience that would suck big time.

“I’m walking both of you home.” His declaration causes Lindsay to laugh hysterically.

“What’s so funny?” I ask Lindsay.

“He’s our knight in shining armour, Megan. Good old goodie-two-shoes Peter Spencer will walk us to the door to ensure our safety…shit, this fucking sucks. Go away Peter. You’re too good for the likes of me.”

“What’s she talking about?” asks Peter to me.

I think we’re having one of the weirdest conversations ever, but now that I’m up off that godforsaken cement step I’ve got the chills. “Let’s just get to your house, Lindsay.” I’m urging her to walk, trying hard to ignore the fact Peter’s casting angry glances at me or the fact Lindsay’s leaning her head on his shoulder. If getting drunk would have earned me one of Peter’s shoulders I would have gladly had more of that stuff.

“Megan. I thought you didn’t do this stuff. I thought you were good.”

“Go fawk yourself Pete. You don’t know us. Megan’s great. She’s savvving me tonight and for that she’s my BFFFFF always,” slurs Lindsay, her feet tripping along behind her. Peter’s practically dragging her down the block now.

“It’s BFF, Lindsay. You are so going to regret this tomorrow. You had both better show up for school tomorrow or I’m telling.”

“What?” I almost stop, but if I stop Lindsay’s likely to fall to the ground. I think for a second her eyes must be closed.

“Everything has consequences Megan. I’m helping you to the door but the rest is up to you. Get her in her room quick. But like I just said, I expect to see you tomorrow at school. No excuses.”

“When did you become such a prick?” I ask, glaring at him.

“Prick? Can’t imagine you say that word a lot, Megan. It’s not like you.”

I shrug, knowing he can’t see it, even though he’s right. Growing up around kids who swear like it’s their second language, I long ago made a point of not using profanity. “Like Lindsay just said, you don’t know us.”

He stops at the bottom step to Lindsay’s house. I can’t believe we got here as fast as we did. I realize now if Peter hadn’t shown up this trek would have taken me over an hour to drag Lindsay along.

“Just get her inside. I trust you Megan to do the right thing.” The outside light is on and I notice he’s staring at me with his bright blue eyes for a good minute. That look conveys more than his words ever could. He really does trust me. He shouldn’t.

He let’s go of Lindsay’s almost limp arm and turns away from us. I watch him walk down the sidewalk. With the street lights on I notice his fashionably tailored black leather jacket, and how long his legs look in his designer jeans. He turns up the collar of his jacket. I wonder if he does that because he’s cold or because it’s fashionable. Peter is just like Lindsay. They would make the perfect couple. They are cut from the same cloth—rich. In that moment, I hate Lindsay, even though I know I shouldn’t.


I can’t believe I let Megan talk me into going to school. What the hell was I thinking? My head is pounding and my stomach feels queasy. The double café latte I sucked back this morning is doing nothing to help.

“What the hell happened to you?”

Rebecca’s voice sounds like a jackhammer in my head. “Keep it down. Why are you yelling?”
“Linds,” she says, causing me to cringe. “I’m not yelling. You really don’t look well.”

“Yeah, and I don’t feel well either,” I mumble.

“If I didn’t know you better I’d think you have a hangover,” she laughs. She’s right on target but

I’m not about to confess. I shut my locker and for once don’t bother to check out my reflection in the mirror. Why bother? I looked like shit this morning and no amount of make-up helped. I even hauled out the expensive make-up Mom got for me from Japan. Adding that to my face only made me look more chalky-white. Megan helped me wash it off and honestly I would have flopped back down on my bed to snooze for another two hours but she was like a freaking hound-dog, making sure I got up to move my ass or else. The or else part is the only reason I’m here now.

“I just ate something that didn’t sit well with me.” More like drank an entire bottle of cheap white wine and now I wish I could purge.

“You should see the nurse and get a white slip so you can go home.” Rebecca shuts her locker. Her eyes, as usual, dart to Blair sauntering down the hall with that jock-stride I hate.

“Have to go. See you in second period.”

She doesn’t wait for me to respond. Sometimes I wonder why she’s my friend. We are not one bit alike. Except for the money connection. Rebecca’s parents are loaded. Old money, said my mother, with disgust. Unlike her they never had to worry about their business. My mom worked her ass off to get where she is, and while I admire that, I also hate her for it. Even with Mom’s disgust with the notion of old money and people that inherit stuff like that without having to work for it, that didn’t stop her from making an instant networking connection within a week of us moving here. My first impression of Rebecca hasn’t changed. She was sweet and charming from the get-go but she’s all fluff. Inside she likes to push the envelope way too much. The funny thing is, if she really knew me, she’d think in her weird way, I was “cool” for trying to commit suicide. Trust me there was nothing cool about it.

Then I think Rebecca’s a genius. For the first time that morning I feel a ray of sunshine with the prospect of getting a white slip that will send me home.

I’m almost at the nurse’s office when I spot Peter as usual trying to convert more people to his committee. Ugh. There is no way I can hide or ignore the fact he’s watching me like a hawk. At the door of the office he walks over to me.

“Going somewhere, Lindsay?”

Peter’s play acting he’s concerned for my well-being is totally fake. What a jerk. I didn’t believe Megan’s story this morning until she described in detail what Peter wore. Knowing he’s my curse for being here and feeling like shit, even though he wasn’t the one drinking, makes me glare at him. My look is totally wasted on him.

He steps in front of me, effectively blocking my way. “Don’t even think of asking for a white slip.”
“Go away, Peter,” I say, “And, move out my way.”

He shakes his head. I get a whiff of his cologne and clutch my stomach. It’s the same stuff Greg wears and it makes me seriously feel like puking on his sneakers.

“Life isn’t pretty Lindsay, but you should have thought of that last night.”

“Jesus, Peter, what are you, Mr. Perfect, or something.”

“Far from it. I just thought this lesson would be your easiest. I can’t believe you and Megan were drinking last night.”

“Shh!” I try stepping past him.

“What, you don’t want everyone to know that you, Ms. Perfect, aren’t so perfect?”

Okay, is he trying to piss me off just to annoy me. “Look, Peter. I never said I was perfect. Why don’t you leave me alone and go fuck yourself.”

He tisks at me, like a two-year-old. “Lindsay, you obviously weren’t paying attention in health class, I can’t fuck myself. However, if ever…”

I grit my teeth and know my eyes are wide open. I let him finish that sentence with silence. The idea of fucking anyone in general, let alone Peter, who stinks like my step-father, repulses me.
Peter laughs. “I was only kidding Lindsay. You don’t have to look so disgusted. It ain’t going to happen.”

“That’s one thing you got right. It ain’t never going to happen. Now, get out of my way before I seriously give into my desire to hurl on you.”

He backs up with my declaration. Sweeping his arm across his chest in an old-fashioned gesture, I think for a second he’s on something. Then I dismiss that. Peter Spencer is just weird. He’s also head of the anti-drug committee at our school and something of self-declared fanatic. Thank god I didn’t sign up for that committee.

I open the door and step through the entrance into the nurse’s office. I force a smile to my face. Even that hurts my head.

“Can I help you, Lindsay?” asks Nurse Munroe.

Like our blue and white school uniforms, Nurse Munroe rocks her old-fashioned white uniform, equipped with the pill-box hat. This is casual week, meaning no uniforms. Next week it’s back to our boring knee-length pleated skirts and catholic-white blouses. Nurse Munroe, who is probably in her sixties, always wears a uniform.

Calmly, Nurse Munroe ushers me into her office and urges me to take a seat. I shut the door behind me, instantly feeling better. At my old school we didn’t have a nurse. We had a guidance counsellor I had to visit once. Mom made sure I never went back there. For that I was thankful. My old guidance counsellor’s office was nothing like this. The walls for one are painted a bright cheery yellow, there is a comfy leather sofa at one end of the office and I’m sitting on a plush black chair. There’s nothing remotely institutional about Nurse Munroe’s office. All of the nursing stuff is located in a side office, which she accesses. There’s even a private washroom.

“I’m not feeling so well, Nurse Munroe.”

I keep my voice lowered on purpose. Sitting back in the chair, I think about the lies I’m going to need to say to escape school. For a moment guilt swamps me. I told Megan I wouldn’t bail on her. However, I never asked her to trust me. While I’m glad she spent last night at my house, it’s not like we’re going to be best friends or something. If Rebecca and the others knew Megan spent the night at my house that wouldn’t go well. Best to pretend as usual I don’t know her.

“Well, I am sure we will figure out what’s wrong. It’s probably nothing. But, there are basic questions I ask all my students who visit here. So let’s begin with the first, shall we?”

I nod, thinking let’s get this over with and give me that goddamn slip so I can claim my bed again.

“When was your last period?”

I blink. She pushes out a laminated calendar. The months are outlined in black, clearly marked with the weeks in red and the days are color-coded in green. I stare at last month’s outline thinking Holy fuck. I am so screwed!

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