At lunch, Lauryn isn’t here right away when Leticia and I reach the English room. This is the first time that the two of us have been alone together since what happened at my house. We haven’t talked about it any further, though I wish that we had. The silence between us is just so… awkward. And it’s all my fault. I shouldn’t have said what I did, but I can’t take my words back now. The two of us aren’t even looking at each other- we’re just staring off into different directions. I need to talk to her sometime- but how can I talk to her when I don’t even know why I said what I did? Ugh. When I see Lauryn walk into the room without her lunch tray, I know that something’s up and immediately push all thoughts of Leticia with her hair down out of my head.
“What’s up?” I ask Lauryn as she sits down across from us. That’s when she bursts out crying.
“My dad forgot to put money in my lunch account so I don’t get to have any food today. I was going to ask him to do it this morning, but he was so angry and just ranted to me. None of it made any sense- I think he might have been drunk.”
“That’s not even the whole story,” she says angrily. Leticia and I finally look at each other. Why is she mad at us? Neither of us have talked to her all morning. We even sat in silence on the bus. Then Lauryn realizes how confused we are. “You guys don’t know, do you?” We shake our heads no.
“My dad went to the nightclub really late last night. I’m guessing that’s where he got drunk at. Part of the rambling that he did was about your brothers- they were both there. They had used fake ID’s to get in, and my dad threatened to call them out on it. Then he started yelling and accusing them of a whole bunch of really bad things, and I tuned out what he was saying.”
“I-I did hear the front door slam late last night, but I didn’t think anything of it,” Leticia replies. “The wind blows it open sometimes- it won’t stay shut on its own- so the noise is pretty normal. But it could’ve easily been Rory.”
Lauryn nods, then turns to me as if she’s expecting an explanation for my brother’s behavior. The thing is, I have no explanation. I had my earbuds in, volume turned up, as I tried to drown all of my thoughts in music. “I- I’m sorry,” is all I can say. Leticia gives Lauryn all of her food, but I’m hungry enough that I quickly devour all of mine. I think I just won the “worst friend ever” award. The rest of lunch passes in silence.
When I get home that afternoon, I hear the sound of splintering wood and run towards the sound, wondering what’s going on. When I reach the nursery, I find Mom standing triumphantly over the broken dollhouse. “Why?” I ask, and she turns around.
“Ask your brother. He’s the one that skipped school.”
“You mean James?”
“Do not be ridiculous. James is a good boy who would never tarnish our name like that.”
“James plays with the dollhouse more than Andrew ever does. All you’re doing is punishing him unfairly for something that he didn’t do!”
“This isn’t punishment- it just means that James has one less distraction from his true path of being an artist and carrying on the family name.”
“You’re only hurting him- did you know that most of his drawings are of things that he acts out with the dolls? Of course you don’t. I bet that you’ve never even stepped into his and Andrew’s room before. One wall is covered with James’ drawings. They’re the most original things I’ve ever seen. I bet that none of your children will ever run up to you as excitedly as James does when he’s completed a new drawing.”
“That’s good, because I don’t want to see some amateur crayon drawing.”
“You don’t even care! Did you know that Edward went out to a nightclub last night using a fake ID? Would you even care if I did the same thing?”
“Edward is an adult, so he can do what he wants. You are not, so you would be grounded.”
All I can do is stare at this woman who claims to be my mother but doesn’t act like one. I’m pretty sure that they’re supposed to care and support, but those are two things that this one certainly doesn’t do.
I find Andrew sitting on the patio doing his homework. I know that he’s a good kid, even if he did steal some of James’ paint so he could have black hair. He loves running around and being wild and crazy- that’s why he made Edward give him ear piercings. I tried to talk him out of it by explaining what could happen if it went wrong, but he wouldn’t listen. He’s a stubborn kid.
“Hey Andrew,” I say as I approach him.
“Yes?” he replies without looking up from his homework.
“Mom says that you didn’t go to school today. Is that true?”
I sigh, hoping that he has a good reason for this. “Care to tell me what you did instead?”
He looks up at me with the biggest grin on his face.
“I had my initiation into Knights of the Hedge today.”
I’m confused for the second time today.
“I had to go deep enough into the hedge maze in Windenburg and find my way out again. Once I did it, I was in.”
“You went where?” I ask, hoping that I heard him wrong. He ignores my question.
“Then I started my training with Sir Jacques. He’s the leader of the Knights. I won’t actually become a fully-fledged Knight until I finish my training. He’s teaching me about thoughtfulness in approaching a problem. He said that one thing he noticed while I was running the maze is that I went by instinct and not logic. He said that anyone who’s going to find the center of it needs to use logic.”
“What’s at the center of the maze?”
“No one knows- that’s why we’re trying to get there.”
“Anyways, next I met Dame Ashley. She has that really weird title because she’s in training to be the next leader. Once Sir Jacques passes on, she’ll become the leader and we’ll call her Lady Ashley instead. She’s not as strict as Sir Jacques but I’m not allowed to be trained by her because she isn’t the leader yet.”
“Before I left for the day, Sir Jacques taught me the secret handshake, but I’m not going to show you what it is since you’re not a member.”
The whole thing seems weird to me, but I trust him when he says that it’s perfectly safe and that nothing bad happened.
Later, just after sundown, I get a Snap from Leticia. It’s a selfie, and the caption says that there’s a party at the Chalet Gardens. After googling what the Chalet Gardens is, I figure out that the party is happening at the Von Haunt Estate in Windenburg. It’s not too far of a drive by car, so I get Edward to take me in exchange for not telling Dad about what he did last night. I have no idea what to wear to a party, so I throw on a dress that I wouldn’t dare wear to school and use accessories and make-up to make the ensemble look a bit fancier. If I need to, I can always take some things off.
When I arrive, I follow the dull thud of the bass around the mansion. The party isn’t too big, and it looks like Leticia and I are the only teens here. Edward says that he’ll stay at the party until I’m ready to go home, then wanders off. That really only leaves me with Leticia to hang out with since I’m not going to talk to any strangers. I join her in dancing, which feels really awkward to me. I would rather stand on the side and watch everything happen around me, but every time I try to walk away from the makeshift dance floor Leticia notices and waves me back over.
As the night continues on, Leticia starts acting weirder and weirder. She keeps giving me these looks that make me feel funny. I’m not sure how to describe what it is that I’m feeling- it’s almost like I’m sick, but not really, and I can’t seem to think straight. The only thing that keeps me grounded is the rhythm of dancing.
After awhile I start to feel tired, so I head over to the bar. The mixologist takes one look at me and knows that I’m not old enough to have a drink, so she hands me a bowl of generic-brand chips instead. The only open place to sit is on a bench next to two strangers, one of which looks furious, but I just need to sit down.
After the two strangers have left, Leticia dances her way over to me. She’s not acting so strangely now and instead starts telling me jokes, and I start laughing. She’s the best thing in this night.