Plodding Along

Thursday, November 6th, 2003 • No Comments on Plodding Along

Over 12,000 words.  My wrists ache from carpal tunnel and I hate what I’m writing.  Tell me again why I’m doing this?

Chapter Five below.  It sucks.


Buckler’s was the weirdest thing I’d ever seen.  There were all sorts of medical supplies and equipment in the window and the inside was set up just like a regular pharmacy (but a lot older looking), but in the back along the wall was a counter and several booths.  I’d never heard of a pharmacy having a restaurant in it before, but I didn’t want Kaitlin and the two obnoxious girls to think I was stupid, so I just followed along when they sat in one of the booths.
“Buckler’s has the best milkshakes in the world,” Kaitlin said.  “Right, Mel?”
I finally figured out that Melanie was the blond when she nodded.  “Yeah.”
“Their chili fries are pretty good, too,” Jenny said, almost reluctantly.  “And the veggie burger.  Just stay away from the hotdogs.”  She made a face.
“I know what I want,” Melanie said, standing up.  “Jen?”
“I’ll have the veggie burger and a shake,” Jenny said.
“We have to order at the counter when we’re ready,” Kaitlin explained.  “Do you know what you want?”
I didn’t see a menu in sight and I wasn’t all that hungry.  “Just a chocolate milkshake, I guess.”
“Cool.  Me, too.  I’ll order it.”  Kaitlin followed Melanie to the counter, leaving me alone with Jenny.
“So, what grade are you going in?” I asked.
“Ninth.”  Jenny took a napkin from the silver dispenser on the table and began to shred it.  “Melanie will be in eleventh grade.  I guess you know Kaitlin will be in ninth grade like me.”
I didn’t know that, but I’d figured she was younger than me.  “I’ll be in tenth,” I said.
“Yeah, Kaitlin told us.”  Jenny leaned forward.  “Is it true your dad’s girlfriend is young enough to be your sister?”
“Where did you hear that?” I said, a little louder than I intended.  Two little old ladies at the next table looked over at me.
Jenny shrugged.  “Word gets around.  Your grandmother doesn’t much like your father, does she?”
I had no idea whether Grandma did or didn’t like my father.  And I sure as heck didn’t like the idea that everyone in Truhart knew more about me than I knew about them. 
“It doesn’t really matter,” I said, trying for a breezy tone I didn’t feel.  “I won’t be here forever.  My mother plans to move us back to Miami just as soon as possible.”
I don’t know why I said that, because it wasn’t even close to the truth.  I guess I just didn’t like the idea that people already knew stuff about me.  Let them talk about something I wanted them to talk about� like how I couldn’t wait to move back to Florida.
Jenny pulled another napkin and started shredding.  “Yeah?  I’d love to live in Florida.”
“I miss it a lot,” I confessed.  “Mostly, I miss my best friend and my boyfriend.”
Jenny’s eyes went wide.  “You have a boyfriend?”
I smiled.  I guess that was one thing Grandma didn’t know about me.  “Yeah.  His name is Josh and he’s going to be a junior.”
Kaitlin and Melanie came back to the table then, with a tray full of food and milkshakes.  Kaitlin put the biggest, frothiest chocolate milkshake I’d ever seen in front of me.
“Try it, you’ll love it,” she said.
She was right.  It was positively drool-worthy.  There was no way I could drink the entire thing and still be able to fit into my bikini.
“Julia has a boyfriend,” Jenny said.
Melanie raised her eyebrows, but didn’t say anything.  Kaitlin grinned. 
“Ooooh, that’s so cool.  My mother won’t let me date for at least another year.  Does he drive?”
I nodded, clutching my forehead as an ice cream headache assaulted me.  “Yeah, he’s got a great car, too.  And old Mustang he helped his father restore.”
“That’s awesome.  Melanie has a boyfriend, too.”
I looked at Melanie, who just shrugged.  “It’s no big deal, we’ve been dating for a year.”
“He’s so cute, though,” Kaitlin said.  “You met him, Julia.”
“I did?”
“Yeah, at your grandmother’s house.  Remember Wade?”
Did I remember Wade?  I couldn’t help but make a face.  “Oh yes, I remember him.  He got soda all over my new blouse.”
Melanie laughed, but it wasn’t a nice laugh.  “He said you were staring at him and spilled it yourself.”
No wonder Melanie was being so rude.  She thought I was after her boyfriend.
“Listen, Mel,” I said.  “Josh is the only guy I’m interested in.  Even if Wade is cute, and I’m not saying he is because I wasn’t really paying that much attention, I have no interest in dating a guy from TruHick, Virginia.”
“Then why don’t you go back to Florida and Mickey Mouse?”  Melanie nudged Jenny.  “I’ll meet you at Aunt Belva’s,” she said.  “I can’t stand snobs.”
Melanie flounced out of Buckler’s and the three of us just sat there drinking our milkshakes.
Finally, Jenny said, “Melanie is just a little ticked because Wade was talking about you.”
I didn’t know which bothered me more, that some girl I didn’t know already didn’t like me or that the jerk who’d spilled my soda had been talking about me.  “I’m really not interested in him,” I said.
“Don’t mind Melanie, she’s jealous of everyone,” Kaitlin said.  “Up until last year she had braces and brown hair, so she’s still not used to being cute.  Then you come along looking like some beach bunny and she doesn’t know whether to spit or go fishing.”
I had no idea what that meant, but I got the gist of it.
      My cell phone chirped just then.
  “That’s so cool,” Kaitlin said.  “I’ve wanted a cell phone for ages and Mom won’t get me one.”
I checked the display, expecting my mother, and saw that it was Jeanette.  “Hey chica!”
  “Hey.  I told you I’d call you today.”  Somehow she didn’t sound so happy about it.  “What’s up?”
“Not much, just having lunch at Buckler’s with a couple of the girls,” I said, as if I did it all the time.  It hurt that I’d hardly heard from Jeanette since I left Florida.  Let her think I wasn’t missing her too much.  “What’s up with you?”
“Oh nothing, really.  Josh and I are going to the mall to look for jeans.  Express is having a sale.”
I couldn’t help it, jealousy kind of overwhelmed me.  “You’ve been spending a lot of time with Josh lately.”  I was annoyed with myself as soon as I said it.  I tried to make it sound like I was joking.  “I mean, people are going to start talking about you two.”
  “You told me to keep an eye on him for you,” Jeanette said.  “Well, anyway, he said to say hi.  We’re on our way out now.”
  “Yeah, I need to go, too.”  Truth was, I hadn’t so much as looked at Kaitlin and Jenny since Jeanette called.  “Call me later?”
“I’ll try.  Mom is nagging me about my minutes, so I may not be able to.” 
“Okay.  Cool.  I’ll call you,” I said, trying very hard not to get angry.  “If that’s okay.”
“Sure,” Jeanette said.  “Have fun!”
  “You, too.”
I hung up and smiled at Kaitlin.  “That was my best friend Jeanette.”
Kaitlin and Jenny exchanged a look.  “Are you guys fighting or something?”
  “No, I just haven’t talked to her too much lately.”
Jenny had shredded napkins until she had a pile next to her milkshake glass.  “So who’s Josh?  Is that your boyfriend?”
“Sounds like your friend is keeping him company,” Kaitlin added.
I did not need two ninth grades questioning me.  I tried for a cool, I-don’t-care attitude.  “Oh, it’s not like that.  I trust them both completely.”
They exchanged another one of those knowing looks I was starting to get tired of.  I was just thankful Melanie had left.  I couldn’t imagine what she would have said.  Of course, Jenny was sure to run off and tell her all about it.  Just what I needed, an eleventh grade snob gossiping about me and my boyfriend as soon as school started.  So what if Josh wasn’t really my boyfriend?  If I hadn’t moved, we’d definitely be boyfriend and girlfriend by now.  Once again, I was reminded why I hated my parents so much.
“Well, that’s cool that you trust them,” Kaitlin said.  She obviously thought I was lying, but I appreciated her support.  It was nice having a sort-of friend in Truhart, even if she was a year younger.
“So, what do you guys do around here for fun?” I asked, hoping to distract them from Jeanette and Josh. 
“This is pretty much it,” Kaitlin said.  “Truhart is boring.”
Jenny nodded in agreement.  “What’s Miami like?”
“Hot, I said.  “And crowded, but there’s a ton of stuff to do.  Malls, movies, the boardwalk, the beach.  Stuff like that.”
  “You swim in the winter?” Jenny asked, pushing all her shredded napkins to the end of the table.
“Sure.  When it’s too cold to swim in the ocean, I swim in my pool at home.  It’s heated.”  I remembered then that my home had been sold, along with the pool.  I didn’t have a pool anymore, just a ratty old house that smelled and probably was haunted.
“What’s it like to have your parents be divorced?” Kaitlin asked.
The divorce wasn’t final yet, but I wasn’t naive enough to think it wouldn’t be.  After all, Dad was living with Rachel and Mom had moved to Virginia.  I doubted very seriously there was any hope of them getting back together.
“It’s okay.  Two houses to go to, two bedrooms of my own,” I said, though Dad and Rachel hadn’t yet turned the guest room into my room.  “Plus, they feel guilty about the divorce, so I get more presents at birthdays and stuff.”  That last part was just what my other friends told me.  “Doesn’t anyone get divorced in Truhart?”
Jenny laughed.  “No, but they should.”
“There’s the Smiths.  They got divorced when I was a little kid,” Kaitlin said.  He got remarried right away to a woman with three kids.  Do you think your dad will have more kids?”
I hadn’t even thought about that.  Rachel was definitely young enough to have kids.  In fact, she was the same age my mother was when I was born.  I’d done the math once.  The thought that I might have a little brother or sister someday made me feel weird.  I guess it would be cool, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a big sister.
“I doubt it,” I said.
Jenny smiled.  “You never know.  He might have three or four and then you won’t have a room anymore.”
  “It doesn’t really matter.  I’ll be going to college in two years and living in the dorm.”
“That’s cool.  I’ll probably end up at Truhart Community College, still living with my dorky parents,” Kaitlin said.  “Where are you going?”
“University of Miami,” I told her.  “Pre-law.”
“So, you’re never going to leave Miami?” Jenny asked, blowing her shredded napkins across the table at me like some weird dandelion.
“Not once I get back there,” I said.  “I’m never leaving again.”
Jenny and Kaitlin went off to meet Melanie at the hair salon, but I decided I’d had enough of Melanie for one day.  I wandered around for a couple of hours, rummaging through the antique stores.  Once I got past the smell of old stuff, I decided it was pretty cool purses I found a couple of cool vintage purses I wanted.  Maybe I could talk my mother into buying me one for a back-to-school gift.
At the grocer, I found my favorite fruit juice and the dried pears my mother liked.  I took both to the register and the man at the register smiled at me.  He was around Mom’s age and reminded me a little bit of my Uncle Robert. 
  “You must be Julia Carmichael.  Welcome to Truhart.  I’m Sam Yolen.”
  I tried not to roll my eyes.  I was starting to feel like I was on one of those reality television shows where everyone knows what’s going on but me.  It was worse than having a weblog.  Which reminded me, I needed to update mine.  It was going to be hard having exciting things to talk about in Truhart, but at least it was something to do.
“Yes.  I feel like everyone knows me and I don’t know anyone,” I said, handing him my money.
He laughed.  “I suppose that’s true.  It’s hard to do anything in a small town without someone knowing.  Also, your grandmother—”  He trailed off, the tips of his ears turning bright red.
“Has a big mouth?” I finished for him.
He laughed again and I decided I liked him.  “Something like that.  But don’t tell her I said so.  She was just so happy your mother and you moved here, she couldn’t help herself.”
My grandmother, happy about us moving to Truhart?  It didn’t seem likely, judging by how she’d acted since we got there.  I didn’t tell Sam that, though.  “I’m not sure I’m going to like living in a small town where everyone knows stuff about me.”
Sam handed me my bag and gave me a little wave.  “Truhart isn’t so bad,” he said.  “You might even like it here, if you give it a chance.”
I didn’t respond to that because I didn’t think it was true.  I waved as I left.  “Thanks.”
I met my mother back in front of the town hall at five.  She was already there, waiting for me as I walked up.
“Did you have fun?” she asked.
I shrugged.  “It was okay.  I ran into Kaitlin and a couple of her friends.”
“Oh, that’s nice.  You’ll have some friends when you go back to school.”
I sincerely doubted Melanie was going to be my friend and I wasn’t too sure about Jenny, either.  “None of them are in the same grade, so I’ll probably never see them.”  I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach.  It was going to be so weird being the new kid in school.  I’d had the same group of friends practically since kindergarten.
“I’m sure you’ll make friends.  You’ve always been a popular girl.”
“I’m popular because I’ve known my friends forever.  This is going to be different.  Everyone already has their friends and I’m starting over.”  I stared out the window, trying not to cry.
I had already memorized the drive from downtown Truhart (why they called it downtown, I didn’t know, since it was more like a couple of streets than the downtown I associated with Miami) to Grandma’s house.  It wasn’t far and there wasn’t much to look at in between.  A few houses, some farms with cows, some crops.  I had no idea what they grew in Truhart, because the only thing I recognized was corn stalks. 
“Everyone can use more friends and I know you’ll be one of the most popular girls in school before you know it,” Mom said, giving me the same speech she’d given me a thousand times since the day she announced we were moving to Virginia.  I didn’t believe her then, and I didn’t believe her now.  What did she know about having to move and make new friends?
“Whatever,” I said, wanting to end the conversation and just forget where I was for awhile.
For a change, my mother didn’t keep rattling on about getting to know people and facing new challenges.  I wasn’t sure if it was because she knew I was sick of hearing it or because she didn’t really believe it herself.  As far as I could see, she wasn’t any better off than I was.

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