Authors: Jennifer DiGiovanni
Tags: #YA, #social issues, #contemporary romance, #teen, #love
“Holy Shit!” I scream, gagging and coughing as his stomach contents spurt onto the lab table and my new fuzzy pink sweater. “What the hell, Dominic?”
And that’s how I earn my first-ever detention.
Fill It In – February 18th
Ten Ways to Survive Detention
1. Introduce yourself to a group of fellow seniors who call themselves “The Regulars”. People you didn’t even know existed outside of detention.
2. Count the different hair colors and find one head matching each shade on the rainbow spectrum.
3. Sleep – only if you won’t mind that your purse is missing when you wake up.
4. Make a mental list of words rhyming with detention: tension, suspension, comprehension, intervention.
5. Do the wave every time Mr. Banks, this week’s featured detention monitor, leaves the room.
6. Answer the question “So, what did you do to get in here?” at least fifty times.
7. Reenact the incident that got you in here with Dominic Altomeri, an “Almost Regular” but not quite a card-carrying member of the detention denizens.
8. Try to earn an early release by holding your breath until you grow faint.
9. Read fifty text messages from Jana apologizing for not cursing as well so we could participate in detention together.
10. Flirt with Dominic. Even though he puked on me. I still want a ride in his car.
So, detention is a uniquely terrifying experience. Afterward, I feel the need to go directly home, burn my clothes, and take a long, hot shower. But Jana waits for me, despondent.
“I’m sorry! So sorry!” she gushes.
“What’s she upset about? AK should be the one kissing my ass after shoving that organ in my face,” Dominic says.
“Andy did apologize,” I insist. Profusely. I even thought he was going to cry for a minute or two. And, though he didn’t dare say this out loud, I was also under the impression that he was disappointed in the rest of us for ruining his chance at an A in the lab. But once he realized the extent of Dom’s puking episode, Andy saved the day by fetching a wad of paper towels from the boys’ bathroom and cleaning up the mess. He must not have any form of a gag reflex.
And, in an act of pure cowardice, Dr. Brownstein asked Andy to deliver my punishment.
“How did you not get sick?” I asked when he handed me the pink paper pronouncing my sentence.
“I might not have seen my dad cut people up at work, but after years of spending Saturdays filing paperwork in his office during flu season, I’m pretty immune to vomit,” he said, with a touch of pride in his voice.
“Really? I don’t think working in your dad’s office has had the same effect on my mother.” Mom’s been a long-time receptionist for Andy’s dad’s practice. She’s strictly front-of-the-house material.
“Your mom can’t handle the gross stuff, huh?” He smiled. “Hey, do you need a ride home?”
I stared up at him, amazed, before concluding he was probably trying to be polite. Or he was still attempting to make up for the one-sided snowball fight. Or his guilt over fixing the Senior Superlative vote was eating him up inside.
“No, thanks. I would just stink up your car. The scent of vomit tends to linger.”
“Some other time, then.”
“Okay, sure,” I responded, not really thinking about it. But the lame answer echoed in my mind. Did I just subject myself to a future ride with Andy? Shoot. Maybe he missed my response. I hoped he wouldn’t bug me about it every day until I complied.
Anyway, back to Jana’s endless string of post-detention apologies.
“Really sorry, Sadie, I mean it,” she says, over and over.
“What is it with you two?” Dom asks. “Is it so painful to be apart for an hour? It’s like you share a brain or something.”
“No, we’re best friends,” I correct him. “And best friends do not let best friends serve detention alone.” I wrap my arm around Jana’s shoulders to comfort her. “It was fine though, Jana. I survived. How was track practice?”
“Oh, I, um, kind of skipped. I wasn’t in the mood to run alone. Will your detention count for the, you know?” She drops her voice to a whisper. “Or do I still have to go too?”
“I think once is enough for both of us. Fill it in.”
Dom lets out a loud huff. “How does anyone talk to the two of you? It’s like you have some obnoxious, secret language.”
Oops. Forgot about him. “We speak English just like you,” I insist.
“Right. So, what are you saying right now?”
“Nothing,” Jana says, and “It’s a girl thing,” I say, at the same time.
“Then shut up. It’s been real.” He heads for the nearest exit. Before the door slams shut behind him, I spy three cheerleaders perched on the hood of his car. Apparently, Jana and I aren’t getting a ride in his Corvette today.
Slumped against my locker, recovering from track practice, I hear the fast beat of footsteps approaching. Ben Wexler, senior running star, looks like he’s considering performing CPR on my limp, nearly lifeless body.
It didn’t take long for me to realize how much I hate running. My legs despise running. My lungs abhor running. Even my brain detests the mind-numbing, repetitive, leg-hammering on the floor action propelling me through the bleak school hallways.
Why am I torturing myself?
Keeping his round, hazel eyes trained on me, Ben glides to a stop. His dark eyebrows stand out like extra-long dashes and they seem to bounce up and down along with the rest of his body as he jogs in place. Although his cheeks are pink from exertion, his breathing appears normal. Meaning he isn’t gulping in air like yours truly.
“What do you run? Short or long?” he asks.
A pathetic whimper rises in my burning throat. “Prior to this week, I only ran when I was late for class. Or if my neighbor asked me to walk his dog and I accidentally dropped the leash.”
“For real?” Ben rolls his spine forward and touches his toes, all the while staring at me in a disconcerting fashion. He’s like an optical illusion, contorting his body in every direction, yet his head never moves. “You decided to try competitive running four months before graduation?”
“I didn’t think it would be this hard,” I admit. “I guess you’ve been running for a while?”
“Since third grade.” Ben cops a tight smile and glances further down the hall. “What about your friend?”
“Jana? She hasn’t run before either.”
“Is she seeing anyone?”
Now where did that come from? “Not that I’m aware of.”
Ben takes a second to digest my answer. He’s known around school as a man of few words. “Keep running,” he eventually says. “When you hit a runner’s high for the first time – there’s nothing like the feeling of all those endorphins kicking through your system.”
After imparting this piece of friendly advice, he changes course and sets off in the direction of Jana’s locker, leaving me alone to dream about the elusive drug-like effect of running.
And guess who actually enjoys running? Jana and both of her left feet. The girl who cannot travel from her locker to homeroom without tripping over some unseen speck of debris in the hallway.
But now, on any given day, Jana beats me to practice by ten minutes and runs warm-up laps with Dominic and Ben while I take my time lacing up my old sneakers.
During the few times the guys separate during practice, like when Dom decides to focus on sprint starts in the gym because the sophomore girls are practicing in there too, I notice Ben hovering near Jana, in an unobtrusive, non-stalkerly way. A casual onlooker might not notice the brief exchange of words passing between the two of them. But, as the most trusted member of Jana’s inner circle, I usually hear about these mini-conversations on the way home from practice.
“Wanna run the next circuit with us, Sadie?” Jana asks. She turns her head, scanning the hallway for me, and almost veers into a row of metal lockers. Without breaking his pace, Ben reaches out his arm and redirects her. Jana’s face lights up in a wide smile and she giggles at her misdirection.
Hmmm. Maybe the falling in love achievement she’s hoping for isn’t as unachievable as I anticipate.
“No more circuits,” I plead, sliding bonelessly to the floor. “I need a break.” But she’s already out of earshot. Every muscle in my body hurts. Gawd. What was I thinking joining the track team?
Fill It In – Your Awesome Achievements
To Be Completed By Sadie Matthews and Jana Rodriguez Prior to June 1
1. Break a School Rule – Sadie & Jana Cut Homeroom!
2. Serve My First Detention — Sadie
After a two grueling weeks of track practice, I crawl four blocks back to my apartment and scale two flights of stairs, feeling my quads pinch with each and every step. I want to crash on the sofa and surf my way through mindless television until I collapse into sleep.
But today is an extra busy day in Sadieland. First, I need to shower because heaven help me I stink worse than the moldy trash bin outside of our building.
Then I need to shovel down some form of sustenance before racing back to school for the spring musical auditions. Combining my less-than-superior culinary capabilities with three cans of black beans, stale bread, and the half jar of peanut butter in our pantry leaves me only limited meal options.
But, as it turns out, I don’t need to invent a new dinner recipe. When I enter the apartment, the aroma of homemade spaghetti sauce nearly knocks me back into the hallway.
“What happened to my mother? Did she hit the Powerball jackpot and hire a personal chef?” I sniff the air, cross into the kitchen, and swipe the lid from a simmering pot. A delighted groan escapes my lips at the sight of simmering tomato sauce.
Mom leans against the counter, a look of smug satisfaction on her face. When I smother her with a hug, she bats me away with a claw-shaped utensil.
“Are you kidding me?” I ask. “You’re attempting to cook real food?”
“I can cook,” she says, a tad bit defensively, running her free hand through her layered brown hair, the same color as mine, but chopped eight inches shorter.
“Theoretically, everyone can cook. I thought you had some strange fear of turning on the oven. Like a traumatic childhood experience related to baked asparagus.”
“If that’s the case, then I must really be desperate. I thought if I made something you liked, you might take the time to sit down and eat with me.” Her eyes meet mine at a level height now that I’ve caught up to her size-wise. Mom never seems to mind being petite, but I wonder if her attitude would change if I surpassed her in inches.
Even without her direct accusation, I get the idea that it’s my fault we’ve missed each other so much lately. Truth be told, my amped-up activity schedule has cut into the number of hours I spend lounging around the apartment. But Mom is usually pretty busy herself, with her job and her social life (Oldies nights at the bars on Main Street). I’ve grown accustomed to eating tuna sandwiches solo.
“Do you have plans tonight?” she asks as she scoops pasta out of the pot and hands me a plate. I carry my food to the dining room portion of our cramped apartment, differentiated from the kitchen by a rusty metal strip and a black and white Ikea throw rug under our antique (a.k.a. old and decrepit) table.
“Jana and I are trying out for the spring musical.” I settle in and suck my first strand of spaghetti through my teeth. “Auditions start in less than an hour. Aren’t you going out, too?”
Tuesday nights are Eighties Dance Jams at The Green Lagoon Pub. My mother’s personal form of religion.
“Not until seven.”
“Don’t you leave early to get a good seat at the bar?”
“I asked Margie to save my regular spot.”
“Okay, Mom, but you can’t call me before nine, no matter what,” I warn her. “This audition is really important.” I recite a quick prayer in my head. Please, whoever’s up there in heaven looking out for me, grant my mother enough self-control to make it through the night without needing bail money.
“Well, look at you, Miss Actress. I’ve never seen you so interested in after-school activities. This isn’t about a boy, is it?” She appears beside me with a steaming pot and dumps about a billion peas onto my plate. “Because we’ve talked about letting boys become a distraction.”
And then you wind up dropping out of school. Or getting pregnant. I silently add Mom’s unspoken worst case scenarios. The ones she’s lectured me about for close to eighteen years now. “No boy. Just a last blast of fun before graduation. I’m trying to make the most of my high school years. Maybe learn something new.”
“Yes, do that.” She sets a water pitcher on the table in front of me. “After high school, life is nothing but a bunch of miserable dead-end jobs and guys with bad breath and ugly shoes hitting on you.”
My mother and her wonderfully optimistic view of life.
For my first musical audition I throw on jeans and the loose flowery top my grandparents sent me for Christmas, because it’s dramatic (or at the very least, eye-catching). After an unanswered, shouted good-bye to Mom, I speed down Main Street to meet Jana. We walk the last few blocks to tryouts belting out Lady Gaga songs to exercise our lungs.
“How bad do we sound?” Jana asks. I catch the fear in her eyes.
“We’ll be fine,” I say, but I know she recognizes my fear as well.
In the choir room, Leslie fine-tunes her vocal chords with perfectly pitched
Sound of Music
do-re-mi’s. Every eight notes, she does some funky type of snorty breathing and sips from a water bottle before restarting back at do-si-do. Jana attempts the same maneuvers, but her tra-la-las sound more like a tone-deaf baby frog.
“I think we’re in over our heads,” she whispers when the freshmen choirgirls shoot her dirty looks.
“Hey, Sadie-girl! Hey, Jana!” Leslie waves us over when she notices us standing apart from the hard-core drama crowd. “I’ve already told Ms. Cutler that both of you want to audition for Audrey II. She thinks it’s a great idea because the part really calls for more than one person.”