.o2.

AP Biology had ended, and I was crouched down in front of my open locker with a blank stare on my face, my thoughts drifting elsewhere. High school around here ended at 2:10, but I had to pick my sister up from middle school, which didn't end until 2:45. I had absolutely no clue how I was going to preoccupy myself during those empty thirty-five minutes—though it was probably closer to thirty, now. However, that concern was quickly overshadowed by one that had been hanging around in my head ever since third period—which wasn't necessarily a concern, per se. More like a person: Thrasher. As if that weren't obvious.

I was trying to stop obsessing over him, though, which was why I'd originally been struggling to develop a plan for spending a half-hour in a new, overpopulated area where I knew no one. But he gave off too much of an aura of mystery for me to resist thinking about him, hence the reason for my blank stare.

"Lindsay," a self-assured voice spoke up from behind me. I jumped up in shock and banged my head on the backpack of the girl whose locker was next to mine.

"Ow!" I yelled, followed by a list of every swear word that crossed my mind at the moment. The owner of backpack and locker next to mine—Becky, I think her name was—blushed at my profanity and apologized profusely, as if it were her fault that someone had scared me nearly to death.

"Whatever, it's fine," I muttered to Becky—or maybe it was Betty?—clutching my sore head with one hand and waving her off with another.

"Really, I am, I'm so sorry, I shouldn't have turned so my backpack was right above your head, it was thoughtless—"

"I said, it's fine," I repeated more forcefully, effectively shutting up Becky—Betty was too old-fashioned a name for a modern teenager.

At last, I turned to the girl who had called my name. It was Sam from Biology, standing there with a distantly amused expression on her face and her arms folded across her chest. Combined with the distinct way she was standing, I would definitely say it was unwelcoming body language.

"Um, hey," I replied to her, taking a wary step back from her.

"We're going to go get coffee, or something," she declared, sounding bored. I took careful note of how she failed to define the people who made up we. "You wanna come?"

"Why?"

She looked startled by the question. Honestly, I was a bit startled at myself; I needed to make new friends. Yet Sam looked distinctly unfriendly, even though she was the only person I'd had any semblance of conversation with in this entire school, barring teachers and of course, Thrasher. That is, if my impossibly brief exchange of words with the latter could necessarily be called a conversation. I could tell that she wasn't very interested in being my friend. She was more interested in the gossip I had about the boy with the shocking red hair. The logical part of me reminded me that I wasn't in the position to be picky about making new friends, and it was true, for the most part. But ultimately, I feared getting stuck with a bunch of friends who hadn't really been interested in me in the first place.

"You're new." The surprise was poorly concealed from her voice. Immediately, I gathered that Sam was one of those people who wore their emotions on their sleeves. "Don't you need to make friends?" She also, apparently, was incredibly straightforward.

"Yeah, genuine ones."

She was clever enough to interpret this statement correctly—that I'd seen through her façade, and I wasn't interested in making friends solely out of gossip. A scowl crossed across her face.

"Okay," she said sourly. "I'll see you." With that, she whirled around, brown hair whipping over her shoulder, and stalked down the hall. I watched as she met up with a group of avid, attentive girls. Once she reached them, they all turned their heads to look at me. When they realized I was looking back, assorted shades of red dusted the cheeks of each girl, and they abruptly averted their gazes. I was about to turn back to my locker when the gaze of a petite Asian girl caught my eye. She was so short that I almost didn't even notice her until my green eyes unexpectedly connected with her brown ones. A light smile graced her face before she turned and gracefully sauntered down the hallway. I watched her go, and then crouched back down in front of my locker to finish with the book exchange. When I stood back up, backpack on my back, the hallway was nearly empty. Shutting my locker door with my foot, I casually ambled towards the exit of the school, my plan to keep myself busy already in my mind.

.x.x.x.

Even after stopping to buy a drink at the local café I'd discovered last week, I was still early in picking up my sister by about five minutes. With an annoyed sigh, I parked my car into an empty spot near the back of the parking lot and waited for school to end. I didn't understand why my sister just couldn't take the school bus. Not only would it save gas because I'd go straight home and use up less gas than if I picked her up, but it would save me a whole lot of trouble. It was just that my mother, for some reason, had a strange, unending fear of public transportation. Before I'd gotten my license—which was a fairly recent affair from about two months ago, even though I'd been old enough for almost a year—she'd always insisted on driving my sister and me to and from school as opposed to having us take the school bus.

When the bell did finally ring, I hardly waited a minute before Lorraine called me. My mom thought it was cute to give us the same initials—LMC. Lindsay Marie Callahan. Lorraine Meredith Callahan. I think she thought it would make up for the fact that we both have different fathers, and that we're both illegitimate. Lorraine and I are both bastards in the true sense of the word. I was the result of a drunken one night stand when my mother was a junior in college. They'd been too caught up in the moment to remember to use a condom—or at least, that was how I figured it went when my mom told me the true story of my birth a little over a year ago, on my sixteenth birthday. It was kind of like the movie Knocked Up, minus the married-with-children sister and loyal father of the child who actually stuck around. My birth father, my mother said, was a senior in college, and once he graduated at the end of that year, she never heard from him again.

Yet my mom had never told anybody how Lorraine was conceived, except maybe her ex-best friend Lindy (who was the reason both Lorraine and I had names beginning with an L). That secret, she told me, wouldn't be explained until Lorraine's own sixteenth birthday, like with me. Otherwise, she said, she didn't think we were old enough. I mean, imagine my shock when my mother finally told me the truth about my birth. Even after growing up knowing I was illegitimate, the true story alarmed me. It made me wonder how Rory Gilmore felt when she first learned the circumstances of her birth.

"So I'm a mistake?" I'd asked when my mother finished explaining everything.

"One of the best mistakes I've ever made," she'd replied with a smile, tucking a strand of hair behind my ear. Sure, it was a cliché, but it was also reassuring. Wasn't the whole story of my birth a cliché anyway? Besides, in my entire sixteen years of living, my mom had always been loving.

x

"Hey, Lorraine," I greeted my sister through my cell phone.

"Are you here yet?" she demanded, clearly audible despite the din in the background.

"I've been here for about five minutes."

"Good. Where are you?"

Obviously, my sister was upset about something, if her short sentences and harsh tone were anything to go by. I didn't take it personally, though. I figured that she'd just had an awful first day of school, kind of like mine.

"In that parking lot, way in the back by a little sapling."

"Good. I'm coming out there now."

"Don't you need to go to your locker?"

"I already went. Where are you? I'm outside."

"You already went? How?"

"My locker is right outside my last class. Where did you say you were?"

"By a little sapling."

"Oh. I see you. Bye." She hung up before I could get another word in edgewise.

Sighing, I set my phone into the cup holder and surveyed the parked cars, looking for my sister walking among them. And there she was, squeezed between a Chevy and a Dodge Caravan, the most sullen of looks etched onto her face. Guess she'd just had a worse day than I had, which wasn't hard honestly. The worst thing that had happened to me was that a gossiper decided that she didn't like me. Or at least, you could only assume that she had made that decision.

"I hate this place!" Lorraine announced when she climbed into the passenger's seat. She slammed the door and buckled her seatbelt across her.

"Bad day?" I asked jokingly, hoping it might lighten the mood.

"Are you kidding? It was terrible! All the girls are such bitches and all the guys are more interested in porn than actual, real live girls." She punched her backpack and sat back in her seat, tightly crossing her arms across her chest.

"How can you tell that after one day?"

She just looked at me in a manner that you would expect a teenager to look at the parent that just doesn't understand. And maybe I didn't. Middle school couldn't have changed too drastically since I'd been in eighth grade four years ago, but maybe it was different enough in this new area that I really didn't understand. Although I still didn't understand how Lorraine could judge an entire population based one her one day of observations.

"I just can, Lindsay," she spat. "You weren't there with me."

"If it makes you feel any better, I didn't make any friends, either."

"So?"

I sighed. That was Lorraine for you. If she had a problem, nobody else's mattered. Your mother just died? Doesn't matter if Lorraine's having a bad hair day. Of all the faults that my sister had, that was probably her worst one.

"If you ask me," she piped up out of the blue, after I'd been driving for a few minutes, "Mom's being childish. I mean, I can't believe she moved us out here because of her fucking best friend."

"Watch your language," I warned.

She rolled her eyes. "Oh, please, Lindsay. Why don't you stop cussing yourself, and maybe then I'll listen to you."

"I didn't cuss in eighth grade."

"You didn't have an older sister when you were in eighth grade, either."

I sighed in defeat. "Fine. Whatever."

We sat there in silence, and I reflected back on her earlier words—the ones about our mother being childish. I had my own speculations on my mother's behavior, and they weren't necessarily that she was being childish. I couldn't pin all the blame on my mother for moving us. Mom refused to tell Lorraine and I exactly what had happened, but we were intelligent enough to gather that she and Lindy had engaged in a tremendous argument and decided they hated each other's guts. After admitting that she could no longer stand to see the face of her ex-best friend, she announced that we were moving three hours away from home, from Pennsylvania to someplace in Maryland.

"Lindsay," Lorraine spoke up after another bout of silence. "Aren't you mad?"

"About moving here?"

"Yeah."

I thought about the question a moment before answering. Lorraine watched me both expectantly and impatiently. As I turned onto the street we now lived off of, I was just about to speak when Lorraine cut in.

"Well?" she demanded, drumming her fingers on the armrest built into the car door.

"I guess so."

"You guess? How can you only guess? I mean, goddammit, I'm pissed."

"Lorraine, you really shouldn't take God's name in vain."

"Well, excuse me, Your Holiness. I didn't see the halo on your head."

I sighed and pulled up the driveway to our house and into the garage. Sometimes I honestly wondered how Lorraine made any friends. She was so grumpy all the time and always snapped at people, not to mention her seriously sardonic personality. I loved her—she was my sister, after all—but if she wanted to make friends here, she was going to have to learn to be nicer to people.

Lorraine hopped out of the car, grabbed her backpack, and stormed huffily into the cozy little house we now lived in. I watched her slam the garage door behind her, obviously not caring that I was about to walk in right behind her. With another heavy sigh, I climbed out of the car, gathered my stuff from the backseat, and made my way into my room. As soon as I got there, I flopped onto my unmade bed and called my best friend from Pennsylvania, Toni.

"Lindsay!" she squealed when she picked up the phone. "Ohmigosh! Hi!"

I smiled at her exuberance. "Hey, Toni. What's up?"

"Oh, nothing. Just, you know, getting stoned and all that."

"Funny," I remarked dryly, knowing that Toni was adamant—and even sanctimonious—in her anti-drug beliefs. I'd never forget the time I tried marijuana in my sophomore year, just as an experiment, only to receive an hour long lecture from her. What always struck me as funny, though, was the way she would drink herself senseless in the presence of alcohol. It was just drugs that she was so against.

"Hey, wasn't your first day of school today?"

"Yep. It was." My mind immediately flashed back to Thrasher, and then to Sam, the freaky blue-eyed gossiper.

"So? What was it like?"

"Your typical first day of school, minus all the reuniting with friends."

"Did you meet anybody? Like, any new friends?"

I thought for a moment before telling her all about Thrasher. When I finished, there was a pensive silence from her end of the phone.

"I don't know about him, Linz," she began with a warning tone. "He sounds kinda like a druggie. Or a serial killer, or something."

"Maybe he's just misunderstood."

"Maybe he belongs to some super secret, Satan-worshipping cult where they sacrifice innocent young virgins like yourself."

"Maybe you have an overactive imagination."

"Okay, so maybe I do, but that doesn't make this guy any less sketchy. Seriously, he sounds like bad news."

"'Bad news,'" I repeated. "Who says that?"

"Me. But I'm serious, Linz. Just watch out, okay? Playing Nancy Drew isn't necessarily a good thing. I mean, look at all the trouble she got herself into!"

"I'm not really playing Nancy Drew. She solved real mysteries. I'm just trying to crack open a person."

"Still, I just want you to be careful. If he offers you anything in a package or bong-shaped or wants to meet up in a dark alley or something—"

I rolled my eyes. "I'll be careful, Toni. I promise. I'm a big girl."

"Okay, so enough about Ronald McDonald boy. Did ya meet anyone else?"

"No one special."

"What does that mean?"

"It means she was a bitch who was only interested in being my friend because of the gossip potential."

"Gossip potential? Jeez, Lindsay, they don't even know you yet. How can there be gossip potential?"

"Because of that guy, remember? Everyone's afraid of him, and since I sat with him at lunch, that makes me some sort of hero or something."

"Well, nobody's treating you like a hero if that one chick is the only one who was even remotely friendly. I mean, seriously."

Leave it to Toni to become affronted about matters that technically didn't even concern her.

"You started school on Monday, right?" I asked, trying to change the subject.

Toni accepted the switching of the topic and started telling me about how our friend—or ex-friend, as Toni now referred to her—Yolanda had shown up with a bunch of piercings and a tattoo and now refused to talk to anyone with whom she used to be friends. We went on talking about what was going on back where I used to live for a while before Toni announced that she had to leave and hung up.

Tossing my phone onto the desk, I lay back in my bed and stared moodily at the ceiling. Not for the first time, I resented this move to Maryland and everything to do with it. I'd been here for about a month now, and I'd managed to somewhat dull the feeling of loneliness, but it would always intensify tenfold after I talked to Toni. I was starting to regret having blown off Sam earlier today, even if she was a Gossip Queen. The only other person I had besides her was Thrasher—and he wasn't exactly the greatest person with whom you could be friends.

Suddenly, I had an idea. It was nothing earth-shattering, and maybe it wasn't even a new idea: I was going to be friends with Thrasher. Earlier, I'd solely been interested in cracking him open and figuring out why he was so isolated—which, in a way, was kind of like befriending, so my idea wasn't unheard of. But in addition to cracking him open, I was going to make him be my friend, whether he liked it or not. He was a challenge, and I liked those almost more than mysteries.

.x.x.x.

My mother loved to cook. I had no idea why, but cooking was one of her hobbies, kind of like sports are for other people. She almost always started cooking around 5:30, and when she finished, Lorraine and I would emerge from our rooms and wander into the kitchen, which, more often than not, smelled heavenly. This was why, when my digital clock read six o'clock, I was confused to find that no delicious scent wafted up to my nose from the kitchen. Exiting out of the tetris game that I'd been playing on my phone and dropping said object onto my bed, I sauntered into the kitchen to find out why my mom wasn't cooking yet.

When I entered the kitchen, I saw my mom sitting at the table, frowning down at The Yellow Pages in the phone book. With her right hand, she pointed towards a spot in the book, and with the other hand she held the cordless phone.

"Mom?"

She started, dropping the cordless phone so it loudly clattered to the ground. When she saw it was me, she placed her hand against her chest and allowed all the air to whoosh out of her. "Lindsay!" she cried in a slightly chiding tone.

"Sorry, Mom." I had been snickering at her reaction, but she'd sent me a look that immediately sobered me up. "I didn't know I'd freak you out so much."

"You know I hate it when you sneak up on me like that."

"I wasn't sneaking, Mom. I was standing here in plain view."

She sighed again, reaching down and picking the phone up off the floor.

"What are you doing, anyway?" I asked.

"Oh, I was just thinking since this the first day of school for you girls, we could all go out to a restaurant for dinner tonight. I was thinking Japanese. Is that okay with you?"

"Mom, Lorraine hates fish."

"Oh, I know." She waved her hand around, dismissing this fact. "But they have other food, too. You've been to a Japanese restaurant before, haven't you, Lindsay?"

"Um." I eyed my mom, wondering if she remembered that we didn't eat out often. "No."

"Really?" She sounded surprised, as if she hadn't been the one who hadn't taken me to a Japanese restaurant in the first place.

"Nope."

"Well, then!" She looked down at The Yellow Pages. "I was talking to Jan on the phone—" she jiggled the phone around in her hand, like I might need a reminder of what a phone was "—and I think I've found a place we can go."

Jan was someone my mother worked with, who was slowly but surely taking Lindy's place. I didn't understand how my mother could just ditch her best friend like that and make a new one so quickly. Then again, I couldn't even imagine wanting to move because of something Toni did. We were your average, known-each-other-for-years type of best friends, and our most substantial arguments had been in the third grade, when we wouldn't speak to each other for days on end for almost no reason at all.

"Go get your sister, will you?"

"Sure. Lorraine!" I hollered. We lived in a one-story house, with the hallway from which the bedrooms sprung off attached to the kitchen.

My mom sent me one of those un-amused, "you know what I meant," motherly looks.

"What?" my sister shouted back, her voice distant.

Not caring about my mom, I yelled, "We're going out to dinner now. C'mon!"

"Honestly, Lindsay," my mother complained, the motherly look still trained on me. "I asked you to go get at her. Not shout at her."

Lorraine trudged into the kitchen with her face washed free of makeup. "Why are we going out to dinner?" she asked in a whiny voice.

"For your first day back in school," my mom answered.

Lorraine scoffed. "Like that's anything to celebrate."

"Was is that bad?"

"It was fine." She crossed her arms over her chest, a signal that she was done with the thread of conversation.

My mother sighed wearily. "All right, girls. Let's go."

Lorraine and I hopped into the car—I rode shotgun, because I was older—and allowed our mother to chauffer us to a Japanese restaurant where the food was delicious. Both Lorraine and I knew why we were there. It was our mom trying to make up for the move. For the fact that we had to restart our entire lives due to an argument she just couldn't resolve with the woman she'd been friends with since college.

Grownups were like teenagers in so many ways. Everyone always says we're less mature, that we act with less foresight, that we're always sullen. To an extent, maybe that's true, but if you ask me, it's only because they have more inhibitions. Teenagers? We're expected to act this way. It's only a given that we'll be sullen and do stupid things and refuse to talk to our best friends because of some dumb argument. Adults? They're supposed to suck it up and grin and bear it.

It's why I didn't necessarily think my mother was acting childish and why I couldn't blame her for the move. Because for once, she was doing exactly what she wanted to do, ignoring the pressures that society put on her—a quality that I always admired in anybody. It took a certain type of courage to forget about society. Courage that, no matter what anyone says, belongs only to a select few.


I do not own Knocked UpChevys, Dodge Caravans, Ronald McDonald (that comes up a lot, and I will never own it when it does), or anything else you recognize.


For the record, I won't be here all next week (Habitat for Humanity trip to Virginia, if you want to know), so any reviews I receive on or after Sunday (tomorrow), I probably won't be able to reply to. However, you can still expect chapter three next Saturday. :)

Oh yes, and Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate it!

Thanks to everyone who reviewed! Shoutouts to:

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