Today I am wear what I want and I am going to act how I want. No more people pleasing for a miniscule feeling of being well liked. Screw that.
Melissa Stetson quickly blow-dried her golden locks and removed her contacts. She slid her rimless, silver glasses onto her nose and walked out of her bathroom into her bedroom to look at herself in her full body mirror. Twirling in her sweat pants, worn tee shirt and green All Stars, she smiled sweeping her hair off her neck.
"This is the new me. It's all about me."
"Who are you talking to?" asked a small voice from her door. She saw her little sister still in her pajamas, clutching an old bear.
"Hey Anna, I'm just talking to myself. It happens when you get old." Melissa replied moving in front of the four year old at eye level. "Don't you have to get ready for preschool? It's your first day today. You have to make an impression."
Anna shook her head and threw her arms around her sister. "Don't wanna go. I wanna stay with you."
"I would love to stay with you too but I can't, I have to go to school." she replied hugging her sister. "Why don't you want to go?"
"I won't know anyone there. What if they don't like me?"
"Who could not like you? You're adorable, smart, and extremely talented at creative things, you have a great imagination and good manners. The whole package babe, you're the real deal. Anyone would be lucky to have you as a friend."
Anna just wrapped her little arms tighter around Melissa's neck. "Jane said I would never get any friends if I kept acting shy and odd."
Melissa opened her mouth to say that Jane, their fourteen year old sister, was an idiot when she paused in the doorway. "Victoria Jane Emily Stetson, where do you get off telling Anna she'd never make friends because she happens to be a little shy and more open to things that don't necessarily make her odd?"
Jane stood frozen before looking around the hall, as if assessing her plan to getaway quickly and unscathed. "You know what, I can see that you're busy here so I'll just go talk to mom about–" She was pulled roughly into the room and managed to catch herself before falling on her face. She whirled around and found Melissa blocking the door and Anna sitting on a chair. "Mel you look like crap."
"And you look like a junior prostitute interning. Why did you say that to her? What if I'd told you that no one would like you and would think you were weird when you came to me nervous about starting high school? What would you have felt? She's only four Jane! She doesn't need to feel like the world is out to get her already! She doesn't need to be afraid to go to preschool!"
"You think I look like a prostitute? I thought I looked nice." Jane said as she inspected herself in the mirror. She was wearing a micro mini skirt, three-inch heels that just brought her to Melissa's chin and a very revealing turquoise blouse. "I look like you used to."
"No you don't because I don't need to look taller. I'm already 5'10". My skirts only seemed shorter because my legs are long and I showed skin but not that much. Where did you get that…no nevermind, I'll let Henry deal with what you're wearing. Why did you tell Anna that?"
Jane sighed irritably and glared at her older sister. "She is shy and odd and she's a cry-baby too. I told her the truth!"
"You were the exact same way ten years ago, coming into my room nervous because of something someone said to you! What is wrong with you? Did becoming fourteen turn you into a self-absorbed, pompous bitch? Don't you think for one second you are greater than anyone inside and outside this house! Your problem and Anna's are the same, you're both nervous about going into a new environment and the fact that you're ten years older than she is doesn't make your situation any greater or more pressing!"
Jane backed away as her sister moved closer. The backs of her legs collided with the bed and she grabbed a pillow, bringing it up like a weapon. "Back off Melissa, I mean it. Keep coming closer and I won't be able to be held accountable for my actions!"
Melissa snatched the pillow from Jane and proceeded to beat her with it, ignoring her shrieks. "Grow up! You're not in middle school anymore. Welcome to high school where no one gives a damn about your feelings and I swear to God if you don't change before we leave I'll do it myself!" She threw the pillow at Jane's head and turned to Anna. "Come here Anna."
As she picked Anna up her bedroom door opened, much to the relief of Jane who was frantically trying to fix her hair. Their sixteen-year-old brother Henry stood with his arms over his chest. "I heard screaming."
Even though they were the oldest and opposite sex, Melissa and Henry were a lot closer to one another than anyone else including some of their best friends. When they were younger, they regularly finished each other's sentences and knew when the other was in trouble. Often times, people would joke around and say that they were really twins and that Melissa was just 13 months older than Henry. Their mother would always laugh and say that between the two of them she never got any sleep; one was always awake, hungry or kicking.
When Jane came along a couple of years later, she seemed to be the mild-mannered of the three. By the time she got to middle school, Anna had been born and Jane began to slowly change. Everyone chalked it up to no longer being the baby. Upon reaching eighth grade, it seemed as if Jane—partly due to the influence of her friends—had disillusioned herself into thinking that she was all grown up and could do or say whatever she pleased. Interestingly enough though, Jane listened to their parents and complied with little complication from her. However, it was Melissa and Henry she wouldn't listen to and Anna that she used all of her scathing words on.
Undoubtedly, it would be an interesting school year for them since Melissa and Henry would certainly have to watch out for Jane at school. They could only hope that she wouldn't be further influenced by or become friends with people more difficult than the friends she already had. Already, Melissa could see that every morning would be challenging enough due to Jane's newly acquired taste in clothing.
"Tell your sister that she can't go out looking like that unless she wants to attract boys that only want to get in her pants." Melissa said moving out of the way so he could see Jane. "And tell her not to mess with Anna anymore too, since I'm liable to attack her again."
He turned his eyes to Jane and raised an eyebrow. "What the hell are you wearing Jane? Did you actually think someone would let you out of this house in that?" He shook his head before addressing Melissa. "Mom's running around hysterical looking for Anna so you might want to…"
"Yeah, I'll go find her. Will you be okay dealing with Jane?" Melissa asked and Henry nodded. She closed her bedroom door behind her and walked down the hallway to the stairs. As she walked downstairs, their mother came bursting through the front door.
Anne Stetson promptly dissolved to tears as soon as she spotted her eldest and youngest daughters. She rushed towards them and took Anna from Melissa, hugging her tightly and kissing her golden head.
"Everything is okay now mom. Anna was with me." Melissa said soothingly as she stepped off the final step and wrapped an arm around Anne.
"I know, it's just one minute she was there and I turned my back for a second then she was gone. Then I couldn't find her and a million scenarios went through my mind!" She paused to kiss Anna again. "You can't just disappear on mommy okay sweetie? We live in a big house and I know you know your way around but there are a lot of heavy things that could fall on you and I wouldn't know where you were or —"
"Honey, there you are!" interrupted Kyle Stetson as he entered the foyer. Melissa immediately took Anna, who seemed too eager to be back in her arms, from their mother's embrace. "I see you found Anna. That's good. That means no more worrying about her being hurt. Mel, why don't you —"
"I'm on it dad. Relax mom, you're pregnant. We've got everything under control." As soon as she spoke the words Henry and Jane's voices could be heard followed by a crash. Melissa held up a hand to stop her mother. "I got it mom. Remember relax."
She raced upstairs without another word and found Henry dodging objects flying out of Jane's room. She put Anna on her feet and told her to wait for her in her room. Melissa waited until Anna closed her door before she addressed the quarrelling pair.
"Henry Kyle and Victoria Jane stop that this instance!" Henry froze and turned to Melissa and Jane poked her head out of her room. "What is going on? Today is the first day of school and we do not have time for this! I wouldn't mind if it was just only me and Anna but I'm pretty sure that mom actually likes having the two of you around. Jane quit throwing things at Henry and go change into something more presentable. Now!"
Jane opened her mouth to complain but quickly changed her mind at Melissa's glare and slammed her door. Henry grinned sheepishly and shrugged his shoulders at Melissa's inquiring look. Sighing, Melissa ran a hand through her hair.
"So…she's not so submissive to authority anymore." Henry stated. "No doubt she'll be the 'queen of the freshmen' by the end of the month just like you were."
"I hope not. Why were you yelling at her? You never yell."
"Why did you attack her with a pillow? She's really annoying and self-centered. When did that happen?"
"No clue. Maybe she thinks that you're grown once you get to high school and can act however you want." She looked at her watch. "We have to go soon. I need to pick up Francesca."
"Okay. I'll check on Jane in a few minutes while you see to Anna." He turned around and opened his bedroom door but paused in his doorway. "I'm going to be beating guys off you and Jane. Queen of the school and queen of the freshmen."
Melissa stuck her tongue out at him. "There can't be two queens. She would have to be the princess. That would make you the frog waiting to be transformed by way of kiss."
He blew a raspberry at her and went in his room only to walk out again as she turned the knob to Anna's door. "You know Franklin's back?"
That surprised Melissa. Franklin had been sent to a strict boarding school halfway through her freshman year. His sister was her best friend Francesca. They were twins although sometimes it was hard to tell. Both had coal black hair but while Francesca had violet eyes, Franklin had gray eyes. Francesca was petite and 5'4" but Franklin had been nearly 6'9" the last time Melissa had seen him which had been two years ago at Christmas.
Everyone in town thought that surely he had been adopted or had another father. However, the resemblance between the twins and their family was unmistakable. Doctors thought when he was twelve that maybe he had pituitary gigantism but Franklin was just abnormally tall. No one in the Parker family had ever been over 6'3" and that had been a distant relative by marriage.
Needless to say Franklin Parker sparked whispers of rumours and lies everywhere he went, whenever he decided to leave his parent's house anyways. Being dubbed the town freak of nature at twelve when he was 6'6" took a toll on his outlook on life. Especially when Franklin grew three more inches before high school started and more people began to mess with him.
By the time the winter holidays officially began during their freshman year, Franklin had written the names of 87 of the school student body in his journal on his hit list. In the journal he often mentioned sealing the doors to the school closed and setting it on fire or things of that nature. It also spoke of him being the monster everyone portrayed him to be. He never carried anything out though and the only one besides him who knew about his journal was Melissa, who'd accidentally picked it up one day in the library and kept it out of fear of returning it.
What finally got the townsfolk to light their torches was when Franklin was walking the 45-minute trek from school and some of the town's golden boys and girls began to mess with him. While the girls ran off screaming for help, all thirteen of the guys ended up knocked out. One kid ended up in a coma after Franklin grabbed a bat from him and accidentally struck him with it as five guys charged him at once.
Melissa didn't blame Franklin for defending himself especially since it was thirteen to one with him unarmed despite his size. Although she didn't blame him, she was certainly afraid of what he could do. It seemed as though everyone agreed he acted in self-defense, even the parents of the comatose teen but they wanted him as far away from the town as possible claiming that he needed to be disciplined. No one blamed Mr. and Mrs. Parker either. Everyone was mostly embarrassed for them regarding the quiet and studious Franklin as some dangerous psycho waiting to snap and lash out again. Ergo, he was sent to a strict boarding school of his choice since his parents were kind enough to let him choose his prison.
"Mel? Earth to Mel, come in Mel." Henry called as he watched a myriad of emotion flicker across her face. "He's a good guy Melissa. He's really just a gentle man trapped in an overgrown body. If people took the time to know him and didn't judge him because they're afraid of how big he is, they'd see that he's one of the greatest people you'd ever meet. He just needs some friends."
"I know he's a good guy, believe me I do. It's just…this is going to upset people. I mean a lot of people are going to be upset when he walks the halls of Whitman High again. I'm worried about what they're going to do to him.
"I've seen how people treat him first hand Henry. I've watched him get jumped by groups of guys in a hallway and not fight back, begging the teachers to help him only to have them turn their backs on him. I watched him take on those guys. People are going to be out for his blood."
"You still like him don't you?" Henry asked and watched as her cheeks turned red.
She ducked her head and went into Anna's room without another word. She found Anna dressed and tying her shoes. "Hey, sorry I took so long."
"Do I have to go?" Anna asked, pleadingly and pouting.
"If you went and asked dad or Henry that right now you wouldn't have to." Melissa replied sitting next to her. Anna crawled in her lap and she had to smile. The most Anna was ever on her feet walking was when she was learning to. Any other time she was always in someone's arms. Melissa wondered if she would have some sort of complex when she got older from it. "It'll be fine, you'll see. You'll make some friends that you'll probably have all through high school. Those are the best kind. I've known Francesca since preschool."
"I don't like her. She's scary." Anna said matter-of-factly as Melissa brushed her hair.
That was no secret. Even though Francesca had four siblings already, she absolutely adored Anna and thought of her as a living doll while Anna could never wait to get away from her. Melissa finished brushing Anna's hair and gave her pigtails. "Who's Franklin?"
Melissa paused before answering. "He's this really sweet, gentle misunderstood guy that was sent to a school with a lot of mean and bad people because he was different and defended himself."
She still remembered the wild look in his eyes when he finally fought back. All their lives Franklin had tried to stay out of everyone else's way but couldn't because his size made him an easy target. No matter what was said or did to him, he never fought back until ninth grade. She realized that all of the anger that Franklin held inside had to come out sometime and somehow but she never thought it would be so violently. That scared her, how wild he looked. It made her afraid of him.
She knew that Franklin would never harm anyone without being provoked first but it didn't help ease her fear. At times when she began to dwell on her fear, she would remember the awkward, lanky boy who spent too much time with his head in books and too little time interacting with people. She would remember how cute she thought he looked when he would be sitting at his desk studying. She would remember their first kiss…
They were on winter break. It had been a week since Franklin's incident and she was staying over at the Parker residence. While she hoped she wouldn't see Franklin, a part of her wished she did. After the incident, his parents moved his bedroom from upstairs to the basement.
After dinner, she and Francesca had a movie marathon. Francesca fell asleep halfway through the third movie while she was wide awake. She got up and turned the movie off. She was too wired to sleep so she decided to go down to the kitchen for something to eat.
She tiptoed down the stairs and into the kitchen. She grabbed a couple of chocolate chip cookies from the cookie jar and poured herself a glass of milk. As she sat there eating she heard noise coming from the basement. Shrugging it off as none of her business, she finished eating and cleaned up her mess. She turned to walk out of the kitchen and paused to glance at the basement. Shaking her head, she walked upstairs and back into Francesca's room.
Turning on the television she tried to distract herself from going back downstairs with infomercials. Apparently it worked for when she heard someone whisper her name she nearly jumped out of her skin and had to muffle a scream. She looked around frantically and had to stifle another scream when she finally noticed Franklin standing halfway into the shadows in the doorway. He stared at her for a few moments with an unreadable expression before turning and going back downstairs. She stood there frozen for nearly ten minutes before following him.
Once again, she tiptoed downstairs but thought it quite unnecessary since Franklin made a lot more noise than she and no one had stirred. She pushed open the cracked basement door and cautiously started down the steps. Franklin was sitting on the floor in front of his bed. He was staring at his television screen as a video game character ripped out the spine of another. Moving over to him, she gingerly sat next to him. He didn't acknowledge her presence.
She watched round after round as he played his video game and shivered at the cool air. The next thing she knew, she was in his lap and a blanket was covering her. She turned her head to look at him but he still didn't acknowledge her, giving the game his full attention. She let her gaze drop to his lips and felt her tongue dart out to moisten hers. That got his attention.
She felt a difference in the air around them as she spoke in a whisper. "Franklin?"
Instead of leaning forward to kiss her, she watched as Franklin's eyes clouded with anger. He lifted her off of him and tossed her onto his bed. He rose to his feet and glared at her menacingly. She couldn't help it as she began to crawl away from him towards his pillows.
"Is this some kind of joke? Is my sister at the top of the stairs with the phone on so everyone can hear? I thought you were different!" he yelled.
She stood on his bed and moved until she was looking down at him, feeling rather indignant. "How dare you accuse me of treating like everyone else treats you Franklin? Huh? I've known you all my life and I have never treated as some monster or some freak of nature! Just because you defended yourself and scared half the people in town doesn't mean I'm going to be cruel to you and mess with you! How dare you!"
"Why else would someone like you want me to kiss you?"
"Maybe it's because I like and you're just too preoccupied with your books to see it!"
He stared at her in shock and ran a hand through his hair. "What?"
"I've had a crush on you for years and you were just too—"
He silenced her with a kiss. They fumbled through it, accidentally bumping noses and teeth before pulling away. Franklin looked away, beet red and sat down starting his game over. Melissa moved next to him and grabbed his face and bringing hers to meet his in another kiss. Over the next hour, they both became more comfortable with it and were surprised at how natural kissing was.
Melissa was brought out of her thoughts when she heard someone yelling her name next to her right ear. She turned and glared at Jane who backed away slightly. Anna was in Henry's arms and he was pointing to his watch. Her eyes widened with realization as she glanced at her own. They would be late if they didn't leave in the next three minutes.
"Alright let's go." Melissa said taking her bag from Henry and following them downstairs. They said goodbye to their parents and offered to take Anna to preschool but their mother decided that Anna would stay with her and the housekeeper Florence for the day and would start preschool the next day.
She peeled out of the driveway in her Saab 9-7X and drove seven blocks south to get to the Parker residence. As she pulled into their driveway behind a hearse, she licked her lips still remembering Franklin's taste and got out. She paused when she realized only she and Henry were at the door.
"Jane get out of the car, Francesca is never on time and I don't know how long we'll be in there." Melissa said impatiently.
"That's a hearse, which means that there's a freak besides Franklin inside of that house. I'll stay in here thanks." Jane shouted and locked the doors.
Melissa held up her keys and unlocked the doors. She opened Jane's door, unbuckled her seatbelt and dragged her out of the car. "Number one, Franklin is not a freak so don't call him one. Number two, that hearse is a 1966 Miller-Meteor Cadillac Combo Coach and a classic car in very good condition considering it belongs to Lukas. Number three, Lukas isn't preppy he's like a mix of a punk and a Goth so he's a little different from you and if that makes him a freak well then good for him because he's a really cool kid once you actually have a conversation with him."
Henry shook his head and knocked and Melissa pushed Jane towards the door. They heard scampering and the door was thrown open by Megan with her twin Andrew right behind her. Megan and Andrew were juniors like Henry. Megan sighed angrily and ran back upstairs as Montgomery, who was fifteen, came running down and went into the kitchen.
"Sorry about Megan. Her boyfriend is late picking her up." Andrew explained and moved so they could come inside. "Francesca is in the shower right now, she should be done soon."
"Thanks Andrew." Melissa said closing the door behind and her pulling Jane into the kitchen with her as Andrew and Henry ran upstairs talking about music. They left a few minutes later in Andrew's Chrysler.
In the kitchen, breakfast was laid out for everyone if they wanted it and Lukas was taking full advantage of that. He looked up when he caught sight of her and Jane and smiled. Melissa felt Jane move behind her as she caught sight of his abnormally elongated canines.
"What's up Lukas? Still coming here for free food?" Melissa asked teasingly as she sat across from him, pushing Jane in the seat next to her.
"You know it. Beats the stuff at home." He said jokingly but Melissa knew he really meant it.
Lukas lived in a trailer park with his drunken father. Half the time there was no food at his house because his father always had people over. Lukas worked as much as he could but didn't make all that much and took care of his two younger siblings.
Their mother left after his youngest sister was born. When he turned sixteen, she sent him the hearse as a present and offered to let him come and live with her and her new husband. He declined, not wanting to move to Europe and his mother understood. She offered to help him become emancipated from his father and help him find a home for him and his sisters but he turned her down on that too.
He didn't doubt that their mother loved them but when she divorced his father, she gave up custody of them too and that hurt him. He would have given back the hearse but he really liked it and he needed a new car anyway. She sometimes came to visit but it wasn't all too often. When she did though, she would pay for whatever they needed and stay for a month to help Lukas out.
"Is that your sister, because she's a little hottie." Lukas said smiling deviously at Jane who shuddered. "You don't like me darling, why not?"
"Ew, that's all I have to say. Ew." Jane said getting up to fix herself something to eat. Lukas stared at her as she walked with the same grin and she looked helplessly at Melissa who smiled. "Cut it out! It's freaking me out!"
"Leave her alone Lukas or I'll tell Darlene that you were hitting on my sister." Melissa mock threatened and it was Lukas' turn to shudder.
Darlene Panes was a bible-thumping pain who wanted everyone to know that they were going to hell and that she was part of some God Squad. She was sure that she could free Lukas from the 'powerful demonic spirit that had taken residence' in his body. Most of the time if anyone was looking for her, which wasn't often, she could be found following Lukas screaming at him about God and Hell. Lukas loved to bait her and roll his eyes into the back of his head while talking to her.
"I hate her. I go to church every Sunday and Wednesday. I take Leslie and Lindsay with me like my mom used to. I've tried telling her that but she called me a liar and threw a bible at me. She's crazy." A small bark came from the doorway and a Pomeranian came prancing in as if she were royalty. "Damn ankle-biter."
"Whose dog is that?" Jane asked.
"My mother's," Francesca said her entrance much like the dog's entry. "When she heard your mother was pregnant, she told my father she wanted another child—only God knows why—so my father bought her a dog."
"A dog instead of a child, huh? I guess the difference is that we go inside the house." Lukas said, stage whispering the latter to Melissa who had to cover her smile with her hand. Francesca glared at him. "You would be so much prettier if you didn't make that face."
"Why are you even here? You and Franklin aren't even friends!" Francesca snapped.
Lukas sat his dishes in the sink and walked to the basement door. "Sure we are. We look out for each other and help when the other is in need. I'll see you later Melissa, Melissa's hottie sister and ankle-biters one and two."
He closed the door to the basement as Francesca threw a muffin at him. The dog immediately went for it. Jane looked from Francesca to her sister to the basement door as if she expected Lukas to start screaming for help. Instead the sound of the strumming of minor chords, followed by Franklin's voice and Melissa nearly melted at the deep, emotional rumbling of his voice.
The knife in your hand is two-edged
Much like your tactless tongue
Your sword plunges past my breaking heart
And into my hidden soul
Does my soul leak crimson blood
Does my aura slowly fade away
Your words shatter my defenses
And I'm falling farther than I've ever been
No comfort can break my fall
Or soften the impact
If I had the strength I wouldn't kill you
I'd cut out your tongue and burn it
And serve it to you dry
Oh how I wish you would burn in hell
You and your cursed words
Francesca walked to the basement door and banged her fist against it. "Knock it off Franklin! No one wants to hear how you feel by listening to some crappy, depressing song of yours!"
As Francesca finished speaking a new song began, this time the strumming was livelier. It sounded almost poppy. Melissa wondered what the words would be, whether it would be a love song or something else. Once again, Franklin surprised her as she heard his voice again. He sounded painfully cheerful.
Demons in hell are only
Fallen angels from above
And all my life I've been a devil
Locked away from the rest of humanity
Psychologically cavity searched and
Vulnerable to my surroundings I
Made my way through aggression
In a foreign land
Now the time has come
For my homecoming to the place
Where my family cannot stand me
Where I'm forced underground into hiding
Am I a beast to just be forgotten
To be terminated at will
When will someone come along
And save me from my seat in hell
As Francesca yelled at Franklin, Melissa sat reflecting the words to both songs and wanted to hug him. Already with Francesca yelling at him, his day would undoubtedly get worse once he entered the doors to their high school again. She sighed and said a silent prayer for him as Jane tapped the table to get her attention.
"What's the matter Jane? He's not going to attack you." Melissa said tiredly.
"I know but it is 8:25 and school started ten minutes ago." Jane replied.
"Shit! Francesca we're late!" Melissa jumped up and grabbed her bag.
Jane placed her plate in the sink and went to brush her teeth in the guest bathroom where the Parker's always kept extra toothbrushes. Francesca went upstairs for her purse and bag and walked back downstairs taking her time getting into the car. Melissa started the car and sped out of the driveway, barely giving Jane time to get in. They pulled into the senior parking lot twenty minutes later and Francesca seemed to finally see Melissa.
"You look like crap." Francesca stated.
"I feel so comfortable though." Melissa replied as the three of them walked into school together. She made sure Jane got to homeroom and sweet talked Jane's homeroom teacher, Mr. Dennis, into excuses her lateness claiming traffic being bad. When he did Melissa thanked him and winked at Jane who smiled gratefully.
"You are so bad." Francesca said with a smirk.
Melissa just gave her an evil smile. "You get to talk Mrs. Reynolds into not punishing us since it's your fault we're late." She smiled at her friend's groan. Mrs. Reynolds was the most hated teacher in the entire school. If there was one thing Mrs. Reynolds hated, it was tardiness. "Detention would be so worth it just to hear you try to get us out of it."
"She put us in detention, please! Francesca Bethany Parker does not do detention. Watch and learn my poorly dressed friend, just watch and learn." Francesca announced as they reached their classroom on the fourth floor and she opened the door, once again walking through a doorway as if she were royalty. Melissa just smiled and followed her friend, wondering how long it would be until Franklin showed up.