By Peyton Freng
“Kayla! Kayla!” my best friend, Blaine, yelled from the opposite end of the hallway.
“Blaine!” I called as I pushed through a swarm of middle school students to reach my friend with long, straight, black hair and shockingly blue eyes.
She smiled at me, adjusting her old, pink tee shirt advertising some band I’d never heard of from the ‘60s. “No school uniform?” I inquired, shocked. Not wearing the school uniform was a serious sign of rebellion at DalphHorn Jr. High that usually ended with suspension.
“Nope!” she laughed and followed me to my rusted blue locker. “Want to come to my house?”
“Sure, but I have to call my mom first,” I replied, exchanging the books that were in my arms for new ones. “Shouldn’t you call your mom to tell her I’m coming over?” I asked when she didn’t pull out her phone. Before I closed my locker, I studied my blonde hair and hazel eyes.
“No, it’s fine,” Blaine gestured with her hand like she was brushing away a obnoxious fly.
I sighed. Knowing Blaine, this couldn’t end well. I closed my locker and took out my phone. After a brief conversation with my mother and a gossip-filled walk home, we got to Blaine’s house and we heard screaming.
“BLAINE! Did we talk about a guest?” her mother boomed as soon as she spotted me. Feeling embarrassed and rather rude for not being invited, I stood in the doorway, as quiet and still as a frightened mouse.
“No,” Blaine replied calmly, walking into her house, but I stood, frozen, in the doorway.
“Then why is there a guest?” she was even more enraged when Blaine acted as if it was nothing. I watched Blaine’s mom with wide eyes, her tattooed arms were crossed and her booted feet were planted firmly on the tile.
“Because I invited her over,” Blaine threw her backpack on the floor and it landed in with a satisfied thud. She started to lead me to her room, but I would not budge.
“BLAINE!” her mother screamed, “She’s going home!” she controlled her voice but I could tell she was holding back a frustrated bellow, “Sorry, Kayla, I’ll drive you home.”
“Thank you,” I said in a soft voice barely above a whisper and rushed to Blaine’s mom’s Volkswagon.
When an awkwardly silent drive home was finally finished and I had finished my homework, I went to bed.
The next morning on the steps outside school, I saw Blaine. She was dressed in a glittery tee and ripped jeans. I waved, tugging on my uncomfortable, itchy uniform.
“Hi,” I smiled, but my face portrayed unmistakable disappointment.
“Sorry about yesterday. My mom can be so rude! But, hey, check this out!” he voice fell to a whisper as she pulled out a box of cigarettes. The box looked too innocent to be dangerous but I still felt cautious.
I gasped, “Blaine!” I yelped and I suddenly felt sick. If Blaine and I were caught with cigarettes we would easily be expelled.
Blaine smiled casually, ignoring my frantic actions, and put one in her mouth. She lit it, the flame erupted in a flash, then it was just a little ring of flickering orange with interchanging hues of yellow and red on the end of the cigarette. “Try one!” she urged, holding out a nearly empty box. Were all of the absent cigarettes ones that she had already smoked?
“Blaine! That’s horrible!” I gasped.
She blew out a puff of smoke that swirled before her pale face then disappeared into the cool, air. She gave me a wicked smile, “It’s good,” she held the box out farther, a tempting, red lighter in her hand.
I shook my head and pushed the box away, “No way!” but part of me felt I should take one.
“Just think about it! You live alone with your mom. You don’t see you brother or dad anymore!” she shook the box, “This can help you feel better!” she explained in a harsh tone that was surprisingly convincing.
Then, I was furious with my parents for deciding maybe marriage wasn’t for eternity. I was angry at my mom for living alone with me. I was fuming when I thought about my dad leaving us, and enraged when I thought of Flinn living with Dad. I took the box and lighter from Blaine and lit it. I inhaled and smoke filled my lungs, my reaction was instantaneous coughing and hacking. The oddest part was that, I like it. My throat was on fire, but so were my lungs. I blew out the smoke and breathed in more. My head wasn’t on my body, it was somewhere else, I could only feel the thrilling burn of the smoke as it cycled through my body.
“See!” Blaine grinned as a smile spread across my face. “But, if anyone sees we are totally busted,” she added.
I nodded and blew out another puff of the toxic-smelling, gray fog when the bell rang. In a frantic rush, I threw the cigarette on the ground and bolted to class. I sat in my desk, filled with doodles and graffiti, ignoring the teacher. I was imagining another cigarette between my lips instead of a pencil in my hand. Then, a blank sheet, that was unforgiving, merciless, judgmental, and cruel, was on my desk. It tormented me with black lines and unknown answers. I swallowed hard, awaiting my fate.
“I hope you all studied! This will be the most challenging test of the year and will count for forty percent of your final grade for this quarter,” Mr.Malmon exclaimed, interrupting my thoughts. He added with dry-humor, “No pressure!”
I groaned, I hadn’t studied, but I could probably remember some of the things we had learned in class. But when I looked at the test pencil poised to write, I couldn’t grab the answers. My head was still swimming from the thrilling experience with the cigarette. I was very dizzy, but I managed to put down a few, very general, answers that I hoped would at least get me a C. I passed my test forward when the teacher alerted that we were out of time. I buried my face in my hands, cursing softly.
The bell rang and I ran to the hallway to find Blaine and tell her about the test. She was walking with Tiana and Abby when I finally spotted her.
“Hi guys,” I smiled and joined their small group. We moved slowly through a sea of students that poured into their next classes.
“Hi Kayla,” they murmured and continued with their quiet conversation.
“Just do it!” Blaine groaned, rolling her blue eyes.
“No way! It’s totally bad for you! I can’t believe you, or Kayla, would do something so disgusting and stupid!” Abby protested, brushing her curly, brown hair from her green eyes, Tiana nodded, long, black curls bouncing, over a grimace on her face.
Confused, which may have been because of the cigarette, I asked, “What are you guys talking about?”
“Smoking!” Tiana glowered at me, her face looked similar to Mr.Malmon’s when I passed my test forward.
The bell rang again and the group peeled apart, darting to our next classes. I went to my desk, thinking, Blaine wanted Abby and Tiana to smoke too? Why wouldn’t they? When I did it, it was great… Blaine convinced me pretty easily, why couldn’t she convince my other friends? For the rest of the day, these thoughts rolled around in my head like waves of questions that would probably never be answered.
When I went home, my mom met me at the front door, and I smiled half-heartedly, but she didn’t seem to notice. “Hi Kayla! How was school?”
“Good. Uh… for homework,” I lied quickly, “we need to know people’s points of view on smoking. What’s yours?”
“Well, when I was a bit older than you, I smoked. It ruined my friendships, hurt my grades, and my family never seemed the same anymore,” she sighed, clearly not proud of herself, “not to mention my health.”
I studied her face, the worried expression, painfully dull eyes, and a pale, drained skin. I knew if I took another cigarette from Blaine, it wouldn’t help take away the pain of my parent’s divorce, it would only hurt me. “Thanks,” I smiled weakly and ran to my room, planning what I had to say to Blaine tomorrow.
The next day, I gathered my courage when Blaine waved at me with a mischievous, yet friendly, grin. I focused on my mother’s words, my life, and Blaine’s life. I took a deep breath, my hands shaking uncontrollably. “Blaine, we have to talk,” I sighed finally, my stomach twisting, and I let my courage pour out. I talked about everything I had planned on saying and more. My voice was unsure and full of hesitation, my eyes were squeezed shut so I couldn’t see Blaine’s face. When my eyes opened, I knew from Blaine’s face that we could never be friends again. I filled my lungs with fresh, clean air and walked, slowly, away.