O N E
It was just my luck to end up stranded at some stupid party that I never even wanted to go to in the first place. My stupid best friend – why did I love her so much? – had dragged me to the stupid Sinclair Sisters party, and then had had to leave early, without letting me know. Great friend, isn't she? And it wouldn't have been so bad if I could drive myself, or if I had brought my bike, but there I was, standing at the end of the driveway like an idiot, trying to think of some way to get home. Haylie and Ashlee Sinclair were too busy living it up to even care about me, even though they claimed to consider me a friend.
My name is Mollie Harker, and sometimes I really hate my life. But isn't that normal for a teenage girl?
I pulled my maroon jacket tighter around me, buttoning it almost all the way, and I reached into the pocket of my jeans for my cell phone, which I only ever used for emergencies. I could call my older brother, Mark, and ask him to pick me up. But then he'd be able to hold that over me for the rest of my life, and I did not want that. And you can forget calling one of my parents – I was supposed to be at home right now, but had snuck out my window.
I spun to find some guy staggering over to me, drunker than a skunk. As he stopped close to me, the smell of alcohol washed over me and made me cough slightly. I realized that I recognized the guy – his name was Avery, and I had the displeasure of having a few classes with him at our school. He was your typical wannabe bad boy – chain wallets, the occasional addition of eyeliner, headphones around his neck that always blared some new heavy metal band. He was one of the resident stoner guys at my school.
And apparently one of the resident drunks too.
"Uh, can I help you?" I asked him, wrinkling my nose at the smell.
"I need you to drive me home," he slurred out.
I rolled my eyes. "In what?" I asked. "My magic school bus?"
He laughed, swaying on his feet. He reached into his pocket and then held up a set of keys, shaking them slightly with a jangle. "My car."
"I don't have my license," I told him, hoping he'd hear the ice in my tone and go find someone else to bother.
"I don't care," he said. "You live on my street, Mollie, just give me a ride."
I hadn't known that we lived on the same street, so I was just a little surprised to hear that. I sighed loudly, and shook my head. "No," I said. "I don't even have my permit yet, okay? Go get someone else to drive you."
"How else are you going to get home?" he asked me, as if he knew my dilemma.
Folding my arms over my chest, I turned away from him. "Believe me, I'll find a way."
"Please," he said in a mocking voice, the kind you used when talking to a baby or something, and he pushed his lips out slightly. He was really annoying. "Come on."
"Looks like you're spending the night in your car, buddy," I told him. And then my brow furrowed as a thought struck me. "Were you even invited to this party?"
He flashed me a lazy grin. "When it's a party this big," he said, "You don't even need to be invited. Them bitchy Sinclairs didn't even notice me." He gave a rough bark of laughter, before he had a little coughing fit.
A part of me wanted to take offense to him calling Haylie and Ashlee bitches, but truth be told – they were. I wasn't exactly friends with the two girls, just so happened we were in the same crowd. I rolled my eyes again, shaking my head.
"I need to get home, man," he said to me. "My dad'll kill me."
I side-glanced him, and noticed that he was giving me a pretty sincere look, almost as if he really needed the help. I couldn't help but sigh, and my arms dropped slowly – I was always the kind of person who hated to see someone in need. But I didn't know how to drive, as bad as that sounds for a seventeen-year-old. And despite the fact that Avery was a loser who I wished I didn't know, I couldn't just leave him stranded.
"I don't know," I said slowly.
He started to say something, but he stopped. Suddenly he doubled over and my mouth fell open in horror and disgust as he threw up in the Sinclair yard, barely even making a noise – as if he was used to getting sick like that. Then he groaned and held his stomach, still bent over.
"Oh God," he said, "I don't feel too hot."
"You don't look it either," I said rudely. "How much did you drink? A swimming pool."
He chuckled, nodding his head. "Feels like it."
We fell silent, and he stayed in that position for a long while. Then he stood up and took a few stumbling steps towards me, holding out his keys once more.
"What do you say?" he asked.
I wish I could say that I told him to lock himself in his own car for the night, and I wish I could say that I walked away from him with a genuine apology. But the next thing I knew, I was sitting behind the wheel of his old and very hideous-looking Cadillac. He was practically passed out in the passenger seat, his feet up on the dashboard, and my heart was racing at just the idea of what I was about to do.
"This thing is about as ugly as sin," I said, pulling my seat belt on.
"Hey," he said, "Don't knock her. My dad gave her to me."
I swallowed against the lump in my throat as I started the ignition, and I tried to ignore the way my stomach was twisted. My brother Mark had taught me how to drive, and had even let me drive his car down the street once or twice – but that was a lot different than this. This time my only company was a drunken stoner, and this time I wasn't just driving down a one way street for just a few houses. I was going to be going onto the main road and driving to a completely different neighborhood.
Holding my breath, I pulled away from the curb Avery had parked against.
Most drivers hate it, I know you've seen it – the car that brakes ever second, then accelerates a little too fast and gets the brake again. That was how I was driving. Go, stop, go, stop, go, stop. The Cadillac rocked harshly each time I hit the brakes, and after a moment, Avery sat up straighter in the seat.
"All this stopping," he groaned out, hands on his stomach. "I'm gonna ralph."
"Go ahead!" I said in a shrill voice, my nerves on edge. Go. "This is your car, not mine." Stop.
By some miraculous higher power, we ended up on a somewhat empty main road – only a few blocks until we got to our street. My braking was getting a little better, and I was trying to calm myself slightly, so that I might be able to drive a little better for those few blocks that were left. It didn't help me relax any though, that other cars were honking at me as they drove past, eager to get around me.
"What am I doing?" I asked no one in particular, wishing I hadn't agreed to drive Avery anywhere. "I'm probably going to get killed."
"Just go," Avery said. "Stop being such a little pansy and drive."
"Shut up!" I snapped at him. "I can't believe I'm doing this for you. You better never speak to me again if we make it out of this alive."
"Does this mean we're not friends?" he asked in that mocking voice again, and I grit my teeth.
Only, I couldn't say anything to him because at that very moment, there was the low wail of a siren, and then there were flashing lights in the rear-view mirror. My heart leaped to my throat, and my fingers tightened on the steering wheel, turning my knuckles white. Avery turned completely in the seat, and then he made a face.
"Fuck," he said, which made me blush a little – I came from a family of people who were very against cursing, very. "Go faster."
"What?!" I all but shouted at him. "You want me to ignore him?"
"Just go faster," he said.
"I can't!" I exclaimed, shaking my head. "I can't."
He relaxed back in the seat some, and crossed his arms. "Fine, pull over then," he said, closing his eyes.
Obviously, I'd never had to pull over before, so I had a lot of trouble trying to do so. I was so embarrassed at what the cop had to be thinking, having to watch me struggle to turn the Cadillac towards the side of the road. After a long moment of humiliation, I stopped the car completely, putting it into park, and the squad car pulled up behind me.
I felt like I was the one who was going to throw up this time, and I still clutched at the wheel tightly. Avery looked like he was sleeping in the seat beside me, and I wished I had the gall to call him every name in the book – only I'd probably sound stupid saying such words. Since I'd never said them before and all.
A sharp rapping at my window almost made me scream aloud, and then I quickly started to roll the window down. A man bent to look in at me, and my embarrassment rose – he was one of the cutest policemen I'd ever seen. He had dirty blond hair cut close to his head, bright blue eyes, and even dimples as he smirked cockily in at me, shining the flashlight in.
"Evening miss," he said to me. The light then shined on Avery, who didn't budge. "Some shoddy driving you were doing."
"I'm sorry," I said quickly.
"Have you been drinking?" he demanded.
"No!" I shook my head. I side-glanced Avery, and then turned back to the policeman. "He has," I said pointing at him. "That's why I'm driving – this is his car, not mine." For some reason I just couldn't stop rambling now that I'd started. "We were at the same party, and he needed a ride – we live on the same street, you see. We're not really friends or anything, but I just felt bad for him so I agreed to drive him home --"
The officer cut me off. "Can I see your license?"
I cringed slightly, shrinking down in the seat. "I ah...I don't have my license," I said honestly. "I don't even have my permit, sir."
And that's how I found myself, sitting on a bench in a jail cell, waiting for my parents to come pick me up.
Avery was laying across the bench beside me, not sleeping but pretending to, like in the car. Officer Dreamboat hadn't really arrested us, but had made us get into his car so he could bring us in. Through the whole ride, Avery had seemed slightly irritated at me, and that made me angry – who did he think he was? It was his fault we'd gotten into this mess, not mine. I glanced down at him, wanting to pull that dyed black hair of his completely out, but I held back the urge.
With a sigh, I climbed to my feet. There was a little sink in the cell, and I trudged over to it. I looked at myself in the mirror above the sink, and I wanted to cry – I didn't belong in a jail cell. I had long and wavy blond hair, sharp, if not Elvish, features, and brown eyes. I didn't think I was one of the prettiest girls at Hillridge High, but it meant something that I was up there with the Sinclair Sisters, who were practically famous. And here I was, in a cell with Avery the Pothead.
"This sucks," I said to my reflection, before pouting slightly.
"You were right, man," Avery said from behind me. "You can't drive."
Folding my arms over my chest, I turned to him with a glare. "I told you that," I snapped. "Excuse me for preferring to ride my bike places – I don't feel the need to know how to drive."
"Why do you ride your bike?" he asked me, sitting up and leaning against the wall, his legs stretched out in front of him. "Are you some kind of hippie chick or something? Go green and all."
"No," I said, matter-of-factly, "I just like to stay fit, I guess. I like riding my bike."
"I can tell," he said, and his eyes moved over me slowly. "You're skinnier than that Kate Moss girl – you could probably squeeze through those bars if you wanted."
I was offended. I'd had that problem my whole life, the problem of looking like a twig. I wasn't exactly built like a twelve-year-old boy or anything, but my chest and hips were rather small in comparison to a lot of girls. My mother called me 'petite.'
"There is nothing wrong with how skinny I am!" I said – something else my mother used to say to me.
He studied me, blinking lazily. "No," he said after a moment. "Never said that. Except for the fact that you look malnourished and stuff. I'd probably break you in half just trying to hug you."
"And why would I let some dirtbag stoner hug me?" I asked him. "Just leave me alone, okay? My parents are going to kill me when they get here."
Without waiting for a response, I turned away from him and I grabbed at the cold metal bars of the cell. There was a desk right outside, where a policewoman was sitting and scribbling in some book. She didn't even look up as I stared moodily at her, and I gave an empty-sounding sigh. I heard shuffling footsteps behind me, and suddenly Avery was standing next to me, his hands shoved into the pockets of his jeans. He'd seemed to sober up some, and at least the smell of alcohol wasn't as strong as it'd been – or maybe I'd just gotten used to it.
"Look," he said, "I'm sorry."
"I said leave me alone," I said.
"No, I mean it," he said. "I just thought we could help each other out – you could drive me home, and you'd have a way home too. I didn't know we'd end up here."
I sighed, and then shrugged one of my shoulders. "It's okay," I said, slowly. He sounded really sorry, and I was the type who couldn't hold grudges. I glanced up at him – because I was so short I only came up to about his chin and I took in his appearance for about the first real time since I'd known of him. His skin was pale, and his hair was wavy like mine, and just long enough to cover the tops of his ears and like I said, dyed black. His eyes were hazel – I'd never gotten close enough to see.
And he was actually kind of attractive – in a weird kind of way.
I would try and forget I'd ever had that thought.
"Mollie Lynn Harker!"
I jumped, and then cringed at the sound of my mother's voice. Avery gave me a sympathetic look and turned to go back to the bench, just as my parents came into view. My mother's hair was in curlers, and I could tell my the redness of her face that she'd had to scrub her face mask off before she came – she'd probably been sleeping when the police had called her. My father was still wearing his pajama pants, his long coat over top of it.
And they both were angry.
"Just who do you think you are, young lady?" my mother asked me, before launching into her tirade about how much of a bad kid I was.
I hung my head slightly, and listened to every word like I knew I had to. Basically, I was grounded for life -- or at least until my parents decided I'd had enough. By the time she was finished, I was so embarrassed that my cheeks felt like they were on fire – I really wished that my parents hadn't gone off on me in front of Avery. I didn't even glance at him when I was finally allowed out of the cell, and as my parents led me away, I could feel his eyes on me.
Man, this was just my luck.
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