All The Things We Could Do
Chapter 1: Epiphany
The dictionary defines "epiphany" as: A comprehension or perception of reality by means of a sudden intuitive realization. The first day of my senior year at Coldwater Creek Academy, I had one of those. And it wasn't your average, run-of-the-mill epiphanies, either, like, "Crap, I forgot to do my summer reading" or "Shit, I left my favorite underwear at home." No, it was pretty serious.
Let me start with a brief explanation. See, up until that point, I had a fairly average, run-of-the-mill life, or at least, average and run-of-the-mill in my world. I had two parents: one mom, one dad, and an older brother. We also had a cat named Galileo and a guinea pig named Pavlov. My parents lived on Long Island in the big house, with the nice three cars, and I went away every year to the snobby private school upstate. I got good grades, I was a dedicated member of the Student Council (President, actually), and I played on the Girls' Varsity Volleyball team in the fall (since sophomore year), Varsity Track in the spring (since freshman year). I had lots of friends, my teachers all liked me, and I rarely—scratch that, never—got into trouble. I had a daily routine: get up in the morning, give my roommate her first warning wake-up call, brush my teeth, dress and accessorize, give my roommate her second warning wake-up call, go down to breakfast with my other friends, and predictably laugh as my roommate ran into the cafeteria at the last minute to grab a muffin before rushing off to class. I would go to my classes, sit with my friends at lunch, attend the Student Council meeting if there was one, go to practice if I had it, return to my room, shower, do my homework, have dinner, talk to a friend or two via phone or online or both, brush my teeth, and then get into bed at a very respectable hour.
In other words, my life was as normal as any. I did what I was supposed to without complaint or any sort of boredom. I liked my life. It was simple and predictable. I even had a plan: I would finish out my senior year strong and attend Cornell University in the fall, just like my father had, (just like my brother did), just like my father had always wanted me to. That was how it was all supposed to happen, anyway.
Unfortunately, someone had other plans.
And no, I don't mean God.
Enter Statler Hastings, the resident bad boy. Oh, sure, he looked respectable enough and played for the BoysVarsity Soccer team, but he was trouble with a capital T. I blame my downward slide on him; all roads lead to Statler Hastings. I was not friends with him, in fact, I scarcely knew him, only knew of him. He was my antithesis, everything I wasn't. A slacker, lazy, arrogant, careless, you name it. He smoked behind the gym after soccer practice and snuck out after curfew on the weekends. He never did his homework, and he mouthed off to all the faculty and staff, including my Grandfather. Grandfather was the Headmaster of Coldwater Creek; had been since 1983. When I would visit him in his office—which I did, frequently—I would inevitably find Statler there, being berated for something new.
Now, at the end of every school year, the school psychiatrist—yes, we have one—performs a psych evaluation on each of the high school students. I always knew what mine said: focused, driven, motivated, an exemplary student that anyone could learn from. Yes, I did quote that directly from last year's.
I had never seen Statler's report, so I had no idea what it said, but I probably could have guessed: unfocused, unmotivated, rebellious. You name it, and it was there. I could understand how any psychiatrist might get that impression from him, too. He was like that.
An epiphany—and it was the first of many that year—hit me when I was walking down the hallway after v-ball practice, my bag slung over my shoulder. Actually, it didn't so much as hit me as get shoved into my face by a very unlikely messenger. I had stayed behind in the gym for some extra practice, and as a result, by the time I hit the showers in the locker room, no one was left, and now the halls were empty.
Well, they were until he walked out of the chemistry lab, his hands and face red. "No more detentions, Hastings," came a voice from within. "Please. Spare us both the trial of it all."
"Sure thing, Mr. Sampson," he said, and let the door fall shut. He started down the hall, and stopped, seeing me. His mouth curved up into a smile, and I was instantly on my guard. His smile was slightly mocking, predatory, and catlike.
I had heard girls call him attractive, and he was, but I soon realized that it was partly because he could be charming when he wanted to be. Granted, he was attractive physically as well, but I had seen better-looking boys.
"I thought about you this summer," he said in a low voice. Yes, you heard that right. The first thing he ever says to me—because we rarely had the opportunity to speak prior to that—he tells me that he thought about me over the summer. And for some reason, the way he said it, it made me feel dirty and guilty, as if I had done something I shouldn't have.
"Did you, now," I said noncommittally, tightening my hold on my bag.
"Oh, yeah." He was approaching me now, his movements slow and deliberate. "I thought to myself: Damn! Somebody has to make that Olivia chick loosen up."
The bag fell from my suddenly lax fingers. "Did you just call me a chick?" I said, shocked. I had never been called a chick in my life.
He continued as though I hadn't spoken. "You're friends with Chris Landon, aren't you?" he asked, stopping right in front of me. "Good guy. A little too nice, but he says you're a great girl, the best friend he could have."
My heart fluttered. Gee, thanks.
"But you know, Olivia, you really are uptight. It's like you feel you have this mold to fit into, and if you don't do everything just perfectly, the mold will fall apart and then you'll fall apart. You're high-maintenance, too, from what I hear. Everything has to be perfect with you, doesn't it?"
"You know, psych evaluation comes at the end of the year," I said, a bit sarcastically. "And I'd rather get it from a qualified psychiatrist, if you don't mind."
His smile widened. "Olivia, you need to relax and loosen up a little," he told me. "You're too inflexible. I swear, I've never seen you have any kind of fun."
I snorted. "The kind of fun you have, you mean?"
He grinned. "Well, how about it? I could show you, if you wanted." He held out a hand, the way they do in those horribly clichéd movies when the bad boy is trying to coax the heroine to do something totally against her nature, trying to get her to branch out and do something wild and adventurous and, ultimately, troublesome and regrettable. (Although movies don't sell with that ending, so said heroine usually falls madly in love with said bad boy and manages to reform him. Which never happens in real life, by the way).
"I don't want," I answered stiffly, bending to snatch up my bag. "Excuse me." I pushed past him.
He laughed. "Come on, Olivia. It'd be fun. You'd have a good time."
I whirled. "I'm not interested," I answered coolly. "So please leave me alone."
And with that, I walked away. I could hear him laughing quietly to himself behind me, and I added a mental adjective to my imagined psychiatric evaluation of him: clearly insane.
Later, in my dormitory, I turned to my roommate Darcy. Darcy Dawes is easily the sweetest, kindest person I know. The girl is incapable of malice, manipulation, or cruelty. Sadly, her name has earned her the unfortunate nickname of Double Ds, which is only more unfortunate because she's really a 32 A. Obviously, somebody up there has a particularly twisted sense of humor.
"Darce," I said thoughtfully, "am I uptight?" She glanced up at me, surprised. "You know," I continued. "Inflexible, high-maintenance… that kind of thing?"
"I—I don't really know, Liv," she admitted, looking faintly embarrassed. "I guess you're sort of intense." She tilted her head to one side, pale brown hair falling into her face. "But we all are sometimes, aren't we?"
I should have known, in retrospect, that I couldn't really rely on Darcy to give me a straight answer. She was entirely too nice.
"I'm sorry," said Darcy, biting her lip. "I bet that wasn't very helpful."
"No, it was fine," I lied, straightening up and reached for my wallet. "I'm going to the vending machines." She stared at me. "To get a bottle of juice," I clarified, and she nodded, understandingly. "Want anything?"
"A coke would be awesome," she said, looking down at her textbook. "This problem set's gonna have me up all night."
I shook my head. "That caffeine is really bad for you, you know, and there's so much sugar in soda." I paused. "Are you sure you don't want a Diet Coke? Or a caffeine-free, at least?"
Her eyes had widened. "Um—just regular, thanks." She shook her head, and smiled slightly. "You'd think, after three years, I would be used to you."
I grabbed a five and left the room. What is that supposed to mean?
It must have been fate, really, that when I made my way to the girls' lounge, Hastings was there. Which he shouldn't have been, because it was the girls' lounge. "Hastings," I said, my voice crisp. "It's nine thirty, past curfew, and you are in the girls' dormitories. Vacate the premises, post-haste."
One corner of his mouth curved up again. "Been thinking about what I said, I see." He got up from the couch and moved over to me. "Or thinking about me, maybe?"
I cast him a faintly disgusted look. "I have no time to waste on people like you."
"'People like you,'" he mocked, swaying his hips in a grotesque imitation of a girl—me? Definitely not. "What is that supposed to mean, Montgomery?" He leaned against the sofa back. "Come on, Olivia," he continued. "Lighten up. I was kidding, you know." I gazed at him dispassionately. "See what I mean? Uptight. Jesus." He reached a hand out and—of all the things—pulled the clip from my hair, sending it all tumbling down around my shoulders. "I've never seen you with your hair down," he said softly. "Hell, I bet you don't even sleep with your hair down."
I gave him a frosty look. "It gets in the way," I answered, and held out of my hand for the clip, which he did not return to me. "Give it," I ordered.
"Ask nicely," he retorted, dangling it in front of me. I made a swipe for it—and missed. He was faster, and he whipped it away from me. "Say please, oh pretty please," he sang at me, ignoring my venomous look.
"Statler," he corrected me. "Say it prettily, and I'll give it back." I glowered at him. "Oh, you know. All breathy and high—like you want me, and want me bad." He flashed me a smile. "Come on, Olivia, it's a game. Don't you like playing?"
"Hastings," I said dangerously. "You have ten seconds to give me back my clip and get out before I call down the floor advisor on you." He shot me an amused look. "I'll do it," I threatened.
"Bet you will," he said, and this time, he dropped the clip languidly into my hand. My fist closed upon it, and I turned to face the vending machines. I could see his reflection, watching me with amused interest, and so I chose to ignore him, inserting the money and hitting B2 for a coke.
After a moment—the coke fell to the bottom with a dull thunk—I said, "Hastings, when I turn around, you'd better not be standing there." My hand closed around the coke, I collected and counted my change—and turned. He was watching me with even greater interest now.
"Did you just count your change? From a vending machine?" he asked, looking fascinated. "I—damn, when I said you were uptight, I had no idea. Although I didn't expect to see the Health Queen indulging in a coke."
"It's for my roommate," I answered stiffly, turned around, and got my juice. When I turned back, once more, he was watching me with cynical amusement.
"Ah, you are a health freak at heart," he said, glancing at the orange juice. "Knew you wouldn't disappoint me."
I ignored that and gripped the bottle more tightly, moving to push past him—he caught my arm and held me in place. I looked pointedly down at his hand on my arm, and then up at him. He didn't release me. "Hang on a second," he said, and tilted his head to one side. "Your roommate—Darcy Dawes, right?"
I gazed at him, faintly surprised. It was rare to find a boy asking after Darcy. Too nice, and too virginal, I had once heard a boy say. The sort of girl that was perfect to bring home to your mother, to be honest, but was ultimately not the girl you wanted to have fun with at that age. "Yes, that's her," I said at last, warily.
A faint smile appeared on his face. "Tell her I said hi," he said, and let go of me, wandering towards the exit, throwing over his shoulder, "As long as that doesn't go against your precious rules or morals, or anything."
Furious, I stormed back to my dorm, fingers tightening around the neck of the bottle. I suppose I might have imagined it was his neck. Barely talked to that idiot before in my life, who is he to tell me what I'm like, it's none of his damn business, why does he have to bother me—
I stopped, suddenly, halfway down the hall. Am I uptight? I am uptight! Even Darcy said so! Well, no, she said I was intense. But it's the same thing, isn't it! She was just being nice!
"Um—Olivia—are you all right?" I turned, startled—a freshman was staring at me, towels wound around her arms as she watched me quizzically. "You're—um—blocking the hallway."
"Oh," I said, blankly, and stepped aside. "Right. Sure."
"Fine," I said, and then blinked. Here was an impartial judge, right? "Am I uptight?" I demanded, and she stared at me in surprise. "You know," I continued impatiently. "Uptight, inflexible, high-maintenance, anal-retentive, that sort of thing."
"I—um—I don't know?" she offered.
"Are you answering me or telling me?" I demanded even more impatiently, and she cringed. I scoffed at last. "Oh—go to bed, it's past curfew anyway!" She squeaked and scampered down the hall, disappearing around a corner.
"So that wasn't very nice," came a familiar voice. I glanced over my shoulder at Jamie Carmichael—long time partner-in-crime and one of my best friends. (Although, to be very clear, I have never indulged in any sort of crime.) Her brown hair was swept up in a knot on top of her head, and her reading glasses were perched so low on her nose that they seemed in danger of falling off. "Come on, Liv. Not your style to go around scaring the little freshmen."
"Am I uptight, James?" I asked desperately, tilting my head to one side. Why was I obsessing over this?
"Yes," she answered promptly, and when I gave her a horrified look, she returned it with a slightly surprised one of her own. "Well, come on," she said. "It's not like you didn't know—right?" I stared at her, dumbfounded. "Oh my—Liv! How could you not know?" Jamie started to tick things off scathingly on her fingers. "You are a health freak. If it has too many calories, it's automatically bad for you and shouldn't be touched. You can't handle not having your homework done, so you stay up late to finish it. You go ahead in your homework to make sure you keep up. You put all your energy into a million activities. Your uniform is always perfectly ironed, or you have a mental breakdown. You're never late to anything. You never let your hair down."
Wasn't that what Hastings had said?
Jamie wasn't done, though. "Everything has to be neat with you. It all has a proper place, and God forbid it gets moved. You spent your Saturday mornings cleaning your roommate's half of the dorm," she added, "which is totally unbelievable. Hell, you come over and clean my room. You arrange your food on your plate so that none of it is touching."
Well, yeah. I mean, who wants the pancake syrup to mix with the sausages? Assuming, obviously, that I would eat things like pancake syrup or sausages—which I wouldn't. That stuff is practically bursting with fat, totally—
"Oh, my god," I moaned, pressing a hand to my forehead. "I am uptight."
Jamie frowned. "I don't know if I should take comfort in the fact that you're accepting this now or be horrified that you are only realizing this now." She paused. "Listen, Livy, it isn't a bad thing. You're focused, motivated, driven. You have goals, priorities, and principles. The rest of us should be so lucky." She paused. "Although you could do with some lightening up, you know."
"I'm not really as bad as you just said I was, am I?" Jamie was giving me a somewhat sympathetic look. "I am!" I cried, startled. "Why did nobody bring this to my attention before?"
"Frankly, I assumed you realized it and it didn't bother you." She paused. "Look, I don't know what made you realize this all of a sudden—"
"Hastings," I said, my voice somewhat distant.
"Hastings. Statler Hastings. He—he told me I was uptight. Told me I needed to loosen up." I glanced warily at her. "Do I?"
"Well—come on, Liv. It wouldn't kill you to go to party once in a while, drink a little beer, dress a little slutty—" She laughed at my expression. "Go to bed, Liv. Who gives a damn what Hastings thinks, anyway?"
I wandered off after bidding her goodnight, deciding that she was right, after all. I mean, I certainly didn't need to lighten up, not really. I was driven. Focused. Motivated. Not uptight and inflexible…
I stopped in the middle of the hallway and whipped out my cell phone, dialing Chris's number with a practiced efficiency. It rang twice, and then Chris picked it up—he knew I hated to be kept waiting. "Hey, Liv," he said, sounding slightly surprised. "What's up?"
I took a deep breath. I am going to be impulsive. I'm not uptight and stuffy. I can have fun just like everybody else.
"Want to do something right now?" I asked, and heard silence on the other end.
"Are you… you know, feeling okay?" he asked, his voice strange. "Come on, Liv. It's after curfew. What could we do besides—hell, talk on the phone? Which is pretty pointless, considering we see each other every day."
I paused. "Chris," I said, again. "Do you want to do something, or not?" My voice rose slightly. "Come on," I pleaded. "It'll be fun. We can—go hang out. Take a night on the town."
"Liv, we have school tomorrow," he said, his voice amused. "Is this a prank? Are you doing a three-way with Jamie? Very funny, James." A pause. "James?"
"She's not on the phone, Chris," I said, expelling a breath. "I just thought—never mind."
"No," he said suddenly, sounding taken aback. "No, let's do something. On the field? In five minutes?"
"Sure," I agreed, and hung up the phone. Take that, Hastings.
Which probably would have been more effective if he had any idea what I was doing.
"Liv, relax," said Chris in a low voice as I stuffed my fingers in my light jacket pockets to keep them warm. "The guys and I do this all the time. We aren't going to get caught."
"I don't know," I said, doubtfully. "It is after curfew—and what if they come to mow the lawn or something?"
"Liv," said Chris patiently. "Nobody is going to mow the lawn at nearly ten at night, all right? You need to relax. This was your idea," he added, leading me to the goal posts and turning to face me. "What is this about, really?"
"Statler Hastings told me I was uptight, inflexible, and high-maintenance," I blurted.
He looked surprised. "Okay. So?"
"So? So?" I repeated, staring at him. "Christopher! I'm uptight, inflexible, and high-maintenance!"
He squirmed. "No, Hastings just thinks you are."
"So does Jamie. And Darcy does, too."
He looked surprised. "Darcy said that? Jamie, I can believe, but Darcy? Darcy Dawes? Double D's? No way."
"Don't call her that," I said, out of habit, and added, "She was implying it, Chris." I looked at him woefully. "I'm stuffy and uptight and boring and—"
"—Playing the self-pity game," he interrupted, grinning at me. He disappeared into the locker room and reappeared, holding a six-pack of beer. He offered me one; I declined and saw a half-smile on his face that implied that he had already know what my answer would be. Popping the top of one, he took a long draught and said, "Look, Liv. I like you the way you are. I don't want you to change. You're my best friend. Remember?"
Of course I was his best friend. We had always been that way, since that disastrous spelling bee in the third grade when I had come in second and he had comforted me for it. The trouble was, that was all I was to him. "Yes, I know. I just—wanted to do something impulsive, adventurous, and—what?" I asked, catching sight of his twinkling eyes. "Christopher," I said warningly.
"Well, we could do something impulsive and adventurous," he said, tilting his head to one side. "If you really wanted to."
I was beginning to feel twinges of anxiety. "Like?" I asked, as calmly as I could. He grinned.
"Let's sneak into town, go to that bar," he said, his eyes gleaming. "I have a fake I.D., and I know somebody there who'll look the other way for you. So?"
"Chris," I said, rolling my eyes. "Drinking? Of course not. We'd get caught, anyway, and I don't drink. Besides, we have school tomorrow." I glanced at him, and saw him shrug, and I recalled the conversation we had just had. "You think I'm uptight too, don't you?" I asked accusingly.
"I don't," he said quickly, a little too quickly, and a touch defensively. I glowered at him, and he sighed. "Liv, what do you want from me, huh? What am I supposed to say? That you're the most laid-back girl I've ever met? You're not. But I like you the way you are," he said earnestly again, and glance down at his beer can. "Who gives a damn what idiots like Hastings think?" he asked, his voice low.
"I do," I said. "I don't want to be uptight, I don't want to—" He wrapped his large hands around me, giving me a big, brotherly hug. Damn it, I thought, hugging him back.
"You're just fine the way you are," he assured me, finishing his beer. "Now let me hide the rest of this crap in Paxton's locker and we'll go for a run and calm down, okay?" Without waiting for an answer, he disappeared into the locker and watched him go.
Still, I thought, dismayed. I really have to work on this uptight thing.
"Where did you go?" asked Darcy indignantly when I returned to the dorm, my hair still mussed—I had, oddly enough, left it down, almost as a declaration to myself—and my cheeks flushed as if I had run a marathon. She took in my breathless state and said, "Where were you?" in astonishment, as if she couldn't quite believe her eyes. I didn't blame her. I was a strict abider by the curfew.
"Here's your coke," I said, dropping it into her lap and falling onto my bed.
Author's Note: Okay, I never liked having more than one story going at once, but the reason I am now is because I realized that Halo is a very slow-moving story, with a lot more character development and intense details, I think. Not that I think this story is badly lacking in those things, but the pace is faster, and it's funnier and a little less dramatic. So if for whatever reason you've read both, this one is going to be different from Halo. That being said, does anybody have comments? And I want to know: Is Olivia's character believable?
Thanks for reading!