The countdown to the release of my second novel, Popstars, Friends & Lovers; a dreamer’s tale, continues. This past week I had some great feedback from a few more beta readers and I’m in the final stage of creating the cover with Kim and Kitten at Deranged Doctor Designs.
|Award-winning book 1 cover
As I said last week, the best way to prepare for book two is to read book one. So today I’m posting the second chapter from book one. Again, I remind you that the book is recommended for readers age 17 and older due to language and sexual content.
In today’s installment you get to see Carrie and Ben and all the other characters at school, the place where their divisive cliques are most obvious. I have had so many people tell me that this chapter really reminded them of their lives in high school, no matter what group they were in. You also get to meet MG and Steve, the main characters in Popstars, Friends & Lovers: a dreamers tale. (Available on Amazon Nov. 2nd).
Enjoy the chapter and have a great week.
“You don’t look older.” MG was in her usual spot the next morning, under the helicopter tree, waiting for Carrie to get off the bus. Carrie rolled her eyes at the cliché joke. “But you look awesome in that jacket. That from M&D?”
MG was all about fashion and changed her look constantly. Today she had tossled her shoulder length blonde hair, and if Carrie had to guess, she would say MG was aiming for a Britney Spears, good-girl-gone-bad kind of look. She nailed it.
Carrie adjusted her brown leather jacket. It was the exact one she had been wanting, and it was cool, but considering the way it was given to her, it had already lost some of its sheen. She found it hanging on the back of her closet door when she woke up this morning. It was still in the dress bag from the department store, with the receipt pinned to the bag. At the bottom of the receipt her mom had written, I’m sure it’s the wrong one. I can’t get anything right for you. Just return it. Gifts always came wrapped in guilt. “It was M. I doubt D knows anything about it.”
Noticing the way Carrie looked at her jacket, MG cautiously asked, “How’d it go yesterday?” After two years as her best friend MG knew how crazy things could get at Carrie’s house. Not that her own was anywhere near normal, but that was one of the reasons they understood each other so well.
Carrie exhaled a sigh, “Fucking weird as usual. She threw a cake mix at me.”
“She hit you?”
Carrie had to smile at the way MG wasn’t thrown off for a minute by her story. “No, she’s a shitty shot.”
Carrie nodded her head in agreement. Then she couldn’t resist throwing something at MG that would shock her, “Ben Gorman hugged me.”
MG stopped short and spun Carrie around by her arm. “Shut the fuck up. Dennis the Menace from next door?”
Carrie nodded, enjoying MG’s reaction.
“What the hell was he doing gettin’ all up on you?”
MG’s attempt at ghetto had Carrie laughing. “It wasn’t like that. He came over to eat some cake, and he was just being sweet ‘cause I was in a shitty mood. Besides, Menace don’t do dat shit, and we both know it.” Carrie threw in her own ghetto accent.
“True dat.” Carrie and MG stopped near the smoker’s picnic table. “Speaking of the Menace.” MG pointed across the parking lot to the front steps of the school where the religious weirdos and geeks gathered every morning. Ben was standing behind Joelle, leaning his head on top of hers. Carrie noticed how much he was enjoying his new-found height. It made her smile.
MG caught her staring. “Oooo, I see, you want some of that tall, blond and brainy, don’t you?”
Carrie smacked MG’s shoulder and rolled her eyes, “Shut up.” They both laughed.
Steve Shrader grabbed Carrie’s math book from the stack in her arms. “You do your homework?” She watched him pull a folded piece of loose leaf paper out of the book, scan it, and try to commit her answers to memory. “Got any paper?”
Carrie pulled a clean sheet of loose leaf from her binder and handed it to him.
She dug in her purse till she found a pencil. Steve held her answers and his lit cigarette in his left hand while he scribbled the answers onto the paper using his jean-clad leg as a table. The result was almost illegible, but Mrs. Dobson wouldn’t care. She cut Steve slack because he was funny, and he tried.
“Thanks, Carrie-go-braless,” his nickname for her since she wore her Erin Go Bragh t-shirt to school.
“No problem, Stevie-go-pantless.”
He smiled at her lame joke, “You just name the time and place, babe, I’m there for you.”
He was flirting with her, but he flirted with all the girls in their group and had slept with most of them too. Word was that he was pretty fun. He had perpetually messy brown hair and dimple in one cheek that he flashed often because he was almost always laughing and joking around. He was actually pretty hot looking, and girls outside their group would probably be more interested in him if he didn’t wear the same dirty, black clothes all the time. Carrie had never actually been in his apartment, but she had seen it from the car when she went with Chuck to give him a ride one time. He lived with his dad in one of the old government apartments by the park. They were built in like 1940, and she was pretty sure there was no place for a washer or dryer in one.
He handed back her math homework and flashed a killer crooked smile at her. Yeah, she’d be interested if it weren’t for Chuck.
The first bell rang, and everyone around the picnic table except Carrie and MG, who didn’t smoke, dropped their cigarettes and ground them into the dirt. Steve folded his now-complete math homework till it would fit in the back pocket of his jeans. Jim Ripton offered Carrie and MG a drink out of his Big Gulp. Carrie declined. She knew it was half vodka mixed in with his soda because he got one almost every morning before school. Carrie just couldn’t face the thought of her mom coming up to school if she got caught. MG took a big gulp and crunched the vodka soaked ice on her way to homeroom. Carrie wasn’t sure what MG’s mom would do if MG was caught drinking at school. Probably put on a big show about being mad so the school would think she was responsible, then never mention it again. Amber Stuart, MG’s mom, was divorced and worked full time, plus more, selling houses. She was always busy and hardly noticed anything MG did or didn’t do. Not that she was up for parent of the year before the divorce.
Carrie was about to turn into her homeroom when a group of the preppy girls crossed her path. Michelle Wagner turned and gave her a perky, “Hi, Carrie!” then kept walking with her friends. That stopped Carrie in her tracks. She shook her head quickly to reset reality. Why was Michelle Wagner suddenly talking to her? They had gone to school together since 2nd grade and never been friends. Why, all the sudden, did she keep waving and saying hi? It was like she was on some personal “greet Carrie” campaign, and it was creeping her out. She made a mental note to try to avoid her in Composition today.
The first half of the day was never Carrie’s favorite. Her grades were pretty middle of the road, but her state tests put her in advanced classes. Burnout kids don’t take advanced classes as a rule, so Carrie had no one from her group to sit with. In first period History of China and Japan she sat by Sylvie, the exchange student from Germany. Second period was Composition, where Michelle Wagner kept sitting near her. Carrie didn’t avoid the preppy girls, but she didn’t exactly talk with them either. Generally, they sat near her and gossiped about their weekends while she kept her nose in her American Lit novel ‘til class started. Everyone from Comp was in third period American Lit, so the room would move, en masse, three doors down and sit in the same pattern. Avoiding Michelle wasn’t going to be easy. There were no assigned seats, but everyone had a favorite spot and there were no open seats. Unable to concoct an escape, Carrie sat in her usual spot in Comp that day and decided to let things play out to see if she could figure out Michelle’s motives.
“The Homecoming Dance is two weeks away.” Carrie was startled out of reading A Tale of Two Cities when Michelle dropped her books on her desk and slid into her seat.
Carrie raised her eyebrows, “And . . . ?” This was getting stranger by the minute. Is she asking me out?
“We could really use your help on the posters and decorating.” Her tone implied Carrie was obligated to help.
“Um, did I sign up for this?” Carrie tried not to sound too combative, but she didn’t like the direction this was going in.
Sensing Carrie’s mood, Michelle switched to pleading, “No, but we could really use your help.” Carrie still wore a mask of confusion. “OK, I know you are a really good artist. I saw your 2nd place painting in the hall yesterday and I thought, you know, that you would be great for our decorating committee, and I think you’d have a lot of fun, and …” she trailed off, noticing that Carrie was looking less than enthused.
Carrie did love decorating and painting, but the idea of spending hours with Michelle and her crew. “I don’t go to homecoming.”
“You don’t have to go to be on the decorating committee.” Michelle hesitated before throwing another idea bomb at her, “You couldgo. We could double.”
Carrie tried to stifle the laugh that bubbled up. Obviously Michelle didn’t know who Carrie dated. Chuck at a homecoming dance. The picture made Carrie laugh more. Her boyfriend, the epitome of a bad-boy lead singer, 21-year old Chuck Parnell, in a suit, Did he even own a suit?, at a high school homecoming dance. And even better, double dating with Michelle and … somebody. Carrie had no idea who she was dating. “Um … yeah … I don’t think so.”
“Oh.” Michelle looked dejected, and Carrie felt guilty for laughing at the idea.
“I can help some, with decorations, if you really need me.”
Michelle perked up. “And think about doubling. You still have two weeks to get a dress.”
Another crazy image, Carrie in a homecoming dress. She smirked.
“We have a decorating committee meeting tomorrow after school.”
The reality of what she just signed up for hit her. If she stayed for the meeting she would have to tell MG, who always gave her a ride home. MG would give her shit, not that that really mattered. She did all the time. But she would have to get her mother to pick her up, and her mother would want to know why she stayed late. And if Carrie mentioned homecoming, oh hell, her mother might get the idea about Carrie going, which would bring up the whole boyfriend idea. Carrie had managed to keep Chuck a secret from her parents for a year and a half, she didn’t want to blow that over some homecoming decorations.
Composition class started, and Mrs. Hemming droned on about tense agreement or something. Carrie was focused on keeping her two worlds from colliding. Except for MG, her home life and school/friends never touched. Her parents lived in their own self-absorbed bubble. As long as Carrie kept a low profile, they didn’t question where she and MG went every weekend. As far as they knew, MG was Carrie’s only friend.
Lunch was the start of the fun half of Carrie’s day. It was almost impossible to eat with MG, Gina, and Casey. And if Steve and some of the guys joined them, there was no way to stop laughing long enough to finish a sandwich. MG started it all today. She stole a pack of Twinkies from Steve’s tray. He practically crawled on top of her trying to get them back. She threw them to Carrie, who tossed them to Gina, who opened the package and tossed one to MG. Steve was just about to grab it back when MG slid it into her mouth, then back out again, suggestively. He stopped and stared. Using her most suggestive stare, MG slid it in again, and slowly back out, licking around the end.
“Fuck me.” Steve exhaled and smiled as he watched.
“Been there.” MG smirked at Steve.
“Done that.” Added Casey, bringing on a burst of laughter from the group.
Behind Steve, Brian something, one of the few sophomores in the group, turned beat red. MG noticed and burst out laughing, which only made poor Brian turn redder. Gina leaned toward him, licking her Twinkie suggestively. Carrie and Casey tried not to laugh at him, but his innocent shock was hysterical. Sophomore Brian’s entire Irish head and neck were red now, which had Casey doubled over laughing. Carrie started to choke on her soda. A little dribbled out of her mouth and down the front of her shirt before she could spit it back into the cup.
“Trouble swallowing?” Steve shot Carrie a suggestive look, which only made all the girls laugh harder and louder.
“Is there a problem here, Steve?” Mrs. Dobson was monitoring lunch and stopped at their table.
“No, ma’am.” Gina answered, wiping tears from her eyes.
“Uh, yeah.” Steve turned around to face the teacher. “MG and Gina stole my Twinkies.”
Mrs. Dobson thought she was being played, but went along, “Is this true MG?”
MG looked up from under her lashes, guilt written all over her face. She handed the wet Twinkie back to Steve.
“Ewww, she licked all over it.” He complained.
“MG, did you lick his Twinkie?” Mrs. Dobson realized how that sounded as soon as she said it. Everyone burst out laughing. Carrie had to hang on to the table to keep from falling off her chair. Mrs. Dobson’s cheeks flamed, then she started laughing too. She walked away, shaking her head, trying to suppress it.
Art followed lunch. Carrie would have an A in the class, but Mrs. Winter said her behavior pulled her grade down. She sat between MG and Casey, who were both failing, because MG turned everything Mrs. Winter said into innuendo: brush strokes, baroque period, flying buttresses (her favorite). Most of it wasn’t even that funny, but the combination of MG’s lewd expressions and post-lunch sillies had all three falling off their chairs and laughing ‘til they cried.
It was a beautiful, sunny fall afternoon, so MG put the top down on her car for the drive home from school. She had a convertible Mustang that her mom’s current boyfriend bought for her. She had no idea what the man did for a living, something about house loans, but he was the richest guy she had ever known. He rented a mini mansion with a pool for them to live in and the Jag that MG’s mom drove. He had been around for almost two and a half years, which was a record for her mom. Carrie and MG both thought he was kinda ugly, but he and his money made Amber happy, and happy parents are always a good thing.
“I won’t need a ride home tomorrow.” Carrie figured now was as good a time as any to open this can of worms.
She took a breath, readying herself for the questions. “I’m staying late to help with homecoming decorating.”
MG turned the radio down. “I thought you said homecoming decorations, but I know that’s wrong.”
Carrie brushed off the joke and held her ground. “I did.”
“Cause I like painting stuff, and … I don’t know … they asked me to.”
“Who asked you to?”
“Weird, perky, preppy girl, Michelle Wagner?”
“Yeah, OK. I know, but it’s just a couple of meetings to make decorations. You know I like this shit. Look how many times I’ve redone my room and yours. This way you can keep your room the way it is for a while.”
“My room is pretty amazing right now.” MG hesitated, “You are good at that shit. Just don’t, you know, turn into one of them.”
“Yeah, right,” Carrie rolled her eyes. It was funny that MG even thought she would want to hang out with the preppy girls. They were boring, and what the hell would she have in common with them?
From the outside, it probably looked like she had a lot in common with them. Her parents weren’t divorced or in jail, she was in class with them part of the day, she had a closet full of preppy clothes that she rarely wore. It was the stuff they couldn’t see, the stuff that no one saw, that separated her from them.