amazing chapter image by lilscratchy @ TDA! :D
“I thought you were still in school!” I all but screeched at her.
“Well, I was,” Roxanne said slowly, “but- you’re never going to believe this- I kind of got expelled.”
“No way!” I said at the same time Alex said, “Awesome!”
After rolling my eyes at Alex I said, “What for?”
“I blew up a dorm with a stink bomb.” She sounded sincere, but there was something in her baby blue eyes that made me believe that she wasn’t telling the truth. I knew she was a prankster, but it seemed a little extreme to expel someone because of a stink bomb. This wasn’t Roxy’s first offense, but most of the time she just got off with a few weeks of detention from what she told me. She always told me how most of the professors at her school were really cool, and if she was caught, it was never by the rough teachers.
“By the way, happy birthday.”
She smiled warmly. “Thanks, Iris.”
“I didn’t have time to get you anything,” I lied. “You know, with the upcoming concert and all.”
She crossed her arms and said, “You know you don’t have to get me anything.”
I shrugged and smirked at her. “You want to go for a walk, Roxy?”
She nodded, making her blonde curls shake. Roxanne’s mess of curls always made her look like a lion.
“Alex, I’m going out! If Sierra comes home, tell her I’m with Roxanne!”
Alex made a sort of grunting/humming noise in response, still completely absorbed in his game.
We were only a few steps away from the house when she went off on a long explanation of how she got kicked out of school.
“Oh em gee, Iris, you will never believe what happened! So I was on my way to setting off the greatest prank in history against the B and Ds and I thought that if I got caught, it would be by my head of house, like it usually was, or another one of the teachers that was cool to me, but instead, I was caught by Grease and he convinced the head of my dorm to send me home for, like, no reason! And my head of house usually loves me! Uh, Grease is such an ass!”
There were things I had picked up along the way from listening to Roxanne’s rants about school since we were eleven. She had a very…interesting way with giving people titles. ‘The B and Ds’ meant the Bitches and Douchebags. There seemed to be some sort of unofficial competition between the four dorms at her school, and she-as well as most of the people in her dorm- hated the B and Ds. As well as many other people. The only people that seemed to like the B and Ds (based on things I had heard from Roxy) were themselves.
‘Grease’ from what I had picked up, was the Chemistry teacher with unnaturally long, super greasy hair. He was the head of the B and Ds’ house and tended to favor them and ignore or punish the other students for no good reason. At least I thought so. Roxy didn’t exactly clarify much.
Roxy had very…er…specific feelings about him. Her explanations of him often involved many variations of curse words, especially the word ‘asshole.’
“So what’s happened in Hollywell since summer?” Roxy asked suddenly, pulling me from my thoughts.
I rolled my eyes at her. “Roxy, you know nothing happens in Hollywell.”
“Well, the annual Christmas Gala is coming up, right? And the Heather’s Grove High winter concert?”
Well, there’s another thing I forgot about: the Christmas Gala.
I never went; only the really popular kids went to that. Jess would always want to go, but I talked her out of it. Unpopular kids stuck out like sore thumbs and Jess and I would be no exception. Roxanne wouldn’t, she would blend right in. She might’ve been mine and Jess’s best friend, but she was blessed with the secret to popularity, unlike us.
So the Christmas Gala worked like this: there was an adult party and a teen party for 15-17 year olds. They would dance and hang out and drink punch, you know the drill. The teen party was kind of like prom; only it was always a Masquerade Ball and they told the story of Heather Hollywell (the daughter of the town founder. Her father may have founded the town, but Hollywell was known for her. Not like many people knew about us anyways) before the teens and the adults went to their separate parties.
“Are you going to the Christmas Gala?”
“I never do. I thought you knew that.”
“Yeah, you tell me every year when I come home for Christmas break. But we should go, Iris. You, me, and Jess.”
“What would I do? It’s not like I can blend in with the popular crowd well. It would just be three hours of me being a wallflower while you two have fun. You know as well as I do you and Jess can blend in with anybody, even if they don’t want you there.” I didn’t mean her; I really only meant Jess. Roxanne was friends with everyone; the populars would
want her there.
That is the reality of being Roxanne Faylen.
She cocked her head at me, making her blonde curls shake around her shoulders. “Who cares? Just have fun! Besides, I bet this isn’t even about the populars. Is this about the fact that the McDaniels organize it every year and you don’t want to be around Trixie for three hours?”
Okay, it was that. But not just that. It was about the populars, too. “Hey, I can only take her annoyingness in small doses, Roxy! Three hours is too much to stand!”
Roxy giggled at me. But then she said something that just blew my mind.
“You should ask Scott Kinnick to the Gala!”
Scott Kinnick. She wanted me to ask Scott
The captain of the Heather’s Grove High football team, super popular, and the sexiest guy in the world, if not the universe. (I am his official stalker. I should get Jess to use her amazing art skills to make me a certificate.)
Like he would ever go to a party with me.
“You’re funny, Roxy.”
“No, seriously! I know you’ve liked him forever!”
“So? That doesn’t mean he would go with me!”
“You never know until you try!”
“Yeah, well I don’t feel much like getting rejected.”
She smirked her dangerous little smirk, grabbed me by the wrist and started pulling me towards her house. “Then go to the Gala with me and Jess. No dates, I promise. We’ll need to find you a dress and a mask first, though. And maybe some gloves.”
“Roxy!” I shouted, “I don’t want to go!”
“Just go once! For me?”
“Why? You’re obviously not going back to school, so we can go next year when we’re old enough to go to the adult party.”
This made her stop. She let go of my wrist and sighed. “Iris,” she started rubbing her arm, “we’re not staying in Hollywell. My parents and I. We just came back for a week or two to get our stuff packed and then we’re heading out.”
It took a minute for me to take it in. Roxanne was…leaving?
“Are you coming back?”
She shrugged. “No idea. Dad got a really good job at a military base and Mom wants to see the world so…”
Wait, hold on. ‘See the world’?
“Where are you moving?”
“This place called Wiesbaden. It’s in Germany.”
Oh my God. So Roxanne was going to another country and staying there this time?
I mean, it wasn’t the end of the world, people move all the time, but Mr. Faylen had requested time and time again to stay located in Hollywell so Roxanne wouldn’t have to change schools. Roxanne had started going to that boarding school anyway, but her parents had been able to stay in Oklahoma. And now they were moving to another continent? And I had known Roxanne since we were nine and in the same third grade class, and never once had Mr. Faylen expressed any desire to move.
Has my ranting gone on too long? Sorry.
Roxy smiled at me sheepishly. “So just go once? For me?”
I hesitated for a moment. Until she said,
“You know what, that’s what I want for my birthday. For you, me and Jess to go to the Gala together.”
Well, now she has my arm twisted.
I let out a long, deep breath. “Okay. But only for your birthday.”
She let out a happy little squeal and hugged me.
“Come on!” she said, grabbing my wrist and pulling me towards her house. “We have to go look at dresses. I have my car. You should call Jess and ask her to come with! We need another opinion. And she has to get a dress too!”
Roxy started skipping towards her house, making her blonde curls bounce. I flipped open my phone and started a new text message to Jess.
Hey. Do you know Roxanne is back? Well, now you do. Downtown in 10? We’re looking for dresses for the Gala.
It took about half a second for her reply to pop up on my screen.
Roxy’s back? YAY! And she convinced you to go to the Gala? I’ll be there!
Okay, here’s the thing: I hated wearing dresses and heels and wearing makeup and getting my hair all done up. My hair was uncontrollable and curly as it was, and I preferred it in a nice, simple braid, ponytail, or messy bun.
I couldn’t for the life of me walk in heels or a long dress. And I looked pretty darn scary in makeup.
Oh, this was going to be fun.
Note the sarcasm.
“What do you think of this one?”
Jess came out in a long, bright pink strapless dress. Roxanne and I exchanged a ‘look.’ It wasn’t that she looked bad, but that was REALLY BRIGHT PINK. If you looked at it too long you might go blind.
She caught the look. She stepped off the little platform and sat down on one of the chairs, still in the dress. “Your turn, Iris.”
I immediately tensed up. “Oh, no, I’m borrowing something from Sierra.”
“Oh, no, you ain’t!” Roxanne insisted. “You need a new dress. I don’t think there’s one in your entire closet.”
“And for good reason!” I threw back. “You know I walk like a penguin in long dresses!”
“If you wear a short one, you’ll freeze to death,” Jess put in.
“Fine!” and I trotted off to the showroom.
God, there were a lot of dresses in there. And they all looked the same! I mean, how many long, bright, poofy gowns can there be in the worl-
And that’s when I saw it.
“Okay, you two, I found one.”
Jess and Roxy sank into their seats, waiting for me to come out of the dressing room. I walked out in the dress, and they both gasped immediately.
I was wearing a long, dark green strapless dress with silver sparkles.
“Too much?” I asked.
They both shook their heads.
“Not at all!” Jess exclaimed in excitement. “You look fantastic! Have I ever told you green is so your color?”
I rolled my eyes at her. But she was right; I was working the green.
For a moment, I stopped studying the dress and looked at myself: my wild, untamable dark hair, my short stature, my gazillion freckles, and my grayish-bluish eyes.
I’d been called beautiful before. But this was the first time I believed it.
I wonder what my real parents would say.
Oh, the curse of being an adopted child. What would my birth parents do? What would they say?
It goes on and on. And it never really stops.
Alex hardly did this, but for me, it was a terrible habit. I did it constantly.
It’s not that I hated being adopted. I loved Sierra and Alex, but...
Every adopted kid wants to know why their birth parents let them go. I can guarantee that.
For me, I had thought of every scenario there could possibly be about why my parents had put me up for adoption. And I do mean EVERY scenario.
I pushed the thought out of my mind while Jess and Roxanne were talking about the masks we should get for the Gala.
I smiled to myself. I don’t need to know my birth parents. I have everything I need, right here in Hollywell.
That night I drove back to the house smiling and listening to Def Leppard on the radio. I parked my bug in the driveway and patted the hood as I walked towards the door.
“Sierra, I’m home!” I yelled through the house. I walked into the kitchen, desperately craving some Oreos.
I found the box and pulled out one, and nearly choked when I heard Sierra’s British accent angrily saying, “Did you know that your brother was suspended today?”
After a moment of coughing up Oreo, I answered, “Yeah, I was going to pick him up, but I saw Mr. Monroe, and he told me that Alex got suspended.”
“And you didn’t call me?” She was getting angrier with every word.
“No, should I have?”
She squinted her dark eyes at me. “Yes, Iris! You should’ve called me! Alex broke a kid’s nose!”
Okay, I can win this argument. “Alex, did you hit him first?”
He shook his head no.
“Did you hit him purely in self-defense?”
A short nod.
“Did the other boy get suspended too?”
I shrugged at Sierra. I didn’t know what else to say.
Sierra’s face went soft and she said slowly, “Fine. But Alex, you’re grounded for three weeks; including the one you’re suspended for. And Iris is picking you up every day after school during that time.”
Alex made a loud sound of protest, but Sierra gave him a look that obviously meant that it wasn’t up for discussion. I shrugged at him and he rolled his green eyes. Then I remembered that I needed to go grab my dress and mask and gloves out of the car.
I brought them back inside and Sierra gasped.
“You’re going to the Gala, Iris?”
Oh, no, she’s found me out.
I gingerly nodded, and she let out a little squeal of excitement. “That’s fantastic, Iris! It’ll be so much fun!”
Sierra always went to the adult party and always bugged me to go to the teen party. But I never went for obvious reasons (see above).
I retreated to my bedroom and hung the dress up in my closet, then I flopped down on the bed and turned on the CD player.
Fiocco’s Allegro automatically came on. I had never played it on my violin before, but it was one of my favorites.
Alex walked into my room and started doing a strange awkward waltz thing.
I giggled then said, “Care to dance?” and held my arm out to him. He took it and we danced around for a while. Despite the fact that I was seventeen and he was only fourteen, we were almost the same size.
We put our hands next to each other and walked in a circle. I spun around on my tiptoes and he did the same and jumped up in the air in what resembled a grand jeté, but it resulted in him crashing to the ground and knocking over a box that I had on my dresser.
Many things fell out of it, including a charm bracelet that I made when I was eight, a dog tag that said 24601, and a long silver dagger.
Alex slowly picked up the knife and weighed it in his hands. “Where did you get this?”
I started over the song and turned it up so Sierra wouldn’t hear, and reached out to take the knife from him, but he held it away from my hands like we were playing Keep Away.
“I’ve always had it, okay?”
He turned it over in his hands a few times and saw the engraving.
“What does that mean?” he asked cautiously.
“I don’t know either, little bro. But I think they’re initials.”
He nodded as if he knew what I meant: the dagger must’ve belonged to my birth parents. I didn’t know what he was thinking, if he was jealous, freaked out, or totally cool. But he just gave me the dagger and rushed out of my room.
So, I hope you enjoyed this chapter. And leave a review, if you have anything to say, I’d love to know what you think.
Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize. Oreos belong to Nabisco, and the song Allegro is by Fiocco, and the number 24601 is a reference is the play Les Miserables.