Forsooth, Part 1: February
Chapter 4: Remember Thy Swashing Blow: Bebewritten by Shannanananana - illustrated by outofmypie and shiftly
Of course she only lets me know she's going to be gone the very day she's leaving. The exact moment, more like. Even worse, I get the text in the middle of 8th period while Craig and I are elbow-deep in the faculty section of the yearbook, trying to find some worthy adult to help us out of the cesspool we've found ourselves in.
Goin out w/friends bb sun nite left $50 on counter ilu
If this message came from any other mom from any other family, I'd shrug it off as some futile last attempt of a middle-aged sad sack to reclaim her youth before her biological clock stops completely. But this is my mom we're talking about. She's acted like a teenage girl my entire life. And I assume all my sisters' lives as well.
I stare at the text long enough for Craig to take notice and say, "Dude. Come on."
He's right, though. Now isn't the time to stew over my mommy issues. "Okay, um... what about Mrs. Cummings?" I ask.
"Never had her."
"You wouldn't have, she teaches Gov. But she's really nice—"
"We're not looking for nice. We're looking for someone who can either get shit done or stay out of our way while we get shit done."
"Well, when you put it like that, maybe we should consider a few previously unexplored options." I motion towards our substitute, asleep at his desk and reeking of booze. Actually, it's a wonder the office hasn't caught wind and fired the guy yet. Yes, there's always that one day a week where he swears off drinking, but he uses it to give us tests on stuff we were supposed to be covering but didn't because he fell asleep after putting on the Mel Gibson version of Hamlet for the thousandth time. And then he gets pissed when we fail the tests because we didn't study. I mean, it would be an entirely different thing if he told us which chapters in the textbook we needed to do/read/study/look over/cover on our own so he doesn't look like a failure of a human being and we didn't look like a completely mindless teenage wasteland, but he doesn't. So nobody's happy and we all look incompetent.
Craig's facial expression doesn't change at my proposal, but one of his overly bushy eyebrows rises slightly higher than the other. "No. It's already too much of a hassle to ask him to stay after for Drama Club meetings."
Blackmailing him is the only way we're able to make him do anything, and getting him to cooperate's a pain in the ass to begin with. If it weren't for the fact that they'd probably cut the program as soon as they found out about his fondness of the drink, I'd go to the office myself and tell them why we need a new teacher. So, sadly, that isn't an option.
"Yeah, I guess you're right." I purse my lips. "Hey, there's always Mr. Meryl!"
"He tried to cut off my balls once, so I'm gonna have to veto," Craig deadpans.
"Hey, guys, what's up?"
We both look up to see Jenny sit down in the desk next to Craig.
He narrows his eyes and the accusation begins. "I thought you were coming yesterday."
She stares downward and mumbles something like, "I had an appointment."
I flick Craig behind the ear.
"What is it with you and violence this decade?" He whines, nursing his ear.
"And Lola texted me wanting to hang out after, too, and I know how you guys feel about her..."
It's not that we hate her.
Okay, it's not that I hate her.
Lola is... how do I put it? The kind of person who strings coat hangers together and calls it "art." She won't talk to you unless you use words like bourgeois and ennui, and her and her little group are pretty much the Goth kids but with a better fashion sense and a "vegan lifestyle." In my opinion she's annoying and totally full of herself, but I can tolerate her in very small doses. Craig can't stand her.
With that being said, though, that doesn't mean we don't like Jenny. Jenny's cool. We just don't like her friends.
"Oh." Craig nods slightly. "Good call."
"You are coming Tuesday, though, right?" I ask.
"Yes. Definitely." She takes her iPod out of her pocketbook and asks, "How did yesterday go?"
"Good turnout. Really good turnout. Maybe... twenty people?" I turn to Craig. "That sound about right to you?"
"And Dougie's been out sick, so the only members who showed up were us, Ruby and Karen."
"And the Doom and Gloom Twins," Craig adds with a side-eye towards the two Goth kids hanging out near the board. "Like they helped at all..."
"And Kip. Kip was there, too," Kip Drordy added from the back corner.
The three of us exchange weirded-out glances. When the hell he sneaked in here, I'll never know. None of us will. He's that creepy.
"Sooo..." Jenny says, breaking the awkward silence. "What are you guys up to?"
"Trying to pick teachers to ask to direct."
"Ah. Well, why don't you just ask Mr. Tenorman?"
"Because food or drunk isn't allowed in the auditorium."
"I was trying to tell Craig, like, a minute ago, that we should at least put him at the bottom of the list in case absolutely no one's willing to help us," I explain to Jenny.
Craig scoffs. "I will personally find Mr. Slave and drag his chapless ass back here before I ask that dick."
"Don't you think that's a little unreasonable?"
"Oh, that's fucking rich," he raises his voice. "All he does is sleep and yell at us to shut up, and I'm the unreasonable one. That makes perfect sense."
Oh, goody, he's in one of those moods. "That's not what I meant."
"Well, you know, by all means, explain, 'cause I'm not exactly sure what you meant."
"Um, Jenny," I try to say as nicely as possible because I don't want her to feel threatened in any way, "Can you excuse us for a moment?"
I don't even wait for an answer before I hop up and drag Craig over to the Asian-style room divider (a remnant of the Mr. Slave era) set up in the opposite corner.
"Look," I hiss, "if you don't lower your voice, Tenorman is gonna wake up and start screaming at us again. Do you want that?"
"No!" Craig yells.
"Sorry," he mutters. "Well, can you see why I don't want him at rehearsals now? He's just gonna act like he acts now if — God help us — we have to use him."
"Well..." I try to think. "We can set him up in the guys' dressing room with a sleeping bag and earmuffs."
"Do you know how goddamn ridiculous that sounds?"
"I'm just saying, if, not when. There has to be at least one teacher around here who's had some theatre experience..."
"Hey, can we go back over there? Jenny might think we're talking about her."
"Oh... yeah. Okay."
The thing about Jenny is she's been in and out of mental institutions since we were ten. She's gotten a lot better over the years, but she still has the occasional paranoid episode. Craig once jokingly told me that one of his major life goals is get her and Tweek so high they try to out-conspiracy one another, but, then again, his idea of a "laugh-out-loud comedy" is Two Girls, One Cup, so it's completely plausible that he isn't joking about that goal in the slightest.
"Are you guys done making out now?" Jenny asks as we sit back down in our desks.
"Are you done insinuating that Bebe and I have feelings for each other?" Craig retorts.
To be honest, I didn't know Opposite-Gaydar was a thing before I got to know Jenny. I just thought people either had it or they didn't, but hers is just... wrong. So wrong.
In the three years that Craig and I have considered each other friends (being the third-wheel on all my "dates" with Clyde during middle school doesn't count; there's a difference between snarking at and snarking with), he doesn't really talk about girls other than to comment on their questionable choices in fashion. And only on the off-occasion where I hang out with him, Clyde, and Token together (mainly at Tweak Bros or Wingstreet), the topic will sooner or later be brought up. Token's... well, he's pretty much the upper class African-American Ted Mosby. Sure, he'll listen to Clyde brag about that chick from Middle Park he had sex with over the weekend, but he won't hesitate to put in his own two cents about how he just wants to find his soulmate and settle down. Clyde, on the other hand, is Marshall Eriksen with Barney Stinson's libido and Neville Longbottom's knack for getting made fun of. Mostly by Craig or Cartman, who both pretty much make fun of everyone equally. The only real difference is Cartman's a borderline sociopath and Craig has this problem where he sounds completely dull and serious about everything all the time but really isn't. I mean, sometimes it's even tough for Jimmy to tell whether Craig's being sarcastic or not, and he gets, like, every single joke ever.
Wait, what was I talking about?
Oh, yeah. I'm like 90 percent sure Craig's gay.
And not in the "man, this English homework is so fucking gay" way, either. I'm talking total closeted homosexual. Like Tom Cruise, but taller. And not as obvious. And, like, completely different from Craig in every single way possible. Okay. Bad analogy. Shit.
So he hasn't actually said, "I like hot throbbing cocks in and around my mouth," but, I mean, he dresses well, and one of our favorite things to do together is to get Cinnabon at the mall and laugh our asses off at the twelve year olds who run around thinking they're hot shit. And then we usually go look at shoes. So, like, I'm not totally out of line for coming to this conclusion, am I?
Either way, I don't like him "like that." And I doubt he likes me "like that."
"What about Mr. Garris—?"
"No," Craig and I interrupt at the same time.
"He'd turn it into..." I wrinkle my nose trying to think of something accurate to finish the sentence with.
Craig does it for me."...Romeo and His Super Sexy Gardner Julio."
Jenny and I have to cover our mouths to stop from cracking up so loud.
"Oh my God," I manage to say in between gasps of air, "can you imagine all the giant wooden penises we'd have to build during tech?"
Craig's having a hard time keeping a straight face himself. "We'll just borrow some from the Gleeks. I'm sure they won't mind."
Jenny slaps her desk in a momentary lapse of judgment, which causes our lovely substitute to rear his ugly head.
The entire classroom goes silent and the look on Jenny's face screams "bring me my brown pants."
(I can't believe I just made that joke. Wow. I really need to quit hanging out with Craig all the time.)
Tenorman gives a little cough before he starts up again. "If I have to tell you guys to pipe down again, so help me, I will write up every last one of you little shits! I mean it!"
It's so quiet I hear the heater begin to run in the vent twenty feet away from where I'm sitting.
Satisfied that he's instilled the right amount of fear in our hearts, he calms down a little. "Now, go do whatever," Tenorman slurs with a wave of his hand. "Just be quiet about it."
Craig's face is as expressionless as always, but he pops up and starts to walk over to the teacher's desk. He's planning something.
"What are you doing?" I mouth to him.
"Um, Mr. Tenorman?" Craig says in a low voice.
"What do you want, Tucker?"
He flips him the bird.
"Was that quiet enough for you?"
Craig doesn't come back from Mr. Mackey's office, so after the bell rings for us to go home, Jenny and I go out in search of him. That is, we search until we run into Lola in the Commons Area and she will not shut up about Art Club. She just chatters incessantly about how "some of the people in it have no talent at all" and "they don't really get it" and "how they eat meat and have no respect for the real creative aura in the world around us" and something else that I can't identify as English. I try to get a convenient excuse to leave wedged into the conversation edgewise before I lose my mind, but it's not until I spot Wendy coming down the main staircase that I'm rescued. Jenny says she'll catch up with me later.
"Why were you talking to Lola?" Wendy asks, more confused than anything. "I thought you hated her."
"Hate's too strong a word. It's more of a cross between ‘actively dislike' and ‘don‘t give a fuck.'"
"Oh. Right." Wendy looks at her watch. "Well, I have Student Council. I'll talk to you on Facebook or something when I get home."
Before she disappears, I shout, "Do you wanna do something this weekend?"
She turns back. "Maybe. I mean, semifinals are Saturday, so maybe tomorrow night or Sunday—"
"Oh. I... forgot." Honestly, I don't know which semifinals she's talking about. It could be anything, really. Sports? Debate? Hot dog eating competition? Who knows with Wendy. She's always doing something but nobody can definitively say what all she involves herself in.
"Yeah, well, see ya!" She runs off towards the History hallway.
Wendy and I have been best friends since we were in pre-school, and this chaotic whirlwind called high school is the second time in my life where we've started to grow apart. The first time was in fourth grade, when I started to... develop earlier than most of the other girls. It was a combination of her jealousy and the fact that my boobs started conspiring and telling me what to do that tore us apart.
No, really, that wasn't a metaphor. My boobs actually talk. They still do on occasion. Mostly in the middle of the night when they think I can't hear them. They want me to go the way of my mom and my sisters, which is the way I've been trying to avoid: excessive partying, breaking boys' hearts simply because they can, and just making incredibly stupid and shitty decisions with their lives. But somehow they've all come out smelling like a rose on the other end simply because of their looks.
For example: My mom, who cheats on my dad constantly and tells me that I can't multiply 6 times 8 because "they're two different numbers," teaches middle school. Middle school math. My eldest sister Amanda, who legitimately believes homosexuality is a terminal disease, married her high school sweetheart and is currently pregnant with her fourth child and no way to afford it. And my other sister Ashley, who did pretty well in high school but partied her way through college, does photography for this advertising firm in Tokyo. And yet she doesn't even know what the aperture is. Like, that's SLR 101 right there. Ugh.
Such is the curse of the women of my clan. And back when my boobs first started to grow, I didn't know I needed to fight them. It wasn't until I almost tried to kill Wendy over some dumb list we made to get free shoes that I realized that a bitchy bimbo wasn't who I am or who I wanted to be. I was able to make amends with Wendy after that, but even then, due to my busty advisors and familial examples, I decided to keep on acting the part of a "stupid spoiled whore" for four years. I was cheerleading captain, even though I secretly hated it. I dated and used Clyde, who was (and still is) a total sweetheart and definitely not as stupid as everyone seems to think.
And I partied.
Middle school parties aren't the horribly laughable excuses of a get-together usually shown on afterschool specials and ABC Family melodramas. There was some crazy shit going on then. It was kind of like the movie Thirteen only we were all twelve and our lives didn't totally spiral out of control as a result of our actions. Well, mine didn't. Annie's parents grounded her for coming home from my house high as a kite on cough syrup one night, and before we knew it she was shipped off to some weird religious boot camp in Wyoming for three months. When she came back it was like she was an entirely different person. A Stepford Annie, if you will.
But anyway, Wendy, Red, and Annie and I were what you'd call the middle school "popular clique." We were all planning on joining the Choir before I came down with mono and missed that entire month of school where high school registration took place. And Choir members have to take a certain class. When I could finally interact with the outside world again, I found out Mr. Mackey had carelessly put me in all the electives that weren't already filled: Computer Science (which apparently consists of properly turning a computer on and off, as if we didn't already know how), first period Gym/Health, and Theatre Arts. I pleaded and pleaded with him to give me another chance, but neither he nor Gueermo would let me switch classes or audition. This was when Annie, the only one of us four who did get in (Red got rejected and Wendy didn't have time for it on her schedule) started hanging out with the other girls who were accepted: Heidi Turner, her stepsister Sally, Millie Neal, that whole crowd. I became depressed. I quit cheerleading. I broke up with Clyde. All I did was sit in my room and watch Terrance and Phillip reruns.
Then, one night, I heard them again.
"You must destroy them," the left one said. "You must be the alpha female!"
It was then that I realized I don't have to be the person my boobs want me to be, nor do I have to be anything anyone expects me to be, other than myself. That sounds kind of lame, I know, but it was a significant turning point in my life.
I started jogging to the library every day and I quit going to the tanning bed. I still cared about my appearance to an extent, but if I woke up late I wasn't going to spend half an hour picking out an outfit and doing my hair and makeup like I did in middle school. And Clyde and I dated on and off for another two years, but we ended up calling it quits for good last summer.
It turns out Mr. Mackey putting me in Theatre Arts was a blessing in disguise. Acting was, and still is, a perfect outlet to vent all my frustrations with my life. And if I had joined the Choir, I would still be secretly hating my life, and I wouldn't have gotten to know Craig and Jenny and Mr. Slave.
But Wendy... Wendy has always been there for me even if I didn't do all those "great things" my "friends" and family expected me to do. And now that we're drifting apart... I mean, Craig is awesome, but he definitely isn't Wendy.
(And he has a low tolerance for listening to me gripe about my period. It doesn't mean I don't still do it just to gross him out.)
I decide now is a perfect time to text my mom back while I make my way over to the office.
Okay. Don't do anything I wouldn't do. (:
I am so busy feigning nonchalance that I accidentally run into—
"Oh!" My initial reaction is shock, which quickly turns into anger because Kenny "I have herpes but whoops I forgot to mention that fact before I ate you out last summer" McCormick is gawking back at me. "Um, my bad—"
"I wasn't looking—" he explains.
"—Hey, I wasn't either—"
"—If I were I would've moved—"
"I'm sure you would have," I mumble.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Um, I dunno..." I say, shrugging. "I think it means whatever the hell you want it to mean."
"Look, Bebe, I'm..." Kenny pauses and lets out a deep breath. "I thought we said no hard feelings—"
"You said no hard feelings—"
"And then you threw a shoe at me. Yeah, I remember that, but—"
"It's been..." he looks at his fingers and counts a little under his breath. "Six months. And I just—" he stammers a little, then whispers, "I don't want you to be mad at me anymore."
"Kenny, I'm not mad, I'm..." I try to think of the word that best describes my feelings about this ball of confusion Kenny knitted in the pit of my stomach, but I get nothing. "Okay, I guess I'm still a little mad —"
"A little? Jesus, you should have seen the look on your face when you realized who I was—"
"I was surprised! Like... what are you even doing here? Don't you have little kids to deny pizza to unless they whistle?"
"Um..." he tilts his head in the direction of the auditorium. "Choir practice."
"Oh." Time to leave. "Well, I'd love to stay and chat, but... go fuck yourself." I give a sarcastic smile, turn around, and head off towards the office.
"There you are!" I ignore Kenny completely once I spy Craig opening the door to the Office hallway.
As I approach him, he immediately says, "Can you do me a favor and please spare me the lecture I feel a-brewin'—"
"C-Monaaay!" I hear Kenny greet him from thirty feet away.
"I'd tell you to never call me that again, but it wouldn't help," Craig shouts back.
"I've been looking all over for you—" I start.
"Well, I just got out of Mackey's office, so..."
"...And?" The last thing we need is for him to get suspended because standing up to our asshole substitute was apparently more important than saving the Drama Club.
"I asked him to do the play, and he said yes."
My mouth drops open. "Really?"
"...Was that a bad thing?"
"No! Not at all! I'm—" I let out an excited squeal and jump up and down. "I'd hug you, but I know you don't like that."
"Uh... okay. Thanks."
"Can we go get Cinnabon? To celebrate?"
"Yeah, fine. Whose car are we taking?"