Even though my curtains were shut and my room was as black as something really black, I knew it was morning. I could hear my mom up and moving around in the kitchen getting ready to go to work. She was humming something and occasionally she’d burst into a snippet of song, singing loud on purpose because she knew that she couldn’t sing a freaking note and it drove me nuts. If she kept it up, I’d be awake and in the kitchen complaining in no time. Well, you know what? I wasn’t going to give her that satisfaction because I grabbed my pillow from where it ended up on the floor and slammed it over my head.
“Not gonna work!” I yelled. My voice was muffled by the pillow but I knew that mom could hear it. The walls in our apartment were pretty much paper thin. In fact, I heard her laugh and her voice increased in volume. I clenched my eyes shut and groped blindly for my stereo remote. It was on the floor, near where my pillow had been, and I turned on my stereo. Heavy metal blasted from it; something loud and harsh where I actually couldn’t understand most of the words unless I was looking at the lyric book. But it drowned out my mom and I settled back into my pillows and blankets, content to try and go back to sleep.
That plan actually didn’t last very long because I could hear my mom knocking at my door, sharply tapping and then easing it open a few inches.
“Get up,” she said as she pushed the door open wider and stood with her hands on her hips.
“Don’t wanna.” Mornings were not my best time. I was usually less than coherent and tended to speak in monosyllables. The fact that she got two complete words out of me was pretty freakin’ amazing.
“--don’t care if you don’t want to,” was her heartless reply as she wove through the piles of clothing and magazines I had scattered on my floor. I heard a muffled curse as she tripped over something and I opened my eyes just in time to see her grab the back of my computer chair to keep herself upright. She stood over me and jabbed me in the side with her bony finger. “Get up. You’re gonna be late for school.”
I opened my eyes wide and stared up into her unsmiling face. “I’m sick.”
“Oh, for Goddess sake -- no, you’re not!” She poked me again and then went over to my window, yanking the curtains open so that the room was flooded with warm light. I groaned and pulled the blanket up over my head, curling my body into the foetal position as if that would somehow keep out the sun. Mom was, um, not impressed.
“Rayne! You’ll be late for school and I don’t have time to drive you this morning so get your ass out of bed.” She was back by the side of the bed with her arms crossed over her chest, glaring down at me.
I dared a look up and saw that her own brown eyes were narrowed and her mouth was a thin line. See, here’s the thing, normally my looked just like any other old hippie chick. Her hair was long and she usually kept it loose and she dressed in flowy skirts and peasant tops and stuff. She smiled a lot and had that easy going hippie aura about her, but when she got pissed off about something she totally changed. Her eyes got all mean and squinchy and the fun just evaporated out of her. And as I looked up at her that morning, I saw no trace of fun whatsoever. Just a peeved off ex-hippie.
I stayed still a few moments longer before I kicked the blankets off and rolled my eyes. “Fine, fine,” I muttered and watched as she exited my room. Fuck, I needed to put a lock on my door or something. I paused and shook my head -- like that would go over well. Mom would be out there with lock picking tools, I could almost guarantee.
As soon as I turned off my stereo I could hear the sounds of humming again. My mom was back to being little miss Mary Sunshine. Her bad moods came and went that quickly, too. It was like I’d get whiplash from her mood changes sometimes. But, whatever, I was used to it. Anyway, I quickly dressed in a tee-shirt and a pair of jeans and made my way to our small kitchen with its apartment sized appliances. Mom was sitting at the kitchen table with her cup of coffee and I could smell the roast mixed with the hazelnut cream she put in it. She pushed a cup towards me as I plopped down in my chair and I drank it without saying anything. Mom just laughed.
“Oh, lighten up,” she said as she stood to rinse her cup. “It’s not the end of the world that you had to get up for school. Millions of people, everyday, have to do the same thing. Why should you be exempt?”
“Because I’m me,” I said under my breath but favoured my mom with a dazzling smile. She wasn’t really a fan of sarcasm. She had caught my little comment and raised her eyebrow at me but when I grinned big, it was impossible for her not to smile back at me. Which she did. The annoyance pretty much melted off her face in the process.
“Just get to school,” she laughed and handed me my backpack, “and don’t be late. The school will call me if you’re late, so I’ll know.”
I hefted the backpack over my shoulder and scowled. “Quentin’s picking me up. I doubt we’ll be late,” I rolled my eyes. “Even if he does drive like an old woman.”
My mom shot me a sharp look. “Not cool, Rayne,” she said. “There are plenty of senior citizens who are perfectly good drivers. You can’t just disparage a whole generation like that.”
“Who’s disparaging anything? Yeah, lots of old people drive fine. But a whole bunch of them drive pretty slow, too. You complain about them every time we get stuck behind one in traffic.” My smile turned sugar sweet and before my mom could say anything, I was out the door.
Quentin drove a piece of shit Firefly that I ragged on him for every time I saw him. I mean, this thing was a freakin’ relic. The paint was mostly red but there were spots of white that showed through and the metal near the wheels was starting to rust, but damn if he didn’t love that car like it was his baby or something. He talked to it. He would pat it on the dashboard every time I told him that the only place it was good for was the scrap heap. He washed it once a week without fail, even if it wasn’t dirty. I -- I just didn’t get it.
The only thing I liked about his car was his stereo system. It made riding in that sardine can worth it, even if I had to listen to shitty punk music every time I caught a ride with him. He pretty much refused to believe that punk was dead and had been dead since the seventies. I mean, I’m pretty sure that was the last time punk music was culturally relevant, right? That’s not to say he listened to pop punk like Good Charlotte or whoever the kids were “rocking” out to these days, but I tried to remind him that he was a middle class white kid and punk was angry, angry music and what the fuck did he have to be so angry about? He always just answered with a vague: “Stuff”.
Stuff? Stuff!? I asked him if his parents were murdered in a genocide and he said, no. I asked him if he was an oppressed minority and he said, no. I asked him if he was on the dole and there were no job prospects out there and he said, no. I asked him if he was a skinhead white supremacist and wanted to kick the shit out of some Jewish kids and he said, no then he punched me. And then I asked him why the fuck he listened to punk music. He just said he liked it.
However, getting a ride to school beat the crap out of walking so after a few times of trying to extract the reason for his punk love, I let it go and dealt with it. Besides I guess it could’ve been worse; he could have been listening to Justin Bieber.
I heard Quinten’s car coming before I saw it; the lack of muffler gave it away and I stepped off the curb as he pulled up to me.
“Took you fucking long enough,” I grumbled as I clicked my seat belt into place. “I’ve been standing out there for, like --”
“--Probably only a couple minutes,” Quentin snorted as he pulled back into the traffic, “with the way you complain, you drama queen. So shut it.”
“I’m not a drama queen,” I said and turned down Quentin’s stereo. He slapped my hand away from the knob and glared at me.
“Whose fucking car is this, exactly?” he asked as he flicked his eyes back to the road.
“Yeah, well, you listen to your crappy punk music too loud.”
“I like it loud.”
“That’s what she said.” I laughed. Quentin didn’t. He rolled his eyes at me and turned a corner.
I rolled my eyes back at him and stared out the window as I tried to ignore the three-chord songs blasting through the speakers.
“What’s your problem?” Quentin dared a look at me. I scowled back at him and quickly reached over, turning the stereo down before he could do anything. He just sighed harshly but this time, he didn’t slap my hand.
I looked around the car and played with a few coins in the tray before glancing up. “I don’t have a problem. What’s YOUR problem?”
“I’m NOT getting into this with you, Rayne. What’s your issue all of a sudden.” Quentin pulled into the high school parking lot and killed the engine of his car. He sat there, staring at me, until I pulled the door open and stepped out.
“I told you,” I said, “nothing.” I watched as he got out of the car and we started walking towards the blue double doors of the school.