Chapter One

My mother thought I was an idiot. Not in a bad way I knew, but she was sure I was the type of girl who, without proper guidance would end up buying shares in the Statue of Liberty or spending my college fund on swamp land in Florida. I understood why she felt this way, most of the time I behaved like an idiot and gave the woman the feeling she needed to watch me like a hawk to keep me out of trouble.

Acting like a complete moron in front of my parents had become an art form. I couldn't even tell you why I'd actually started doing it. One day my mother asked me about sex and instead of telling the woman to buzz off, I acted like an asshole and played innocent idiot. I didn't have a boyfriend at the time and wasn't having sex, wasn't intending to have sex anytime soon, but the though of screwing with my mother's head was too hard to resist.

The next night she rented some cheesy fifties video complete with girls in poodle skirts and guys in lettermen sweaters who said things like 'let's go all the way', the sheer ludicrousness of the whole situation had amused me so much I didn't let her know I was pulling her leg. Now years later our relationship wasn't much different. She treated me like a mental midget, explaining every basic thing, and I played along. The act had never really grown tiresome for me. I found new ways to prove my naïveté and she did everything in her power to protect me.

My best friends Morgan and Dee found the whole ordeal hilarious. When I told Dee what I'd done she laughed a good half hour before trying to explain to me my mother had to be pulling my leg also. Dee knew my mother well having been my best friend since pre-school and was convinced the woman knew I was screwing with her.

Her opinion changed however when mother pulled her aside one day and asked her to keep a close eye on me because at age fourteen I was still kind of naïve and high school boys would take advantage. Dee agreed eagerly and told my mother she'd been thinking the same thing and was looking for a tactful way to broach the subject with her.

The whole summer before high school it had turned into a little game for us. Whenever someone made some kind of sexual innuendo I pretended to not know what it meant and watched my parents squirm trying to ignore or explain it. Dee stood by amused.

Dee and I grew up as neighbors and had been best friends since as far as I could remember. Dee and her twin sister Delia both started out as my best friends. They were identical twins who were my age and lived across the street. We'd grown close due to the sheer proximity of our young lives and through the years stayed close. As a kid I hadn't exactly grasped the idea of twins. Biology clearly wasn't my strong suit at six years old. The prospect of having a friend who could be in two places at once intrigued me as a kid and it took a year of explaining before I accepted the fact that the girls were in reality two separate people and not one.

The fact that I thought my best friend was some kind of magician as a kid is what drew me to be her friend in the first place. The girls were pretty, even back then Dee and Delia could stop traffic with their looks and as the years went on they'd only grown more beautiful. I'd always assumed Dee would get into some kind of modeling, she was that pretty, but compliments about her looks only seemed to upset her. She was intelligent as well as pretty and wanted that to be how people saw her. I told her on numerous occasions that being pretty had suited me just fine in life and it would suit her fine too if she simply just accepted it. She never did accept it though and by sheer force of personality turned the public opinion of her from beauty to brain.

When we started high school Delia decided she'd had enough of being a twin and began to do everything in her power to differentiate herself from her sister. Dee seemed not to mind but I knew her and I could tell Delia's decision to become her own person separate from her identity as a twin hurt her deeply. With Delia effectively gone with a new set of friends Dee and I stumbled across Morgan at freshman cheerleader tryouts.

Morgan was tall, even as a freshman she towered over the other girls. I found her fascinating from the start. She was a green eyed, sandy haired blonde who was by far the most talented athlete I'd ever met. She was the kind of athletic girl who was good at everything. Basketball, Volleyball, Softball, anything, cheerleading had come so easy to her that instead of being jealous I'd become intrigued. As Dee and I struggled to pick up the routines she caught on with ease and after the first day of tryouts invited us to her house to practice.

When we showed up the next afternoon we'd been nicknamed the 'Trifecta' by the other girls. The varsity girls marveled at our fluidity, precision and tumbling and were impressed with Dee's and my drastic improvement. We made the squad and have been cheerleaders ever since.

Being a high school cheerleader wasn't important in the grand scheme of things. I mean if I went on to cure cancer the fact that I was a cheerleader in high school wouldn't even be mentioned in my obituary. On the flip side of things if I dropped dead tomorrow most of the kids in my high school would remember me as the cheerleader who died too young. Looking at things this way and always being a glass half full type of gal I decided to embrace my role as head cheerleader at James Madison High.

Technically Dee and I were co-captains but Dee was the type of girl who really only cared about getting the credit and had no interest in how things were done or the procedures involved with anything. She'd agreed to serve as Co-captain to pad her college transcripts, as if Harvard or Yale would be impressed by the fact that she managed to get a four point oh and co-captain the cheerleading team. Being her best friend I was more than willing to help her out. If she thought it had even a remote chance of working who was I to stand in her way? I had no problem picking up the slack.

I didn't tell Dee but I'd initially wanted to share co-captain with Morgan. However knowing Morgan as well as I did I knew she wouldn't be the least bit interested in being in a position of authority. Morgan found life easier when she was able to show up, do her job, and go home. Despite that fact she also spent the first portion of each school year playing on the volleyball team and wouldn't have been free anyway. I was bummed out I had to captain without her. Even though I knew Morgan would have been much more fun I settled with Dee and did my best to enjoy it.

Like most schools Madison high was divided into cliques. Athletes, Cheerleaders, Nerds, Geeks, Freaks, everyone had a group. Being cheerleaders our roles were clearly defined, and being an inseparable trio only cemented our reputations more.

Despite being popular I found the whole social structure of the school lacking any originality. Nerds got picked on, athletes were worshiped, we were envied. I found it had gotten old really fast. By the time I'd been named homecoming queen last month I'd wanted to shoot myself. I was happy but only slightly and that was mostly because Dee and mom were so excited for me.

I'd picked a cute popular boy to take me to the dance. I danced with him a few times like I'd been expected to do, then ditched him early. I had a decent time hanging out with my friends, partied, got drunk, passed out and woke up in a puddle of my own vomit the next morning. In short, I had a blast. At least the night hadn't been a total waste.

Unfortunately for me the next day all hell broke loose. Dee got on my case that afternoon about my drinking. She wasn't a stranger to alcohol, none of us were but as usual I'd over done it and when I found myself passed out in my underwear in the middle of a hotel room she'd seen enough. She'd taken it upon herself to ban me from alcohol for thirty days and threatened to tell my parents I was an alcoholic if she even smelled a hint of liquor on my breath. I reluctantly agreed. I served my sentence with white knuckles and on Saturday my dry period would be up and I planned on getting shit faced.

I thought about Saturday night and what kind of trouble I could get into while I sat at our usual lunch table in the quad. Our school was buried in a Southern California suburb where we managed to get close to three hundred days of sunshine a year. Locking us inside a dull cafeteria everyday amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. Some kids made fast food runs but most of the kids lingered outside during their lunch hour. Today was no exception the quad was packed with kids some eating lunches brought from home in brown bags others with cafeteria food.

I pulled my shades over my eyes and reached across the table for Morgan's soda. She saw me reaching and grabbed the bottle unscrewed the cap and handed it to me.

"That is so disgusting. I'll never get used to seeing you two do that."

Morgan looked over to Dee with an innocent gaze. "What?" She asked with a straight face that almost fooled me until I looked at her hands. I hadn't noticed at first but she'd reached onto my plate and grabbed my cheeseburger. "I don't know what you mean." She added for good measure before taking a bite.

Dee shook her head disgusted with us both and refocused her attention to her Chemistry book.

I looked over at Morgan and gave her belly a poke with my finger. She turned to me with a polite smile and gave me a wink.

"Why you so quiet?" I finally asked her.

She dropped her head onto the table and sighed deeply. "Volleyball is over. My dad and the coach keep hounding me about going to Michigan."

Dee looked over to her with a nod. "Good school."

"I thought you said you were going to San Fran State."

Morgan shot me a look that said I should be quiet. I wasn't sure why but I clammed up anyway.

"Why would you go to San Francisco State? Ten schools offered you a full ride scholarship Morgan. Division one Schools that play on TV. You ever see the San Fran State girl's volleyball team playing on ESPN2?"

Morgan rolled her eyes and I understood why she wanted me to keep my mouth shut. Dee was of the same mind of her parents and Volleyball coach. They wanted her to go to a big college and play for a Division one school.

I didn't really care what college she went to as long as she was happy. She was going to college to study English, she wanted to write and felt she could learn that anywhere. I had to agree, I loved her writing and found that much more important than volleyball. Volleyball however would save her parents thousands of dollars on college tuition and she loved playing it so it seemed like a winning combination, play to get a free college education. Unfortunately the people in her life didn't understand that unless you had Olympic aspirations college was pretty much the end of the line. If you knew Morgan you understood without being told she loved playing the game but could care less if her team actually won or loss. She sure as hell didn't care about going to the Olympics.

Dee on the other hand had her heart set on getting into Stanford. Her father had gone to school there and with her grades and extra curricular activities she was bound to be accepted. The check her father wrote them last year wouldn't hurt her chances either I supposed.

"Leave her alone Dee, if she wants to go there I think it's a great idea."

Dee looked up to me then back to her book with disappointment. "You would."

I ignored her. She always pretended I was a bad influence on Morgan and I always pretended not to notice. If you called listening to what the girl wanted to do and being supportive, instead of trying to run her life for her, being a bad influence then they were correct, I was a bad influence.

"My dad is really pushing Michigan. I don't know why but he's got a stick up his ass for that place."

Morgan's dad was a Midwestern transplant who'd moved to California for work and never went home. I knew for a fact the guy was from Illinois and had no idea why he was stuck on sending her to Michigan.

"It's freezing there." I said casually.

"She can afford to buy a jacket. Besides the world isn't really like this. Most places have seasons."

I watched Morgan continue to pout and placed my hand on her leg for support. She patted it briefly with her own before moving it off her and back to me. I looked at her a bit confused by the gesture but decided to ignore it.

"Maybe wherever you decide to go I'll go with you. I can study Accounting anywhere too."

Morgan smiled politely once again and reached into my plate and grabbed a French fry.

What was that? That pause, the polite smile. Was she trying to get away from me? I was only kidding about the college thing.

"I'm only joking." I said slightly, trying to hide the hurt in my voice. I reached out for her hand but she pulled away. Okay, what the hell?

She turned to me and smiled, this time genuinely. "I know you were." Was all she said.

After practice Morgan showed up to give me a ride home instead of Dee. Normally I rode home with Dee, with her living across the street it made sense, but today she'd made plans to meet up with her boyfriend Jesse and tasked Morgan to chauffer me around.

When I saw her Yellow Mustang pull into the parking lot my heart leapt into my throat. Was she mad at me? Weirded out over the college thing? I wanted to ask what I had done to offend her but I didn't want to make things worse.

I walked over to her car and sat inside. She was wearing a Madison High Volleyball tee shirt with a sweat ring around the neck and skin tight volleyball shorts. She had a strong odor of sweat from her workout but it didn't bother me, it was sweet to my nose. The smell entered my nostrils and filled them with her scent. I loved being with her when she worked out or after a game or practice, the activity made her skin glow and she always smelled so nice when she was sweaty. I could feel her body heat as we sat in the car. I wanted to roll up the windows and trap the heat and smell inside. I could sit here like this with her all afternoon, quiet, together.

"How was your work out?" I asked attempting to break the ice with small talk.

She shrugged. "It was okay I guess."

I looked in her lap and noticed she was drinking a bottled water. The bottle was balancing safely between her legs minus the cap, seeing it automatically made me thirsty. Without thinking I reached for it but before my hand made it she caught me by the wrist and pushed it away. I looked at her confused and stunned by the act then did the only thing I could think to do, apologize.

"I'm sorry." I said not sure as to what exactly I was sorry for. We'd been drinking after each other for years and suddenly now it was a problem?

She looked over to me with regret and tried handing me the water. "No it's fine."

I refused it, didn't want the charity. "No it's okay. I'll just wait until I get home."

We drove to my house in silence and when we pulled into my driveway I thought to ask her to come inside and hang out. She needed a shower and she had a drawer full of clean clothes in my dresser. Maybe I could talk to her about why she was pissed at me all of a sudden. Maybe it was something small that I could fix.

I got out of the car and looked at her. She wasn't looking at me. She hadn't on the whole drive over either. Suddenly I was mortified. What had happened? Had I done something to upset her? I replayed the day in my head and searched for an insensitive comment that could have been taken the wrong way. I couldn't remember saying anything insulting but it had to be there, I had to have done something. I'd done or said something to her to make her angry, I had to.

"Morgan I'm sorry. Whatever I did to piss you off I'm sorry. Don't be mad at me anymore. I don't like it, I hate it."

She finally looked at me, eyes caught mine. "I better go." She said nervously before she put her car in reverse and backed out of the drive way.