A glass of crazy, p.2
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       A Glass of Crazy, p.2

           Tina Laningham
Mom had the engine running in the white Mercedes when I slipped out the back door. By driving through the alley, we tricked the few media hounds who had returned at some obnoxious early morning hour. Mom didn't say a word the entire way to school, but judging by her wrinkled forehead, that mind of hers was busy. I started to open my mouth, but what was the point? If the topic of conversation wasn't about our picture perfect lives, the Queen of Control was not going to participate.

  It was strange riding to school in Mom's car, since Rafa and I usually rode bikes. Before that we tried skateboarding, but everything I did had to be approved by Mom. If we had an actual stamp of approval, it would say, "Appropriate for John Alexander's Public Image." When my skateboard was seized and stamped, "Not Appropriate for John Alexander's Public Image," Mom insisted on driving me to school every day, but I couldn't think of anything worse. We finally met somewhere in the middle when she agreed to let me ride a bike, but Rafa's parents couldn't afford one. That's why I made my parents buy two.

  When we pulled up to the front of the school, Rafa waited on the corner with the bike my parents had given him. He'd really wanted an orange mountain bike and I'd wanted a yellow one, but even our color choices were deemed inappropriate. Between my red cruiser and Rafa's blue one, we looked like two dorks riding in a Fourth of July parade. I think that was the whole idea.

  From the corner, Rafa waved me over like it was urgent, but to Rafa, everything was urgent. I pulled the door handle.

  "Pick you up at three o'clock sharp." Mom smiled, which made no sense, except maybe in La-La Land.

  Rafa snuggled his baseball cap over my head and scanned the sidewalk. "Keep your face down," he said, but it was too late. Within seconds, a flock of girls surrounded us and I didn't have to look up to know it was the triple Ps.

  "Guess you're still too good to be a lowly cheerleader," the loudest voice said. That was Priscilla. A wave of laughter erupted from the other girls as they passed by. I called Priscilla, Presley and Paige the triple Ps because they looked the same-long hair and pretty-and they always traveled in V formation with Priscilla leading the flock. Even though I looked like the triple Ps, on the inside I was different.

  "Heartless creatures," Rafa mumbled.

  Rewind to last year when the Queen of Control forced me to go to cheerleader camp. With my strong athletic abilities, my half-hearted attempt was way better than most girls' best shots. When the coach announced on the obnoxious speaker that I'd won, I got so upset, I blurted out something about not lowering myself to standing on the sideline cheering for boys; that I'd rather play on the field and let other people cheer for me. From that point on, Priscilla-who only won by default after I declined-launched a full blown, anti-Abby campaign, but Megan and I just laughed. Together we were indestructible. Nothing could crush us. I cast my eyes beyond the triple Ps to survey the school grounds. Megan was definitely MIA. If she wasn't a prisoner in a jungle, she'd better have a stupendous explanation.

  After the triple Ps moved on to humiliate their next victim, I said to Rafa, "I totally don't get it. Priscilla made cheerleader on her own this time. What's her problem now?"

  Rafa squinted. "We have a saying in Mexico. Never piss off a crazy person."

  When the bell rang, I adjusted the cap, stared at the class schedule, and then looked at the map they'd given us at orientation last week. Ever since the Kat episode on TV, all important facts and information had been deleted from my brain and all that remained were useless things, like feelings.

  Rafa squeezed my arms. "Text me if you get in trouble. I'll be there in a flash." The look in his sweet brown eyes said he meant it. "But don't get caught texting in class." Rafa winked and hurried off.

  "That would be the least of my problems," I shouted.

  I tried to keep my head down, but I had to look up to find Mrs. Goldstein's U.S. History class. Through the halls, I maintained a steady pace, even when some low scratchy voice said, "Hey Abby. What's news? Ha, ha, ha. Get it? What's news!" I told myself it didn't matter.

  Normally I would've taken a front row seat because I loved history, especially since Dad always told fascinating stories about every place we'd ever visited and most of the time, the stories were true. But things had changed. While Mrs. Goldstein passed out papers, I took a seat in the back where I could keep an eye on everyone.

  The paper had one sentence at the top:

  List 3 things you want to learn in

  U.S. History this year.


  I couldn't think about that now. It must be nice to come in on the first day of school, unburdened by any family drama, and make a list of things that would be interesting to learn. I felt miles away from my classmates, separated by a glass window of public humiliation through which everyone could see every detail of my pathetic life without caring.

  Along one side of the room, a boy passed a folded piece of paper to the girl in front of him. She opened the note, giggled, folded it neatly, and passed it to the girl in front of her.

  While all that was going on, Mrs. Goldstein collected the papers and thumbed through them. Each time she turned around to write something somebody wanted to learn on the board, the folded-up note got passed to another kid, who snickered and passed it on. When the note almost reached me, the kid passed it sideways to another girl and that's when I knew for sure the note was about me. I sank in my chair.

  All heads turned toward the door when one of the assistant principals from orientation came in with a new student. After Mrs. Goldstein stepped out with the assistant principal, Jake jumped from his seat and grabbed the marker. I groaned. Jake may have been hilarious in middle school when he strategically passed out six neon orange posters in the football bleachers that when lifted spelled, "WE SUCK," but what he did next wasn't funny. At the bottom of Mrs. Goldstein's list, Jake wrote:

  What senator couldn't keep his pants up?

  The roar of laughter was loud enough for the whole school to hear, but Jake was already in his seat when Mrs. Goldstein came rushing back in the classroom. Rather than sit through the humiliation of listening to Mrs. Goldstein lecture the class on why that was wrong, I got up and walked out the door and to my surprise, nobody stopped me, not even the assistant principal who was still standing in the doorway.

  I headed out the nearest exit and wandered toward a giant oak tree. With my back to its trunk, I slid down and pulled my knees up toward my chest. Even though the assistant principal followed me out and slowly made her way toward me, there was still time to send a text to Rafa.

  Abby: just kill me now

  Rafa: where are you???

  I started to text Megan again, but I was beginning to feel like a stalker, so I slipped the phone in my pocket while the assistant principal, whatever her name was, towered overhead. There were too many assistant principals to keep track of and they all acted like plain clothes cops, there to protect the principal from all the rowdy kids.

  "Abby?" she said. "Would you like to talk to the counselor?"

  I twisted my face. "Um, don't you think it's the other kids who need a counselor? I mean, they're the ones who have a problem with it."

  "Abby, honey," she said in a softer voice. "Do you want me to call your mother?"

  Okay, first of all, if I wanted to call my mother, I'd do it myself. Second of all, no. "I'll just wait here 'til second period, if that's okay with you." I sounded totally sarcastic, but the assistant principal was obviously cutting me a lot of slack because she gave me a sympathetic smile, which made me feel even worse, and walked away.

  I pulled out the phone.

  Rafa: where are you???

  Rafa: where are you?????

  I half smiled.

  Abby: im ok c u next period

  Rafa: k

  Dad once cared like that, but lies had the power to turn someone you love into a total stranger. They don't teach that in school, but it was a lesson I'd never forget, not for the rest of my life.

  Before this whole Kat
scandal, Dad used to tell me exactly how to handle any situation at school. Even though I kind of hated him now, I needed him to tell me what to do.

  What would the old Dad have said? I could hear his deep, Texas voice say, "Baby doll, what other people think of you is none of your business. Don't let them rent space in your head."

  Maybe I was overly sensitive, but the bell sounded more obnoxious than ever. I couldn't figure out why they even called it a bell. It sounded like one of those canned horns fans set off at Houston Pistols basketball games, except a lot louder, like someone was holding the can inches from my ear.

  My heart sank. Would Dad still take me to Pistols games? Or would he take that Kat creature instead? Mom hated basketball, which worked for me because going to games without her was way more fun. Dad and I laughed and cheered and hugged when the Pistols made three-pointers, but when Mom came along, there was tension. Maybe if I'd had a better attitude about Mom going with us to basketball games, Dad wouldn't have gone off and found a girlfriend who was more fun. And guessing from Dad's banana-sized grin on TV, the Kat creature was way more fun than Mom-maybe even more fun than me.

  When the blast of the bell finally stopped pounding my head, I brushed the dirt off my jeans and wandered back toward the building. "What other people think of me is none of my business," I mumbled five or six times on the way to class. I couldn't hear Dad's voice anymore, but at least I knew what he would say.

  When I arrived at Mr. Oliver's English class, Rafa waited at the door with a super serious look on his face. First period had been a total disaster. If second period didn't get better, I was so out of there.

  - 3 -

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