Today had to be the hottest day in Connecticut. Like, seriously, I had half the mind to rip off this stupid graduation gown. I felt myself tug at the hem of the bright green sleeve, hoping that would cool me off a little bit. When it didn't help in the least, the idea of taking it off popped itself in my head again. I knew if I actually did that though, Grandma and Grandpa would throw a fit. Not that they actually cared what I did or anything. For them, it was all about appearances. Which is the only reason they showed up here in the first place. At my graduation, that is.
Today's also my eighteenth birthday, but I haven't heard a single word about that. I'm guessing they didn't even remember. Which, whatever. It's not something I was going to get upset about. At least not today. In less than twenty four hours, I'd be out of this suburban hell hole and on a plane to California.
One of my favorite bands ever would be having one final show. It totally broke my heart that Boy Wonder was breaking up. I wasn't sure about all the details, but I did know for sure that the tickets were scarce. Getting a ticket was like winning the lottery. It all depended on luck and luckily, I had a best friend by the name of Claudia. She had connections, or whatever. She scored two tickets exactly one day after the announcement was made. The concert was sold out by the very next day.
I didn't even care who her connections were or how she got the tickets, I was just happy that I'd be seeing Boy Wonder before they broke up forever. But, even as fan, I knew this wouldn't be the last of them. Well, at least not the last of Dean Lee, the super-hot lead singer. It wasn't a secret. Even if he hadn't said so, we all knew he was going to go solo.
Dean was probably the only guy in glam metal that I thought was hot. I mean, I was totally into guys like Prince, Michael Jackson, and George Michael … even Johnny Depp made my list of hottest hotties. So when I admitted to Claudia that I had the hots for Dean Lee, she nearly died. She had been trying to get me into glam metal for ages but it just wasn't my thing. Well, at least not out loud. I figured people would think it was weird that a black girl was into music like that. Well, a half black girl. I looked fully black though and that was enough to be just black. I knew for sure my dad was white, but I had never met him. I'd never met my mom either. But it feels like I know her. Ever since I moved in with my grandparents as a baby, she'd write me four letters a year. My grandparents didn't open a single one either. So I suppose that was the nice of them. The nicest thing about them, really.
My grandparents were two white people who were like the epitome of perfect. Or they at least pretended to be. They were damn near WASPS. I mean, I was thankful that they raised me and all. Well, no, I take that back. Raise isn't the right word. I was more like the family pet. Well, no, that's a lie too. The cat, Satin, got more respect than I did. I knew the only reason they took me in was so they could seem like good Samaritans, but they didn't want me.
Sure, they put out food for me so I didn't starve, and the only time they purchased new clothes for me was when one of their snobby friends commented on how tight fitting my old ones were. But that was rare since they didn't like being seen with me in public all too often. They barely spoke to me, and when they did, it was just to make sure I was still alive. I think they preferred the idea of me than the real me.
None of that mattered anymore though. Tomorrow, I'd be gone and in California. I wasn't just going for the concert either. I'd be making a home there as well. Claudia was going to get rich off her art, and I was going to get rich off my voice. If we were lucky, we'd score some backstage passes and meet Dean Lee. Then maybe he'd help me out with my singing career and if he just so happened to fall in love with me, then that wouldn't hurt either.
With California in mind, nothing could ruin my day.
The moment the thought entered my mind was the exact moment I felt something small but firm hit the back of my head. A hand instinctively went to the back of my head, fingers sifting through the many curls to rub my head. With a grimace on my face, I turned around. A few rows behind me, I could see Wes Slater smirking and looking my way. Turning around, I rolled my eyes and sigh. Thank god I would never have to see his face after this.
Wes Slater was the kind of guy many people wanted to be. Envy was the usual emotion one felt when Wes entered a room. That or some form of lust. Like, I get it. Wes is pretty dreamy. Dirty blonde hair, piercing hazel eyes. These really nice full lips and a bod to die for. But, ever since we were six years old, he's made my life a living hell.
Yeah, he fit the bill of "childhood bully" to a T. And even today, it hasn't changed. We were about to embark into adulthood and he hadn't grown up yet. I had to wonder if it was because his dad spoon fed him just about everything in life. He was wealthy, there was no doubt about that. Crashing a few of his parties easily let me know he was made out of money. That and his Volkswagen convertible. I didn't know much about cars, but I did know that his car must have cost him like a ton of money. And if you never saw either of those, the nickname "Wealthy Wes" would give it away. I always called him that when he would call me "Manly Marilyn."
Turning back around, his eyes met with mine and I mouthed the words, "Grow up!" I focused my attention back on the stage and began to daydream about life in Los Angeles. I could see it now. A record deal. Sipping sweet champagne pool side and have casual chats with Whitney Houston, except she'd let me call her something like Whit. After we hung up, Dean would come lay beside me and tell me how glad he is that I came to his concert. Then he'd propose and we'd get married somewhere exotic. Like Jamaica or the Bahamas.
The booming sound of my principal's deep voice broke my thoughts. Though I was a little bit upset he interrupted my daydream, I was glad he had finally called my name. I had been waiting hours to hear it and the only excitement that had happened so far was moving up the rows as the hundred or so student's names were called. It was one of the many reasons I hated that my last name started with a Z. Wiping the sweat from my brow, I plastered a smile on my face and stood up to receive my diploma. When I reached the stage, I saw my grandparents smiling and clapping as if they were actually proud of me. I almost rolled my eyes, but instead decided to smile their way. I shook Principal Neil's hand, grabbed my diploma and walked off. Thank God this was about to be over. I don't think I could sit out in this sun any longer.
"Well, Marilyn, your grandmother and I are very impressed that you managed to graduate from high school."
That was the first thing my grandfather said to me at dinner that night. My birthday was still awaiting its recognition but that could wait till later. I was currently trying to figure out what they meant by "impressed" and "managed to."
"Thanks," I said quietly and played with my mashed potatoes. I wasn't all that hungry. Besides, Grandma made liver and onions for dinner and she knew how much I hated liver.
"We did notice that you haven't received any letters in the mail," Grandma spoke up.
I looked up from my plate, staring into my Grandmother's piercing green eyes. Eyes I wished I had for many years of my life but instead I got my mother's brown ones. Grandpa had green eyes too, so I figured my dad did as well. Despite that, my Grandmother and I shared lots of features. Had I been a few shades lighter we'd probably be twins. My lips were fuller than hers though.
"What do you mean?" I asked, confused. Then the thought hit me: College acceptance letters.
"For higher education. College. You do want to attend college, don't you?" Grandpa asked.
I shrugged. The real answer was no, but as of right now, lying would be the best bet. "Oh. Uhm. I couldn't decide, so I thought I'd visit some colleges over the summer with Claudia. Apply in person."
They exchanged glances and then Grandma spoke again. "Well, you can't live here forever, Marilyn. Working at … what's that horrid place again?"
"Tony's, Grandma and it's not that bad," I told her. Tony's was a pizzeria and arcade. Most of the kids from my school hung out there, much to my chagrin. I worked there during the week as a waitress. In fact I devoted a lot of my time to working. They probably thought I had been saving up for college, when in reality, I was just saving up for Los Angeles.
"Well … Tony's," Grandma said with disgust. "You can't work there for the rest of your life and if you plan on doing so, you certainly can't live here."
"Right," I replied quietly. I didn't want an argument. "Can I be excused?"
"Where are you going?" Grandpa asked.
"Claudia and I are going to Tony's tonight," I said. It was my birthday, after all, I thought. "I'll be home by curfew."
Grandma and Grandpa exchanged glances again before Grandma got up and headed towards the kitchen. I pushed my plate towards the middle of the table and sighed. I waited a moment before looking my Grandpa in the face. Softly, I said, "So, can I go?"
He opened his mouth to answer but was interrupted by my Grandma coming out with a small cake covered in lit candles. She placed the cake in the middle of the table, and for the first time in forever, she smiled at me. Grandpa did too.
"We didn't forget your birthday, Marilyn," Grandma said. "I wasn't sure what flavor cake you liked so I simply made vanilla with burnt butter icing."
I preferred chocolate cake, with chocolate icing. But I appreciated the fact that they made the effort to celebrate my birthday. I didn't know what to say, so I simply smiled back at them and blew out the candles. I wished for success in California.
"Thank you," I told them as Grandma cut into the cake.
We ate in silence and I began to contemplate where this act of kindness came from. They stopped celebrating my birthday when I was ten. At least with cake. After that, they simply murmured 'Happy Birthday' to me.
"You may go now, Marilyn," Grandma said, collecting the plates.
"Thanks," I told them again. "For the cake too. I'll be back by eleven."
They said nothing and went back to their daily routines. As if nothing ever happened. Just like I didn't exist again.