The night air was cool and still damp from the rain. I placed my hands on the green step of Holley Hall and sat on them, so I wouldn’t get wet. Jack sat beside me, still beating out a rhythm on his knees. The street was black, sparkling with rainwate and cars made a slooshing sound as their tires cut through the puddles. I took off my sandals.
“So, what’ve you been up to lately?” I asked casually, not looking at him.
Jack paused in the middle of a complicated series of taps and thumps. “I’ve made out with three girls in the past week,” he replied, watching me.
Trying not to show that I was startled, I shrugged. “Three different girls?”
He smiled to himself. “Yup.”
“Do I know any of them?”
Well, that was convenient. I wondered what kind of ding-dongs he was getting involved with now.
“Where are they from?” I asked. I didn’t really care, but I didn’t want to leave it at that.
He ignored my query. “I was drunk.”
I flinched. That was below the belt.
He repeated it when I didn’t respond, thinking I hadn’t heard. “I was drunk. All three times.”
I could feel his eyes on me, gauging my reaction. I forced a laugh. “Were they really that ugly?”
I expected him to get defensive, but he just laughed and said, “No.”
He waited a minute, then said, “Aren’t you going to say something?”
I stiffened. “What do you want me to say? It’s your life. If you want to die when you’re twenty-seven from cirrhosis of the liver, that’s your choice.”
Jack smirked a little as he saw me getting tense. It was sort of a game with him; to see how fast he could get me mad. “It’s not a big deal.”
“If you’re getting drunk three times a week, it is.”
He snorted. “I’m not going to die.”
“The hell you’re not. You’re going to miss out on half of your life because you fucked up when you were fifteen, but that’s not my problem.”
For most of my life, I have been “the good kid.” I was reading the “Little House on the Prairie” books in kindergarten, which awed the teachers, and I never made trouble. After we got to the point where homework was assigned, I always did it. But as moved into junior high and high school, the definition of “good” changed. Well, maybe the definition didn’t change, but the connotations of it did. It was no longer desirable to be “good.” To be perfectly honest, the good kids were the dorks. “Good” did ot equal “cool.”
The difference between the good kids and the cool kids was that the cool kids were willing to get into a little trouble. Not any serious trouble, but they were willing to talk during class, even though the teacher might ask them to be quiet, an act t t made “good” kids like me quiver in their Nikes. The cool kids were the ones who drove the fastest, stayed up the latest, and played their music the loudest. And for some reason, the good kids just couldn’t duplicate this without being afraid of an aut rity figure finding out.
I was the kid who lectured her friends after finding out they’d done something against the rules. I couldn’t just laugh and let it go. If somebody had messed up, it was my responsibility to straighten them out.
I’ve changed a little since then, although my reputation has stuck with me. I am more likely to hear “Don’t let Megan hear; she’ll tell the principal” than “Hey, Megan, we’re having a party; do you want to come?” Nobody realizes that I am not and nev have been a tattletale, but that doesn’t seem to make a difference.
Once I may have lectured Jack for twenty minutes about the dangers of alcohol and what, explicitly, was happening to the inside of his body. This time I just let him babble. When he finally paused in his monologue on why drinking was normal for teenagers, I interrupted him.
“You know I don’t like it. So don’t try to provoke me, okay?”
He shut up. And I hope he respected that.