Going Nowhere

As a general warning... THIS STORY WILL CONTAIN ALL OF THE FOLLOWING IN VARYING AMOUNTS AT SOME POINT IN THE PLOTLINE: homosexuality, meaning malexmale romance; heterosexuality, meaning malexfemale romance; self-hate; violence; gratuitous swearing and use of four-letter words; and I'm probably forgetting the rest, but if the above list doesn't turn you off, I'm guessing whatever else I include in my story won't, so welcome.

Prelude: The Me that Ran Away, The Me that Returned

After nearly a year and a half away from home, I'm returning to this desert-baked town with a new haircut, pale(r) skin, and a broken heart to attend my grandmother's funeral. I didn't get to say good-bye, not even on the day I left this place.

I don't expect my parents to be there. My brother is the one waiting for me at the bus terminal, shielding his eyes against the glare of the sun. He's gotten taller, and from the look in his eyes, angrier too, and I have this feeling that it's partly my fault. I shoulder my guilt and my luggage and approach him.

"Hello, Laine," He says, and it's only because I've known him all of his life that I recognize the bitterness in his voice. "Glad to be back?"

"Fuck no," I mutter, brushing bangs from my eyes and squinting at him through the rising heat. "Just glad to be away." He doesn't ask about it, because he already knows the shit I've been through. He just doesn't care, just turns and leads the way towards the parking lot.

We climb into my parents' cramped car, throwing my luggage in the backseat and hitting the road. The town snakes by along the highway, and I just watch the scenery roll by, my mind following the familiar roads through my memories and around the neighborhood.

"How's Sunny?" I ask as we drive past Juanita Street. If you followed that to the corner of Sophia, it would take you straight to his father's garage. I walked that path a lot during my last summer here, hopping backyard fences for shortcuts and landing in lush green grasses irrigated by water better spent on people than lawns. But I also remember travelling in the other direction, towards downtown and towards Darren.

My brother glances at the rear view mirror, most of his attention focused on the road. "I don't see him often. He's got a new girlfriend, or so I hear."

"Oh, really," Absently, like I don't care, because I guess I'm just happy for him. "How's Mom?" I ask then, realizing I probably should have asked that first. After all, it's her mother that's just died. I should be more concerned about my grieving mother than my ex-best friend.

He answers back, but I forget the words almost immediately after he has uttered them. It doesn't surprise me how much I don't care about my own mother's grief.

And then we're nearly home, turning onto that familiar street and parking beside that familiar house.

"How many people are here, Ronnie?" I ask.

There are more cars along this street than I've ever seen, all relatives and friends come to pay their respects to my grandmother and to offer their condolences to my mother and my uncle.

Ronnie pulls the parking break, ignoring the groan of the ancient vehicle below him. "A lot. Don't worry, no one's sleeping over, so your old room is all yours tonight." That's not what I was concerned about, but he knows it, I can tell from that smirk on his face, damn it.

I exit the car, slinging my bag over my shoulder and slamming the door behind me. Two teenage cousins are lounging on the porch as I make my way up the front steps. I exchange a brief, polite greeting with them, which they return. That's the extent of all conversations with my family. I'm not close to any of them.

Except for my grandmother. I liked her, a lot. I think she liked me and my brother the most out of our cousins. My uncle, my mother's younger brother, has three sons and two daughters, and none of them seemed as though they cared about my grandmother when she was still alive. It's a little insulting that they're here now, pretending to care about their loss.

Then again, maybe I'm just being ultra-sensitive to the point of ridiculous, and I should just forget it.

I enter the house, shucking my shoes off in the entrance. There's no one to greet me, which I count as a good sign. Before Ronnie can corral me into visiting with the relatives, I make a mad dash for the stairs and into the first door on the left.

My old room, exactly as I left it. Setting my bag on my desk chair, I fall into the bed and wriggle around, finally rolling onto my back and staring at the ceiling, at the glow-in-the-dark stars I'd pasted there when I was eight years old. My mother had been so mad when she saw them, but there was nothing that could be done at that point, so the stars had stayed there and I threw away the creepy Barney nightlight.

A thump from downstairs, and I remember that there are people here. More than usual. And that my grandmother is dead. And that the year and a half I'd spent running away had amounted to nothing, especially now that I was back.

I lay back and cover my face with the inside of my elbow. I close my eyes and think of San Francisco.

It's evening when I wake up, blearily wiping the sleep from my eyes and wondering, briefly, where I am. The memories come back easily and gently as I sit up, glancing about the bedroom.

There, on the dresser, the jewelry box. I stand and grab it from its perch, taking a seat on the carpet with it. Sifting through the contents, I come across what I was looking for: a chain necklace with a charm my grandmother gave me when I was small. She told me it represented our heritage; she never let me forget that she was part Navajo Indian, and, as a result, so was I.

The charm was a turquoise rock carved in the shape of a bear, the size of a penny or a nickel and about as light.

I unfasten the clasp and put it around my neck, tucking it beneath my t-shirt. A look in the closet mirror reveals the bags around my eyes and my messed-up hair. I can't help feeling a bit resentful as I stare at the girl in the mirror.

"You can't keep leading me on like this."

The words come back to me like an arrow in the chest, and I blink at the scared-looking teenager staring back at me from the looking glass. That can't be me. That doesn't look anything like how I feel at this moment. Afraid, fragile. Let me down easy, I'm a cracked plate.

But I should be pissed, angry, and a little morose because my beloved grandmother has just died. The turquoise bear leaves a cooling mark on my chest where I left it. It's a reminder that I'm still here, and that she was here.

A knock on the door, and I turn in time to see my mother poking her head in to see if I'm awake.

"Goodness, Lorraine, what have you done to your hair?" Is the first thing out of her mouth. She enters the room, both hands reaching for my head. I dodge out of the way.

"Nice to see you too, Mom," I mutter, resenting her use of my full name. She's the only person to ever call me that, aside from substitute teachers, confused by the names on the roll call sheet. Not even my father called me that past my first birthday, and he had a hand in naming me.

My mother pulls her hands away and clasps them in front of her, straightening herself to her full height of five feet, looking every bit the matriarch she is- or was, I should say. One of her brood managed to escape, and she has not yet recovered fully from that loss. Then again, now that I'm back, maybe she's been restored to her former glory.

I really shouldn't be talking about my own mother like she's the evil overlord dictator of some impoverished communist country.

"There is pasta, if you're hungry," My mother says, adopting that you-are-nothing-but-a-speck-of-dust-on-my-shoe look that she gets when she's mildly insulted but doesn't want to create a scene. "And, also, your cousins have been asking about you."

"That's fantastic," I reply with no small amount of sarcasm.

Ignoring that remark, she moves to my closet and pulls a dress from behind an old jacket. "Also, you should wear this to the funeral tomorrow." It's black, and it's funeral-appropriate, but it's a dress, so I refuse.

"I already have an outfit ready," I tell her.

She snorts. "I'm sure you do. This is better."

"How can you say it's better when you don't even know what I plan to wear?"

"From what I hear, dear, your planning skills aren't quite up to snuff," Sniffing indignantly, my mom drapes the dress over the back of my desk chair, smoothing out the wrinkles. It really is a pretty dress, but I don't wear dresses. Ever.

"Neither are yours. Or so I hear."

And suddenly, I get to watch as my mother's composure falls apart, and she looks up at me pleadingly. "Your grandmother is dead, it's the first time I've spoken to you in a year and a half, can't you be a bit more respectful, Laine?"

It's just like that. I fall to my knees and I begin to cry and apologize over and over for anything and everything I've done to burden my poor mother. The angels are smiling down on me as the prodigal son/daughter, and my parents finally have something to be proud about.

Only that's not what happens. My mother walks out of my room, her hand lingering on the door frame a moment longer than it needed to, and I grab my shoes and my jacket and leave the house. In a perfect world, I wouldn't have to resort to petty measures like running away from home to get away from my parents. I would be a good daughter, I would have accepted the name my mother gave me when I was born, and I would wear the dress she picked out to my grandmother's funeral.

It should go without saying that it's not a perfect world, though. Because, if it was even the slightest bit perfect, then my parents' failure at raising me would have been the only reason I left. However, it wasn't.

My mother wanted a girl. My father wanted an intellectual. While she bought pink dresses, pink bedsheets, pink curtains, pink diapers, he bought books and Mozart and Beethoven CDs and drafted this plan for my future, in which I graduated from high school as the valedictorian of my class, went to Harvard, and went on to become one of the most successful malpractice lawyers this side of the Mississippi. He wrote all of this stuff down on a yellow legal pad and framed it. She set up the nursery, painting adorable bunny designs on the walls and bragging to all of her friends about how I would be the perfect daughter.

Once I was born, they were overjoyed at the child I was to become, at the person they now had the chance to mold into the perfect daughter, lawyer, woman, what-have-you. Once I grew up, they were disappointed.

My mother didn't dress me in skirts after it became apparent that all I would do was cover them in grass stains and rip holes right through them. My father resigned himself to putting off the grammar lessons until I learned to sit still. Despite these limitations to their regime, my mother still forced me to wear my hair long, and my father taught me how to read fifth-grade level books when I was three.

I met Sunny when I was in first grade. He was a big bad fourth grader, and he was my reading buddy. As it turned out, though, I was better at it than him, and somehow we became friends. At lunch I'd sneak over to the fourth and fifth grade section and eat with him and his friends, a group of outcasts that I fit in just perfectly with, despite being three years younger than everybody else.

There was Max, sweet and just a little sensitive about his weight; Tina, nicknamed Book by the world because of her tendency to always be reading; and Timothy and Thomas, the insufferable identical twins who were fantastic at annoying the living snot out of everyone they came into contact with.

But, of course, I liked Sunny the best, because he was this stick-thin beanpole with bright green Converse shoes and a smile like bottled sunshine. And because he wasn't afraid to stand up to authority.

That's how I came to be pegged as a problem child. Not because of any fault of my own, unless you count the company I chose to be a cause of my reputation, which I suppose it was. Despite this, I skipped two grades when my parents pulled me out of school and decided on homeschooling to keep me out of trouble. That worked until junior high, when my mother, in some fit of Laine-induced insanity, enrolled me back in public school, unable to take another week of me and her, one-on-one at home. Ronnie still went to school like a normal kid, and I was the one who had been forced to stay at home. I still found ways to escape and join Sunny and the others at the park, where the twins would skate, Max would play cards with whoever was up to it, and Tina would, naturally, read.

Fast forward to high school, and most of our pre-established group had fallen apart and dissolved. Eventually it was just Sunny and I, the dynamic duo, him the tall, redhead senior with the piercings, and me, the short dark girl, smarter than her grades would imply. It nearly ended the day we were almost expelled for- well, Sunny was the one to get in the fight, I just stuck with him the whole way through without actually having done anything- breaking some other student's nose and my mother threw a bitch-fit, tearing up the learner's permit I had so painstakingly acquired and refusing to teach me to drive ever again, on top of a bevy of punishments so severe to a high school junior that I was sure I'd die of the weight of it all. Funny enough, she didn't say anything about forbidding me from seeing Sunny, which I attributed to her poor memory at the time.

As a result of Sunny's father hearing about our recent endeavor, Sunny was put to work in his father's car garage on weekends and after school, and the only contact I had with him was during school and those rare days I hoofed it on over to the garage to spend quality time with my best friend.

And then we graduated (miracle of miracles), and a part of my father's dream died when I exited high school with a solid 3.0 GPA. Another part of it died when I enrolled in community college, just to give myself something to do for the next two years.

I finished JC in two years, and the summer after I'd done so, I languished, flopping around like a fish out of water without anything to do, with no prospects or plans for the future aside from a framed piece of paper written on in my father's chicken-scratch, now pretty much useless and of no importance to anybody except for his bruised ego, spelling out the exact life plan for his little baby.

It was during this dusty, sweltering summer that Darren blew into town, exuding a cool and calm that could only come from experience. Him, with the dark sunglasses. Him, with the sun-kissed blond hair and eyes the color of desert skies. Him, who looked straight at me the day he strode into Sunny's dad's garage, asking to get his car fixed.

I fell in love at first sight.

It was all fucked from the beginning, though, and by the time he left I was more messed up than before. I guess that's just what happens when you experience unrequited love.

Anyway, all of this was supposed to show why I ended up in San Francisco, far away from home. I guess, before anyone can understand the me that ran away and the me that returned, they'd have to know the me that was born and raised in this dried-up ghost town, the me that I was immediately after my first heartbreak and the me that lost her home and best friend all in one week.

And in order to do that, I have to talk about Darren, and Sunny, and Kevin and Stevie and Hunter and Zach and Katie and everyone I met during and after that last summer at home and how they managed to change me, bit by bit. In order to do that, I guess I have to go back to the last week Darren was in town, when everything fell apart.

A/N: This is the latest incarnation of a story I've wanted to finish since I was in my freshman year of high school. It's ridiculous how dedicated I am to this story, and these characters. Mostly just the characters, though, because the story is way way way different from the way it used to be.

Anyway, I just want anyone who is reading this and I Just Like the Band to know that if I start to update this on a regular basis, it will take precedence over IJLTB. Why? Because I feel that this is very close to being the final draft and I'd like to be done with Laine's story and not have to worry about her anymore. And for IJLTB, it's not really meant to be a regularly updated fic, just something I add to in my spare time. ALSO. If I do decide to continue "regularly updating" this on FP, it probably won't be very regular. In fact, it'll most definitely be irregular. Why? I'm busy out of my brains trying to graduate high school and keep my GPA where it's at.

I feel I have a lot to say. This is being posted as some sort of motivator. I figure that if I get enough people reading this who want it to be continued, I will continue it rather than allowing it to sit on my profile collecting dust.

And... What do you guys think of Laine? Is she likeable? Is she not? Is she a believable character, or is she just another emo Mary Sue? Concrit is definitely appreciated with this story.

EDIT: Title subject to change at any time.