As If (More Jessica)

So Jill finally gets to the store – late again! I swear, she spends more time on her hair than I do, and that’s saying something, you know? I mean, fine, sure, she’s got curly hair so she needs to straighten it every day and that takes time and stuff, but still – it’s not like Mr. Jacobs remembers to pay me overtime. Anyway, she’s finally here and I’m pretty angry by now since it’s almost five-thirty and my shift was supposed to end at five.

“Um, double-you-tee-eff, Jill?” I ask as she comes in.

“Sorry, sorry babes! Oh my gosh, is it really that late? Oh, I’m so sorry,” she’s such a gusher, it’s so annoying! “But Jessi-babes,” and I hate that she calls me Jessi. “You’ve got to listen, the most amzinglicious thing happened. I was walking out of my car, right? And this guy was, like, leaning against this yummilicious Ferrari and he was texting on his phone or something, and he looked so bored and then I tripped, right? I mean, these heals are new, and it was so embarrassing.” Does she realize that I’m still here? I should be halfway home now! “But he was really sweet and helped me up and asked if I tore my jeans or anything, and I said no, but that it was so nice of him to ask and not laugh and we got to talking – and have I mentioned how hot he was? Anyway, so we talked and I gave him my number!” She looks so excited, it’s really so sad that I have to say what I have to say. But I do.

“Yeah, Jill?” I say, and I take my purse from under the counter. “That’s Robbie, he’s my roommate, he’s been waiting to pick me up from my shift.” I can’t help gritting my teeth a little, I mean, come on, she hit on my roommate and that’s a good excuse for making me stay an extra half hour? As if!

Jill giggles. I hate her giggle. I mean, I like her, don’t get my wrong, and when we have shifts together – only on weekends when there’s a rush of customers at the mall – then I kinda like hanging out with her. She can be funny and stuff, but I hate. Her. Giggle. “Oh-em-gee, Jessi-babes! You’ve got a hottie like that for a roommate? Jealous much. So can you make sure he calls me?”

As if. I am so not making Robbie call her. “Sweetie, he’s gay,” I tell her. Ha! I love seeing women’s faces doing that crumply thing they do when I tell them about Robbie. They get all disappointed and then, the inevitable comes along…

“But he doesn’t look gay!” she says. See, now I just kind of hate her a little bit. I mean, come on, not everyone fits a stereotype, you know? I mean, Robbie sure doesn’t. Anyway, I don’t know, my mom said the same thing when she met him when I told her we were moving in together after college. She totally didn’t believe me at first, she was so sure that we were going to get married and stuff. It wasn’t until I told her flat out that I could produce video proof that she backed down. I was bluffing, obviously – I mean, as if, Robbie hasn’t had a date in months! Sweet guy, but he only knows how to hit on girls. It’s kind of funny, really, he’s just this big flirt, but he clams up around guys he likes.

“Well, I’m getting out of here, okay? Mr. Jacobs is in a mucho bad mood so watch out. He caught this rich lady stealing and now she’s saying she’s going to sue and stuff. So, like, be careful.” I air-kiss Jill and I leave the store.

Oh! Text. Let’s see… Oh, it’s Robbie, of course: “Jess, Jess, Where art thou, my dove?” He’s so funny! He was an English major (duh) and he is so funny about his texts, he always writes really long ones and uses capital letters and stuff. I text back “c ya in a min” and I start to go down the escalator.

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2. Amanda [3]

Amanda sat in the back of the auditorium, ready to spring up the moment the last speaker was finished. She was wearing a dark red t-shirt two sizes too big for her, bearing the legend “Valley Camp Leader” in bright pink letters. Once again, she felt that although she loved her college, their sense of humor was often a bit stilted. Not many of the first years liked the joke of being at camp – they, like Amanda had felt just a year before, wanted to be reassured that they were free from their families and from their old towns and homes and were embarking on some sort of independent life.

As the lights came on, Amanda got up with the other three orientation-leaders, and they all blew their whistles half-heatedly – more for the benefit of the overenthusiastic Office of Admissions employees then for the new students. Leaving off the piercing sounds, they just yelled instead for their respective groups.

She was leading the new Oakwood students to the day’s activities that were supposed to acquaint them with the campus and the school. Her group was rather feeble, stretching and yawning and rubbing their eyes. She gave them what she hoped was a sly smile, and told them that before they were going to go on their in-depth tour of the campus, they’d go back to Oakwood and bang on the doors and wake all the lazy butts who hadn’t shown up for the morning talk.

This won her a few smiles, and she led them down to Oakwood. A gangly boy, with a mop of blond curls adorning his head, came up to her.

“Your name’s Amanda, right?”

“Mhmm, it’s right on my sticker,” she pointed at the big tag on her t-shirt with her name on it.

“I know this is like, totally weird and all, but are you by any chance Jake’s twin?” the boy’s face was open and honest, and Amanda stared at him for a moment, wondering how on earth he knew her brother. Then the pieces clicked into place.

“Bo, right?”

He grinned at her and ran his fingers through his hair, making them unrulier than ever.

“Yeah, I work with Jake at Lila’s. I was working full time over the summer, but I’m thinking that at twenty-three, I’d better finally use that fund my grandparents left me for college. Plus, this way, I get to stay in a dorm instead of with my Aunt Tanya.”

Amanda couldn’t help but smile. She could see what Jake saw in this boy’s – young man’s, she corrected herself – guiless face and long limbs flying every which way as he walked.

“Well, I’m glad you came here. It’s kind of weird for me to be your-” she made air-quotes with her fingers, “Camp Leader and all. I’m only nineteen, you know.”

“Yeah, I know I’m starting college late, but heck, I figure I’ll be really popular what with having a real ID stating I’m over twenty-one and all,” he grinned at her as she waved a finger at him and walked back to join the group trailing after her like tired little ducklings.

Amanda’s mood took a definite upward swing. Jake had mentioned in his rambling and confused way that Bo was coming to Valley U, but Amanda hadn’t realized he’d be living on campus. She hoped this would mean she’d get to see Jake more often, as well as in a better mood. Good start to the year, she thought.

4. Marty and Claire [2]

Claire dug out some clothing from the big suitcase that sat beside the mattress on her floor. She hurriedly threw on her usual baggy jeans, a big “I Love NY” t-shirt that used to belong to her mom, and shoved her feet into her tattered Converse high-tops. Back in the kitchen, Marty had found a paper and pen in his breifcase and handed her a list with some essential groceries before giving her a few twenty-dollar bills.

“If it’s too much or too heavy, call me and I’ll come help out with the carrying home, okay? Got your cell? Your new keys? Okay, Honey, see you soon.”

“Bye, Dad,” Claire skipped out the door and locked it behind her with a resounding ‘click’ as the bolts fell into place. Marty sighed just a little. This is why you moved, he reminded himself, to feel that she was safe.

Also, so she could be close to her grandparents. Marty hadn’t told Mr. and Mrs. Adams yet about the move. It had been rather hasty, and he wanted to surprise them. He wasn’t sure yet about how Claire felt about being reunited with them – after all, the last time she’d seen them, she was ten. Now she was just fourteen, which seemed to Marty to be miles away from the sweet and innocent little girl she’d been. As he began to dig in another box for cutlery to arrange in a drawer, Marty thought of the last couple years and the gaping hole that was Susan’s absence in their lives. Claire had gotten her period, had bought her first bra, had started eying boys – all without a mother to help her through it. Marty did the best he could, trying to be the hip dad, the cool dad that girls could talk to. He felt he’d succeeded, more or less, since Claire and he were on good terms and she wasn’t embarrassed around him about the changes her body was going through. But still, he always felt inadequate. Susan would have done things better, he felt.

As Marty indulged himself in nostalgia and meloncholy, Claire took in the bright and beautiful sunshine that made Victoria Road, their new street, seem to glimmer. The neighborhood sure was lovely, she couldn’t deny that. There were trees planted in the sidewalk every few yards and the apartment buildings all had expanses of lawn or flowerbeds in front of them. A warm breeze warmed her face, and she noticed the pleasant sound of the leaves rusteling.

It’s so quiet, she thought. Certainly different from Manhattan. As Claire walked down Victoria Road, only two cars drove by. It seemed unthinkable to have so little traffic after the constant rush-hour that permeated the streets of New York. She liked it very much, she decided. As she turned from Victoria Road to Brushfield Street, she saw her target, Bill’s, the little grocery store that she and her dad had marked last night while driving the U-Haul. She took the list out of her pocket and entered the store.

3. Heather [2]

At around eleven, Heather finally switched off the lights and locked the door of Miranda’s shop. Miranda herself lived above the store, and ever since hiring Heather she’d taken to going up to her room a bit early and letting Heather close up for her. Not that Heather minded in the least. She enjoyed having a few moments of peace and quiet in the shop, all by herself. She felt then that maybe someday she’d be able to own a place like this – or maybe a place a bit nicer than this – and be independent. She hadn’t been independent yet in her life, not really. Not since… but no, that wasn’t something she wanted to think about.

Heather finished locking up the door and turned into the cool summer night. It always got to be so much cooler at this hour, and she breathed the air in thankfully as she began to make her way back home. Home for her was a small and cozy apartment that she shared with her mother in downtown Hartscreek, just about fifteen minutes away from Miranda’s shop. On the way home, Heather usually stopped in at Lila’s for her final treat of the day – Lila’s Warm-and-Fillin’ Hot Chocolate. There was no better drink in town, as far as Heather was concerned. She thought back to the days when she’d only looked at the option on the menu, never quite daring to order it. She stopped herself from following that line of thought again, and pushed open the door to Lila’s, hearing the usual tinkle of the bell and seeing her favorite new waiter, Jake, smile at her from across the room and yell out a greeting.

Heather smiled back. It was so very good to finish work each evening.

Lucy’s Diary, May 30th

May 30th, about 1AM, Windowsill in my room

Dear Diary,

I have just returned from the library, where it seems I will be spending most of the next few days. Not that I mind in the least, of course. For who do you think will be spending that time poring over books and old newspapers with me? If only you could see my blush in the darkness, you’d know the answer right away. R, of course!

Yes, he is out of the hospital – and quite a dramatic leave-taking that was. After having been told by his doctors that he was basically cured, he decided it would be a good idea to punch the doctor in the face – in front of me no less! – then take me by the hand and pull me out of the hospital with a triumphant shout of “RUN!” Diary, I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard in my life.

I know that we’re extremely far from being out of the woods – the Parazelli are after us, R agrees with me on that, and we know they’re not going to like our alliance and the fact that we can now pool our knowledge together about them. Still, things are looking up – R is out of the hospital and is actually staying at Pratt and Smith’s guest house, as a relation of mine would be entitled to.

Thank goodness Clarisse doesn’t know too much about the family to really know if he’s related to me or not. The P&S teachers have been suspicious about R, but they can’t exactly kick him out, especially when he puts on his charming-the-officials-face and becomes all smooth and suave and intellectual.

P&S is a girls’ school, as I’ve told you before, so of course every single one of the upper-class women here are now drooling over my “relative” as if he were the embodiment of a male Venus on earth. The obnoxious thing is that I can’t even be annoyed with them. I’m “related” to him, so he’s fair game for every flipping-her-hair-and-giggling female in this place.

Do you sense a slight change in me? I do too, Diary. I feel like I’m a bit more alive than I was. The fact that I have an ally and that we’re going to go after the psychopaths that killed my parents makes me feel like I have a purpose in life. I feel every nerve in my body singing with a vengeful longing for action – I feel like the Parazelli have finally met their match. Which is perfectly ridiculous, of course. What can R and me, a couple of normal people – and me only a teenager – do to an ancient cult?

R says that he is supposed to be meeting a contact here, and that it might be a teacher at the school. That has to be our best lead for now, and I hope R manages to follow up on that during the next few days.

As for me? Well, putting my hormones to the side for now, I’m going to try my damndest to find out if this school has or has ever had any sort of connection with either my parents or the Parazelli.

Wish me luck, both with my research and with keeping my hands to myself,

I am your faithful,

Lucy