Jennifer had gone through her Maths question, all of which were right. Having waited for almost thirty minutes, she was making her way across the parking when she spotted Alex, huddled in the corner bench of their school park. She made her way there hurriedly, and said, ‘Oh honey! What happened?’ she flung an arm around Alex’s shoulder and hugged her close. ‘Did Jason do something again?’ she murmured soothingly. Jason was Alex’s father.
‘N…no….’ she sobbed, as she hugged Jennifer back. ‘Ye….Yes,’ she said again.
‘Do you want to talk about it?’ she asked. ‘Because, I always feel better when I talk to someone about anything wrong.’ Do I? Interesting! ‘Do you want to talk about it?’ she asked again.
‘Can I spend the night at your house?’ she whispered so light, so innocent that it almost broke Jenny’s heart.
The bell rang. ‘Buckle up, it’s English. We need to get there before Warner does.’ Both picked their bags and ran towards the class, arriving just before professor. ‘And of course you can,’ she panted. The rest of the day, passed in a blur. Alex was pretty happy filling Jenny with the latest movie that she had just watched. Yet, Jennifer was scared. She knew that spending the night at her house, would only infuriate Jason more. All the while smiling, she was scheming a plan to get Alex rid of Jason. However nothing clicked her.
‘And then, Ted jumps in the pond to save Kara. It was all so romantic. I just wish I find someone as good as Ted, who also sympathises with me. I loved the movie so much, you should go too, Jen, you look like you could do with a break. I just wish Jason never finds out about it,’ she said during recess, as both took their seats. ‘So what did you do yesterday?’
‘Well, I watched season one of One Tree Hill. It was so good, you know, I actually might be in love with Lucas, he’s so smart,’ she giggled, and instantly stopped. She saw Nick sitting all alone, at the table opposite her, reading a book. She suddenly had the urge to call out to him, and ask him to join them, but as she raised her hand slightly, his head shot up and he smiled. Jennifer stopped instantly. How dare he? He signalled to her inviting himself. Alex stared wide-eyed at this exchange as nothing like this had ever happened to them, ever. She waited for Jenny’s response. Jennifer, in turn shook her head vigorously and turned away rudely. After all, he wasn’t there to save her dad from being kicked out, was he?
After the school, Alex and Jenny made their way to the car and were just driving away, when Nick (who else) came, knocked at her window and said, ‘You are one old, miserable woman. You don’t know how to respect people. Probably that is why you sit by lunch all alone. I tried making friends with you, but you are acting as if you’re doing a favour by not sending me away. Get an attitude adjustment.’ He sauntered off. Both the girls were shocked. Fortunately, Alex recovered first.
‘Hey mister! You’re wrong there. She sits alone because everyone else sucks, not because she has an attitude. Get your facts right first.’ Alex shouted.
‘Yes, is that so?’ he turned around and questioned. ‘Okay! Okay, I dare you, Jennifer. The school elections are in one and a half month. Win them,’ he challenged and turned around and went away.
Jennifer drove to her house in a blur. She was hardly aware of Alex bubbling beside her. Challenge, elections, Nick, attitude. All the words clouded her mind as she made entered the house, barely noticing Jules wearing her T-shirt again, and her mother cooking cheese pasta, which she hated.
She went to her room, on autopilot, slammed the door shut and changed into the first clothes she laid her hands on. Was that idiotic Nick somewhat right? Do I really need an attitude adjustment?
‘Jen, come down. Your mom’s made pasta. Cheese Pasta.’ Alex voice broke her chain of thoughts. She thought she heard sarcasm somewhere but wasn’t really sure. Nick was still on her mind. Pushing him out of her thoughts, she went downstairs and tried to pay attention to the bland, sarcastic conversation at the dinner table.
‘Honey,’ Mrs. Cruise asked, more sweetly than was required, to Alex. Her mom knew that Jennifer hated her need for daily gossip, and that she was doing this to particularly annoy her, ‘Did Jason do something again? I mean, you suddenly coming and spending the night at Jen’s is weird.’
‘Ah no, Mrs. Cruise. He has been quite charming this week, and we are trying to mend our relationship,’ Alex replied. Jennifer knew this was false. Today’s morning’s events guaranteed this. Yet her mother could always be counted upon for embarrassing her.
‘But don’t you think Alex, that maybe, you should go counselling? I mean, this must be already hard for Jason to try and act sombre. Maybe you attending a counselling session may help better things?’ she asked curiously.
Alex, unfortunately knew Jenny’s mom too well, for she said in hypocritical kindness, ‘Mrs. Cruise, I am sure you have my best interests at heart, but managing the home since as long I as I can remember, I could have really used some advice back then, don’t you think?’ She gave her a formal smile, before going back to her soup. Mrs. Cruise looked like she had been slapped. Yet, she regained her composure, and moved on the Jennifer.
‘Jenny, how was your school today?’ Jennifer suddenly didn’t like the tone her mother used. She was sure she’d have to spend at least the next two nights at the bakers’.
‘Okay,’ she answered dejectedly. ‘I think I’m going to skip meal today. Alex, you want to work on the English essay?’ she asked, rising from the table.
‘Yes, I’ll join you in just a moment,’ she said, picking up bread crumbs from the salad. ‘I’ll just finish of my meal,’ she said. Maybe our relationship is not that single sided. Alex is truly brave, for me.
After fifteen minutes, as Alex was moving towards Jennifer’s room on the first floor, she saw a pair of dark brown eyes, following her, from behind a slit in the curtain. She grew cautious. And moving towards the left as though going to the bathroom, she whipped around and pulled the curtain apart. She was surprised to see Jules standing there. ‘Jeez! What are you doing?’ she questioned, clutching her left as if catching her breath.
‘I wanted to talk to you,’ she whispered. She dragged her into the bathroom and locked the door behind. Then she said, ‘You know, I never thanked you because of the big favour you are doing to me by hanging out with my sister,’ she said arrogantly.
What? What the hell just happened? Jules Cruise, the most popular girl in middle school, the girlfriend of the football captain, thanking a lowly, unsocial person like Alex? That was hard to believe.
‘What do you mean?’ she asked, amazed. The next words shocked her.
‘I mean to say, thank you from keeping Jen away from me. You know I haven’t told anyone that Jen is my sister, seeing how, um, unpopular she is. It would not be cool of me, um, to tell everyone the truth. She has been trying real hard to catch my eye in the school hallways, and has been staring at me sometimes, or so my friends tell these days. I didn’t want to say that directly to Jen as I thought it might hurt her, or something. So if you’ll just convey,’ she said after a long pause, ‘my thoughts.’ And without waiting for an answer, she opened the door and left the bathroom, leaving Alex horrified.
‘That bitch!’ she stormed as she entered Jenny’s room and banged the door shut, shocked at Jules behaviour. ‘And all this time, I thought that you only exaggerated. This was beyond me. Oh that mercenary, blood-sucking, two-faced witch!’
‘What happened?’ Jenny questioned as Alex roared in the room. She was sitting on the chair, with her back toward the door, and her head resting on the table. She seemed exhausted.
‘You know, when you turn seventeen, we’ll get a job, rent a trailer and live together,’ she said as she slammed herself on the bed.
‘What happened, Alex?’ The thought worried Jenny. Alex was already notorious because of her hurried decision making. And presently, this is what scared Jennifer the most. She had already once got along with Alex’s plan, and the results were disastrous.
Two years ago, when they were fourteen, Jennifer forgot Alex’s birthday. She was punished. The punishment was that Jennifer had to convince Mr. Kale, the owner of the City Amusement Park, to let the park be open, especially for the two of them. Mr. Kale was not a kind man, and even a persuasive girl like Jenny could convince him. Finally, after a million attempts Kale agreed, provided that for the next thirty days, they had to bring seven people each day for entertainment, in order to boost the park’s reputation. They managed for the next twelve days without trouble. But then it became difficult to woo every single person that came anywhere in a five mile radius. They disguised themselves (Alex’s suggestions) and attended the park as tourists. It was during one of their tours that they were caught, and to this day, Mr Kale, had never allowed the two of them to enter their park.
‘Well your sister has asked me to keep you away from her at school, at home, at malls, at all times. She thinks that telling everyone that she’s your sister would not help her popularity in any way. Apparently, you have been staring, and ogling a lot at her at school or “so her friends tell”. So it’s better I keep you at bay,’ she stated calmly.
Jennifer looked on the verge of tears. She held them back, put on a brave face. ‘I am contesting the school elections. I will prove Jules, Nick, Adrian and everyone else wrong,’ she vowed.
That night when both Jennifer and Alex went back to bed, Alex was quite sure she heard a muffled sound of someone crying, then of blowing nose, and finally, the slow, deep breath of her friend, now fast asleep.