Chapter 1: Odd Jobs

It is late spring. School is close to ending for the summer and the students are busy taking exams. Cindy Shay is in her first year of high school at North Ridge High. She is what most people would call average, with no defining features apart from a squashed button of a nose that makes her look a little young for her age. She is of average height with long grayish brown hair. She is rather slender despite her strong physique that comes from doing a lot of different jobs involving manual labor.

Cindy's family is not exactly poor but they are far from being well off. As such her allowance is minuscule and she has to work if she wants to have money to spend over the summer. At this very moment she is currently cleaning out the men's bathroom on the second floor of the high school, not as one of her many jobs but as punishment for skipping class last week for a different job.

It is the end of the school day and she has only just started. She has barely filled her bucket with water and soap when she is interrupted by two of her classmates. "Jeez, are they really making you do this?" Molly, her best friend, wrinkles her nose disapprovingly as she enters the men's room.

"You shouldn't be here," Cindy warns her.

"Why not?" the shorter girl asks with a shrug. She has chocolate brown hair that only reaches her shoulders and a slightly plumper frame, but she is not what anyone would call fat. "You put up the sign already so no guys are gonna come here, right?"

"Who knows. They might not know how to read," Molly's friend Laura chimes in. She is a little taller than Cindy with a much lankier appearance, including a slightly long face that makes her easily recognizable. All three of these girls hang out together at school most of the time, except when Cindy is skipping, which she does at least once a week.

"Can't you find a different job?" Molly suggests. "What kind of person asks you to work on a school day?"

"It's not Mrs. Raily's fault her bakery is popular," Cindy defends her boss.

"It was one thing on Valentine's Day, but it's April now," Molly reminds her. "We have tests. You're going to fail them if you keep this up. I don't want to have to call you an underclassman next year," she whines while hugging Cindy from behind.

"I'm not going to fail, I promise," Cindy remains confident. She has been doing this sort of thing for a long time, practically the entire school year and even in junior high before.

"Why are you so desperate," Laura asks. "It's not like the world will end if you can't go to Adrian Cash's concert."

Cindy suddenly spins around, tossing Molly off of her back and pressing a finger to Laura's lips while making a shushing sound. "Don't you even suggest that," she whispers ominously. "I have to go to this concert. When will I ever get another chance like this? What are the odds that he would be holding a three part concert in our area this summer? I'm definitely going to all three of them. You're coming too, right?"

"Well…" Laura averts her eyes.

"My parents already bought me tickets to the first one," Molly announces while raising her hand like a proud student answering a teacher's question.

"What about the rest of them?" Cindy grabs her by the shoulders and shakes her slightly.

"Well, I don't see why I should bother. I mean, he's just going to sing the same ten songs, right? He's got those five from his first album and then the five from the new one he's promoting."

"Yeah but you'll get to see him live… in person. It will be like he's singing just for you," Cindy squeals.

"And every other girl who can get their parents to waste money on a ticket," Molly argues.

"My parents said I had to choose one of the concerts as well," Laura admits. "If Molly's going to the first one then so will I."

"What? I can't believe you two." Cindy stares at them. "How can you miss a chance to see our beloved Adrian in person? If we go to all three of them then he might recognize us and ask us back stage."

"Can we even get that close to the stage?" Molly is skeptical. "He's not going to be trying to look for anyone familiar and even if he were, it wouldn't be any of us." Molly tends to be the most logical of the three friends, who met and became immediate acquaintances due to their love of Adrian Cash and his music. Adrian Cash is a recent pop star that appeared just over two years ago. Molly, Cindy and Laura were all instant fans, though they did not meet each other until high school.

During their first homeroom assembly, all students were asked to give a short introduction about themselves. Cindy had stood up and shouted about her obsession with Adrian Cash. She even went as far as to voice her intention of meeting him one day and trying to ask him out on a date. Both Laura and Molly approached her after the assembly and admitted their mutual interest. Ever since, the three girls have been practically inseparable.

"I can't believe you're betraying me," Cindy whines. "Do you know how hard I worked to get the money for a triple venue ticket?"

"At least buying that special one drops the price a little bit," Molly sighs. Though it is her own fault, she still feels bad for Cindy. The majority of the money she has earned from doing many different jobs has all gone toward one common interest. Her room at home is plastered with posters of Adrian Cash; not only from his solo debut but even from the talent TV show he first appeared on and his short stint in a starter band before his studio decided he worked better alone.

She has three copies of both of his albums, one still in its original packaging, one for herself and one for loaning to friends. She purchased another copy of each just to give to Laura, who did not intend to buy them and was content to just have her favorite two songs on her mp3 player. Molly quickly purchased them for herself so that Cindy would not waste her money again.

Cindy also has two t-shirts with his face on them and another one with his starter band. More of her money went to buying her own CD player, an mp3 player, digital copies of all nineteen of his songs as well as digital copies of the two songs his starter band released before it got a different lead singer, digital copies of three cover songs he did that were never released on a CD, special high quality headphones and a promotional cell phone case with his face on it.

As part of a deal with her parents so that they allow her to work as much as she wants, she was also responsible for buying her own cell phone and paying all of the fees involved. She also purchases most to all of her own school supplies, clothes, her laptop and lunch at school. This is all to prove she is not just wasting her money on useless things.

Molly and Laura have been to her house multiple times and they are both impressed by her dedication to Adrian. Though they do not have as much stuff related to him, they can both understand her and are slightly jealous. On their birthdays she bought them each their own cell phone cases to match hers. Her birthday will not be until summer but neither one of them knows what to get her as she never waits before buying anything for herself. Tickets to the triple feature concert would have been perfect but they were too expensive to buy as gift for someone else.

"Have you even bought your ticket yet?" Molly asks with concern. She knows that Adrian Cash tickets sell out quickly.

"Yes… well no… I mean, sort of," Cindy spouts incoherently while dunking her mop in her bucket of water. "A couple years ago I was working as an extra cleaner at the concert hall downtown so I know someone who is working there who received a set of five triple feature tickets for himself and friends. He promised me one of them for a discount."

"You're not talking about Cain, are you?" Molly groans. "You know I don't like that guy. Does he still ask you to go with him to all of those conventions? Worse, does he still make you dress up in those skimpy costumes?"

"It's called cosplay," Cindy informs Molly hotly. "Cain says I have a knack for it."

"He's just goading you on," Molly tries to warn her. "He just wants to see you baring your midriff constantly."

"It's because the character I play wears the outfit," Cindy defends her friend. "She's a super spy who…"

"Wears a wet suit and a cat burglar outfit in the cartoon. Yet, for some reason, last time you dressed up as her, you wore the one without a proper belly," Molly continues to scold Cindy.

"Face it, Cindy, Cain is just a pervert." Laura pats Cindy on the shoulder.

"You two are so unappreciative. Cain has been nothing but supportive. I was actually hoping to buy three of the triple venue tickets but I couldn't raise the money in time. I'm starting not to feel so bad about it."

"Why are you always giving us things?" Molly suddenly snaps. "We said we'd have our parents buy our tickets, didn't we?"

"Well, they only bought you one ticket each, right? What if you sold those and used them to buy one of my triple feature ones," Cindy suggests.

"I don't think my mom would like that." Laura shakes her head. "She said I wasn't getting an allowance for a month after this. If she finds out I traded it for a different ticket she'll think I'm not grateful."

"How is she gonna find out?" Cindy argues.

"Well, I wouldn't be home on the two following days of the concert," Laura explains.

"She won't know you traded your ticket. She'll just think you bought your own," Cindy comes up with yet another excuse.

"Why would I have asked her to buy me the first ticket if I could afford two more?" Laura snaps at her. "Not only will she be mad but she'll feel like I wasn't satisfied with what she gave me, which would be true. No, this is more than enough. She didn't even have to do this much for me. I'm not going to make her feel bad for not being able to do more."

"I…" Cindy is left without a rebuttal. She has been more or less financially independent since junior high and has forgotten how to be thankful for what her parents allotted for her.

"I'm sorry," Laura suddenly realizes how loud she has been. It is not Cindy's fault. She just wants to share this experience with her two best friends. "Really, can't we just go to the one concert? If you buy a normal ticket you can keep all the money you earned."

"And do what with it?" Cindy frowns. Since she began her hobby of collecting Adrian Cash memorabilia, she has never had spare money for anything apart from food.

"You could save it for when you go off to college," Molly gives a logical response, as expected.

"Eh…" Cindy looks at her as if she has just suggested something troublesome. "I live in the moment."

"Well then, why don't you use it on something fun for the summer," Laura tries to be helpful. "You could travel to the beach or something."

"The beach?" Cindy is intrigued by the idea. "Would you two come with me?"

"Of course," Laura spouts without waiting for Molly.

"I'd have to ask my parents for more money." Molly winces.

"Or I could pay for you," Cindy spouts happily.

Both Laura and Molly share concerned glances. They know that Cindy is just trying to be a good friend but neither one of them enjoys feeling indebted to her. Of course, being indebted to their parents would not be much better. "Maybe we should just get jobs too," Molly suggests.

"But I'm on the girl's track team," Laura reminds her. "Oh damn, I'm late for practice. See you girls later." Laura backs out of the bathroom and rushes off down the hall.

"There she goes," Molly sighs.

"What about you? Can you really get a job?" Cindy is skeptical.

"My dad doesn't like the idea of me working but if I talk to my mom first it should work out. He wasn't too keen on me going to the concert either actually. He already asked if he needs to have the talk with Adrian."

"Oh my god," Cindy bursts out laughing. "How stupid is your dad?"

"He just doesn't think before he says things," Molly sighs. "I think he's a little paranoid."

"A little? Last time you slept over he called on the hour and asked to speak to me so he knew you were not at your secret boyfriend's house," Cindy reminds her. "Does he still think you are seeing that classmate you had the project with that one time."

"Tom? He won't even talk to me in class after the questions my dad asked him," Molly shudders. "I can't wait to go to college. I'm definitely going somewhere far away."

"Won't your dad choose one close by for you though?" Cindy surmises.

"Don't even suggest that." Molly covers her mouth. "I hope to god not. I really need to put some distance between myself and him. Maybe then he'll chill out a little."

"Was he like that with your older brother at all?" Cindy is curious.

"No. In fact, he asked him why he hadn't got a girlfriend every day after he hit puberty. He was convinced Josh was gay until he finally brought home a girl."

"Wow, I'm glad my dad's not that weird." Cindy cringes.

"You are so lucky your parents let you do whatever you want," Molly moans jealously.

"Well, they don't really have a choice. Me paying for my own stuff really helps them out."

"Even if I paid for my own stuff, it wouldn't make a difference," Molly sighs. "I don't even know if I'd be good at working."

"You won't know until you try." Cindy makes a fist pumping motion to motivate her.

"You make everything look easy," Molly laughs. "I wish I could be half as passionate about some things as you."

"I'm only passionate about Adrian!" Cindy spouts proudly. Her cheeks turn slightly red though.

"If you're going to get embarrassed then don't say it!" Molly scolds her.

"Sorry, sorry. You can go home on your own now. I'll try to finish up before practice ends so I can walk home with Laura. We might stop by if it's alright with your mom. I doubt your dad would say yes."

"Oh, dad loves it when you guys come over. It helps convince him that I don't have any guy friends," Molly explains.

"Weird, just weird." Cindy does not want to outright call her friend's father creepy or anything too rude.

"I'll see you either tonight or tomorrow." Molly pretends not to care. She is used to ignoring her father's strange behavior.

"Great, now to clean this whole place by myself," Cindy sighs as she turns to face the task in front of her again.

Just then, two boys enter the bathroom without reading the sign she has posted. "Woah, what's a girl doing in here?" one of them asks.

"Can't you tell by looking?" Cindy gestures to the denim overalls she is wearing and the fact that her long hair is tied up in a bun on the back of her head.

"Shay, what are you doing cleaning the men's room?" the second boy recognizes her. He is in a few of the same classes as her as well as being a former classmate from junior high.

"Hi, Michael. I'm here because I've already cleaned the girls' rooms on all floors," she explains.

"So you got caught skipping again," Michael laughs.

"Something like that." Cindy is not in the mood to talk about it.

"Great, now we're going to be late for track," the first boy groans.

"Isn't there a bathroom in the locker room?" Cindy tilts her head in thought.

"It's probably really crowded right now," Michael explains. "Joe and I always stop by here on our way to the field."

"You two come in together?" Cindy wrinkles her nose.

"So? Girls go to the bathroom in pairs all the time," Joe becomes defensive.

"That's not weird though," Cindy argues. "Girls rely on each other. Men need to be independent."

"Says you." Joe shoves her aside so he can enter one of the bathroom stalls.

"Hey, I just had that one clean!" she shouts at him.

"What about this one?" Michael asks while pointing at one of the urinals on the wall.

"No, but…" Before she can argue, he has already unzipped his fly.

"Alright, I'll be in here until you guys are done." She locks herself in one of the stalls so she does not have to watch Michael. "You guys are gross."

"It's no different than you watching Molly pee," Michael taunts her.

"I don't watch her. I look out for her. It's dangerous for a girl to be alone sometimes."

"It can be dangerous for boys too," Michael argues.

"Like anyone's ever raped a boy," Cindy scoffs.

"It happens in jail all the time," Michael assures her. "Your gender isn't special."

"If you two don't get out of here soon, I just might show you what it's like to get raped." She waves her mop handle above the stall door.

"Whoa, you just said something dangerous, Shay." Michael quickly finishes and zips himself up. On his way out of the bathroom he kicks over her bucket of water and soap. "Just for that comment," he shouts at her stall.

"Later Shay." Joe follows after his friend without even flushing or washing his hands. Cindy tries to remain calm but fails. She clenches her teeth and screams without actually opening her mouth, so as not to be too loud. Her plans to be done on time have just been dashed.

After several deep breaths she starts to calm down again though. In the end, this will all be worth it. She will have her ticket to see Adrian Cash and his soothing voice and pretty boy face will make everything better. She starts to hum one of her favorite songs as she begins to refill the bucket with water from one of the faucets while using her mop to soak up the spilled suds. Nothing can get to her in the end as long as she has Adrian.