“Here we are! Home sweet home!”
At the sound of my father’s overly cheerful voice, I glanced up from my laptop and away from the English paper I had yet to finish, and looked out the back window of my family’s Escalade. Sure enough, the Welcome to Roget Hills, Michigan, sign had passed us by. The vacation was officially over, and we were home.
It was sort of bittersweet, I guess. I was happy to be home and ready to see my friends, but my family had just spent the second half of Christmas break in Antigua, where it was 80 degrees and we had barely seen a cloud the entire time there. Here, the skies were milky white, and at least two inches of snow already covered the ground with more still falling.
And being home meant I also had to face the reality of my unfinished English paper. Luckily, the flight from Antigua to Detroit was five hours and I’d had enough time to get a start on my paper. The book, The Great Gatsby, I’d read in about four nights in my family’s bungalow, and I had to admit, it had been a really good book. But seriously, who was going to write and entire four-page paper on The Great Gatsby while vacationing in Antigua?!
I wasn’t really worried about it, though. I did my best work when pushed for time. I was a last-minute person and it usually worked to my advantage.
Next to me, my twelve-year-old sister, Olivia, yanked her ear phones from her ears and looked out the window. “Thank God. I am so glad to be back.”
My mother turned to face us. “Liv, didn’t you have a fun trip?”
“I had a great trip,” Olivia said. “But I missed my friends.”
My mother turned to me. “How about you, Sophia? Did you have fun?”
“Yes,” I sighed dramatically. “In fact, I wouldn’t object one bit if daddy turned right around and drove us back to the airport. I could use another two weeks in the Caribbean.”
My mother chuckled, tucking a dark curl behind her ear. “I wouldn’t either. I’m happy to be home, but I would certainly trade going back to work Monday for another two weeks of blue skies, and eighty-degree weather.”
“I’ll trade with you, mom,” Olivia offered. “You go to school for me Monday, and I’ll totally go to the office for you.”
My father smiled. “Sounds like a good deal, Kori. You should take it.”
I just laughed. “No offense, Liv, but mom would lose half her clientele in one hour, the other half would lose their minds and go torch the town.”
“Sophia,” my mother lightly scolded.
My mother was a psychiatrist, with her very own office in Roget Hills. Honestly, I didn’t blame my sister. I would trade places with my mom, too. Listen to people whine about their problems all day or deal with tenth grade?
The question pretty much answered itself, right?
I stared out the window as my father navigated the SUV through the picturesque, snow-covered streets of Roget Hills until the organized city-scape turned into a tree-lined highway, heading back out of city limits north toward Makadewa Lake.
Finally, my dad turned into our long, winding driveway. Our house, a larger-than-necessary-for-four-people log-cabin-style home designed by my dad himself, sat at the top of a small hill, on a tree-spotted lot, and was a whole ten-yard walk from the Makadewa Lake. It was a world away from Antigua, but it was home.
“And here we are,” my father announced happily, easing into the garage next to their white Mercedes.
“Hey,” Olivia said, easing her seatbelt off. “Now that we’re home, can I go to the mall with Maddie?”
“Olivia, we aren’t even in the house, yet,” my mother said. “You have about two weeks of unpacking to do.”
Yay, I thought, reminding myself of my own packing as I slid across the leather seats and out of the SUV. My Ugg-clad feet touched the garage floor with an echoed pop, then I walked around to the back of the car with my parents, and grabbed my two suitcases.
Into the house through the kitchen, and I was home. I rolled my suitcases behind me across the hardwood floor, and looked around, still a little nostalgic for the summer-like island I’d just come from, but happy for the familiarity of normal.
The house was dark. It was a little after one in the afternoon, but the sun wasn’t really out, and there were no lights on in the house. Our twice-a-week housekeeper had dropped by, well, twice a week, since we’d been gone, so despite having not been lived in for eleven days, the house was clean, and virtually dust free, leaving us with nothing to do but unpack.
And of course, for me, finish that nagging English paper. Ugh.
It took some time and effort, and a little help from my dad, but finally, I made it up the stairs and into my bedroom, which I hadn’t seen for a week, but obviously our housekeeper, Penelope, had. It smelled freshly of lemon, which meant Penelope had recently cleaned up.
It honestly felt good to see my room again. I guess it was like a normal teenage girl’s bedroom, only, since my dad had designed it himself, I’d had a little say in some features I wanted. My walls were fairly plain, hewed logs, unpainted to keep that log cabin feel the rest of the house had, and were covered in posters of my favorite athletes, and the movie posters for Titanic and Casablanca, my favorites.
My desk was built into the wall, underneath a dormer window that jutted out the side of the house. My tall, chest of drawers was made of cherry, to match the dresser, and bed, and was covered in cross-country and softball trophies and plaques.
I plopped down on my bed, kicking off my shoes and reluctantly staring at my suitcases. Maybe if I stared hard enough, I’d develop telekinesis and I could unpack from right there on my bed.
Yeah. Of course.
I sure wished Penelope was there, now, because unpacking was the last thing I felt like doing. Even worse, since it was still only January in Michigan, the summer clothes had to be put away in the back of the closet, where they would lay, lonely and forgotten until summer.
But I could do that later.
I grabbed my phone, eager to get back in touch with my friends. First, I dialed my best friend since first grade, Cambree Hirsh’s, number. She answered on the second ring.
“You better be calling to tell me your ass is in Roget Hills,” was Cambree’s greeting.
I had to laugh. “I’m actually calling you from my bedroom. We just got home. Come see me, please!”
“Definitely! I’ll be there in ten!”
So I hung up the phone. No need to rush into unpacking if Cambree was coming over. I’d enlist her to help tackle the unpacking with me when she got here.
While I waited for Cambree, I opened my laptop and logged into Facebook. I hadn’t been online in three whole days, and I was eager to see what was new. Not much, from what I could tell.
Rosie Steinman was advertising the upcoming spring musical auditions, Becca Peters was posting endless pictures of cute kittens and puppies, and posters from her many charities. Boys were either angry or happy about the latest college football and basketball games.
Scrolling further, I came across the usual; girls making declarations of “I love my baby!” Other people crying about school starting tomorrow, others posting song lyrics, same old same old.
I quickly updated my own status, a simple, Vacation’s over. L
It wasn’t long before I heard the distinct sound of an IM receipt. Glancing down, I saw a message from my other best friend, Jenna Tuck.
Jenna: Sophia! You’re home?!
Me: Yes! I just got here. Haven’t even unpacked, yet.
Jenna: How was Antigua?
Me: Amazing. Did you see my pics?
Jenna: Uhm, affirmative!
I rolled my eyes. Jenna didn’t say yes or no anymore. It was affirmative and negative. She’d picked up on that weird habit from her new boyfriend, Tony, who was a member of J.R.O.T.C. at school. She said she was “training to be an ARMY wife.”
Right, because I had the utmost confidence that Jenna and Tony, both fifteen, were getting married, only two weeks into their relationship.
But that was Jenna. She didn’t go from boy to boy, like people said she did. She just fell way too quickly for the boys she did date, and it usually caused a crash and burn. She hated to be single, so naturally, she found a new boyfriend within weeks of the break up. Her quick rebound and short flings led to rumors, started by the newspaper editor/school gossip queen, Becca Peters when she wasn’t advocating puppy and kitten abuse committees and various other charities.
Jenna: So what are you doing?
Me: Staring at my suitcase, hoping it’ll unpack itself.
Jenna: LOL. If only. Want to hang out later?
Sophia: Yeah, I’ll text you when I’m done unpacking.
I didn’t want to tell Jenna that Cambree was on her way over. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to spend time with her, it was just that Cambree would be hard enough to finish an English paper around and if Jenna got involved, the three of us would definitely find something more appealing to do than write that paper.
Like go get root canals, maybe?
I heard a door slam outside my window and already knew Cambree was there. I quickly ended my conversation with Jenna, and minutes later, Cambree appeared in my bedroom door, shoeless, and wearing a big, puffy black coat and red skinny jeans, emphasis on the skinny.
Cambree was thin, like a model. I thought maybe she could have been a model, except, she was too short. Only an inch taller than me, Cambree stood at 5’5. But she had the build for it. She was thin, but not boney. She was gorgeous, too, with the tightest, bounciest golden-brown curls that always smelled like her fruity shampoo, and big, round amber eyes. I wasn’t jealous, because I was comfortable with myself, but I knew plenty of girls who were.
“Oh my gosh, you’re tan!” she declared. I glanced down at my bronzed forearms, visible where I had pushed the sleeves of my white t-shirt up. Next thing I knew, Cambree had tackled me with a hug.
“Next time you take a Caribbean vacation, I am so going!”
I laughed and hugged her back. “You bet.”
I watched as Cambree shrugged out of her jacket, sporting a nice off-the-shoulder black cashmere sweater. “So, why are you so dressed up?”
Cambree glanced down at her outfit and when she looked up, she smiled. “Oh. I’m going to a party. Want to come?”
“Uhm, Taryn Hyatt. Please come, Sophie! I really want to go and it soo won’t be fun without my best friend.”
“Taryn?” I asked in surprise. “How did you get invited to Taryn’s party.”
I hadn’t meant any offense by that comment, and it didn’t look like Cambree had taken any. But Taryn was one of the more popular senior girls at Roget Hills High. She was famous for her parties, and they weren’t exactly exclusive or invitation-only, but underclassmen would never venture into that world without an invitation.
Cambree just smiled proudly. “Laurel invited me. She told me I could bring you.”
Right, I thought, immediately wanting to roll my eyes. Because Cambree was now sooo close with popular superpower Laurel Mackenzie.
Honestly, I did not want to go to this party. Well, not really.
OK, so really, I would have loved to go to this party, but I was hardly in Laurel and Taryn’s crowd. I wouldn’t even know how to act. The only reason—and I’d never say this out loud to Cambree—Cambree was in Laurel’s circle now was because Cambree’s older brother was dating Laurel. She’d been extra sweet to her ever since she’d started coming around Cambree’s house.
“I don’t know, Cambree,” I said, honestly.
“Sophia, please. I don’t want to go alone.”
“Then don’t go.”
Cambree scoffed. “Sophia, come on! This is like, every underclassman’s dream! To go to one of Taryn’s parties. We would have stories.”
I made a face, looking back at my laptop, then at my unpacked suitcase. “Cambree, I would love to. But I have two pages left to write on my English paper that’s due Monday, and two suitcases to unpack, then put away for summer.”
“And one more day of Christmas break. Do it tomorrow.”
I groaned, then turned away when I saw that signature puppy-dog face Cambree wore. She did this whenever she wanted to talk me into something I really didn’t want to do.
And as usual, I gave. “OK, fine. I’ll ask.”
“But!” I held my index finger up, a move I knew I’d inherited from my mother whenever a “but” was involved in something she was agreeing to. “I have to ask first. I’m not making any promises. And I’m not going unless my unpacking is done and my paper is done.”
Cambree poked out her bottom, gloss-coated lip. “Aw. But Sophie!”
“I can’t enjoy myself knowing I have all this crap to do,” I explained. Which was true enough. I hated the idea of having to finish this paper and unpack. But at the same time, I really just didn’t want to go. I also really hated that Cambree was making me feel obligated to go. But that was me. I was a natural people-pleaser. A pacifist. I guess you could say I was pretty weak-willed, and hated saying no to people, even when it meant I was always putting others’ needs and wants before mine. Always. And people knew it, too. And they certainly took advantage.
A knock came to my closed door, then my mother pushed it open. “Hey, girls. Sophia, are you working on your unpacking?”
“Yes,” I said. “Shortly.”
“Hey, Mrs. Martin!” Cambree said, smiling.
“Hi, Cambree. How have you been?”
“Great! Heard your trip was fun.”
“Too fun,” my mom chuckled. “Not sure I wanted to come home.”
“I hear ya,” Cambree said. Then she grinned at me. I rolled my eyes in return.
“Mom,” I started. “Uhm, there’s like a party tonight that Cambree’s going to, and I was just wondering if, you know, since my new semester is gonna be kind of tough, maybe I could go for a little while tonight?”
My mom just shrugged. “As long as you’re finished unpacking, and you’re finished with your paper you can go.”
I nodded, trying to be excited, but really, I wasn’t. But being the good best friend I was, the loyal friend I was, I would work hard to finish everything so I could go to the party.
My mom walked out, leaving us alone.
“What are you looking at?” Cambree asked. “Get your ass up. I’m helping you unpack.”
A/N::Please tell me what you think!! Good or bad, I don't care!! I love to hear your thoughts and opinions!!! :) This chapter is a little slow, but keep in mind, it's only the first chapter and an introduction. It doesn't stay so slow :)Thanks forreading!!!