TEASER: Fierce by Ginger Voight (Chapter One) – spin off of the Groupie Trilogy

· Ginger Voight, teasers
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Ginger Voight



I stepped onto the cool glass, first one foot and then the other. While digital numbers scrambled to decide my fate, I couldn’t help but notice how the glittery blue polish was chipping off of my toenails. I’d have to fix that for my big day. It was a much easier fix than the 262.4 that blinked at me from the LED display on my Great Nemesis: The Bathroom Scale.
I sighed. Despite the all-carrot-and-celery diet I’d gritted through for the last four days, I still couldn’t break that damnable barrier of 260 pounds. I had so hoped to conquer that by the time I turned 18, but apparently it was not to be.
Oh well. Tonight meant birthday cake, and now I could eat a slice. A really big one.
I turned on the shower and allowed steam to rise up in the tiny bathroom where I stood, a bathroom I had groomed and preened for almost all of my adolescence. The sink, toilet and the tub were all a dull salmon pink that even the cheerful powder blue and white wallpaper couldn’t improve. Despite my mother’s best efforts, it was a room straight out of the 1960s. Everyone in my family seemed resolved to the idea, but that was true for most people in Oswen, Iowa.
My little town had topped out at around 1200 citizens. It never grew. It never shrank. It had stalled somewhere in the 1950s after all the factories that had equipped World War 2 closed shop and moved elsewhere. Those who stayed thought Oswen was just about the best little piece of Americana in the whole U.S. of A, and were fiercely devoted to maintaining the status quo. Everyone else just bided their time until they could shake the dust of this small town from their feet in search for an adventure a bit grander than breeding the next crop of Oswenians. Somehow, those two factions always seemed to balance each other out. For everyone who managed to escape the main street drag and the city square, there was another baby born to take his or her place. They were raised to believe this was a little piece of heaven on earth.
I belonged to the group that couldn’t wait for the day I would buy a one-way ticket to somewhere, anywhere, else.
I uncapped the bright red shampoo that smelled strongly of apples, applying a dab to my long, brown hair. I had the same haircut since I was ten. It hung, long, heavy and straight, right down my back, with bangs covering my forehead. It never kept a curl. The most I could ever do with it was put it in an equally boring braid. But my mother always cautioned me against taking a risk with it. “It flatters your full face,” she’d say. “Like a mousy, brown mask,” I’d always think to myself.
As I lathered up, I hummed one of my favorite songs to myself. It was ugly, drab and as pink as flamingo poop, but my bathroom had great acoustics. The sound of my voice bounced off the walls and surrounded me like a warm, familiar embrace.
If anyone had ever bothered to ask, I was always happiest when I was singing. I could forget the disappointing number of a scale, or the limitations of my small town, or even the ugly décor of my bathroom.
When I sang I was able to lift above any mortal plane and soar among the angels.
It just made everything better, you know?
Pretty soon my humming turned into singing as I launched into the powerful chorus that spoke about never giving up on my dreams, which was a very fitting theme for the beginning of my adulthood.
Thank you, Steve Perry.
My impromptu concert was interrupted by a sharp knock at the door.
“Jordi!” my mother called through the door. “Hurry up. We’re needed at the church.”
I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. If there was anything more confining than Oswen, Iowa, it was the First Baptist Church of Oswen, located at First and Maple since 1914. You want to talk frozen in time… I almost needed a time machine to go from my 1960s bathroom to the simple, frame building that housed Oswen’s most devout each and every Sunday. I had spent nearly two decades staring at the hard wood floor as I fidgeted on the hard wooden pew two rows from the front, listening to a pastor drone about the wages of sin. This message would go in one ear and out the other as I’d fan myself with a church program, waiting till the clock struck noon and we all shuffled out the door in a single, hungry line to the nearest all-you-could-eat cafeteria.
And now I’d have to spend one of the most important birthdays I’d ever have there. All day.
Talk about the wages of sin. In my mind I’d paid my share with a very generous tip.
With a sigh I rinsed my hair and shut off the hot water. I rushed through the rest of my grooming, glancing up into the mirror only when it was truly necessary to rinse my face or brush my teeth. My round face was as boring as the hair that framed it. The only things that made it stand out were the chipmunk cheeks and the extra chin. At least the acne had finally abated. I could count my blessings for that. I picked up my hairbrush as I stared at my blurry image in the foggy mirror. I picked up the song that had been so rudely interrupted. I kept the volume down, so my mom wouldn’t think I was dragging my feet or stalling to get to the church (I was,) but it was no use. Within a few minutes she was pounding on the door again.
For Marianne Hemphill, schedules were as binding as oaths. If she told you she was going to be there at 8:00 a.m., you could bet your boots she’d be there at 7:45 a.m. with a thermos of coffee and a dozen donuts she made from scratch.
My whole life had been on a schedule. My mother simply didn’t abide those things that didn’t go according to her plan. Life was very black and white. You went to school, you got good grades; you went to church and tithed every Sunday. You graduated high school, married your sweetheart and produced God-fearing, schedule-abiding offspring.
Day was for working. Night was for sleeping. TV was for those who didn’t have a book to read, and we always had books to read. You got a job straight out of high school and, if you were lucky, you stayed there till retirement. Why take any risks when you could keep it quiet and safe and predictable?
I personally couldn’t imagine a more boring prison.
Much to my mother’s annoyance, I didn’t see life in the straight and narrow way that she did. I didn’t like school and I didn’t like church, and couldn’t wait to “graduate” from both. I wasn’t interested in finding some dead-end job or popping out baby after baby once I found a man who would run the show once we got married.
I didn’t want to date the kids from my church. I didn’t care to study to find a nice, safe job that had little more benefit than paying some bills and building a modest nest for a conservative retirement.
I bitched if I had to get up before noon. Instead I found any excuse to burn the midnight oil. I watched reality TV on the sly and the only books I cared to read were whimsical stories of fantasy and romance that I had been advised by my mother were nothing more than fairy tales. A successful life in the city romanced by a billionaire? That didn’t happen to simple, plain girls from Iowa – or so my mother so firmly asserted.
I didn’t care because unlike my mother, who relished limitations and structure, I wanted to spread my wings and soar off the biggest cliff I could find. I wanted to believe that if I could have a dream, I could find a way to make it come true. And I was willing to sink my teeth into anything and everything that encouraged me to do just that.
That didn’t include a church hymnal or boring, dusty textbooks.
Instead I crafted Vision Boards with pictures cut carefully out of magazines to piece together the life of my dreams.
And it was a life that was so big it didn’t fit in Oswen, Iowa.
Because frankly… neither did I.
I closed the bedroom door behind me as I made my way to my closet to get dressed. There, tucked behind the boring, shapeless clothes in size 3X, was that carefully crafted Vision Board. Despite my mother’s White Rabbit urgency, I pulled out said Vision Board to remind myself exactly what kinds of dreams I thought were worth believing in.
My fingertip danced over the glossy photos that were framed with glitter and cheerful, positive affirmations. On one side was a big house facing the Pacific Ocean, pictures of CDs and gold albums – and a Grammy award. On the other side were pictures of a penthouse with a view, Times Square and the Great White Way, along with a Broadway playbill my Aunt Jackie had brought back from New York.
These were the secret dreams I harbored as I daydreamed my way through high school, and most certainly nothing my mother would have ever encouraged me to pursue. She thought the best my passion for singing could amount to was a position as choir director or music teacher. But she often cautioned me that even those dreams were far too lofty. She reminded me that skill was far more marketable than talent. Skill was what you had for yourself, she’d say. Talent was what other people decided for you.
If she knew I daydreamed about being a platinum-selling singer, she’d furrow her brow and stare down her straight nose at me like I was some delusional idiot. In her mind, living off one’s talent was like living off one’s beauty. It was far too subjective to bank on for the long term.
And she’d waste no time telling me that to make it as a pop singer, I’d need both talent and beauty to sell even one album, much less a million.
I couldn’t even get a date to my prom.
With a sigh my eyes traveled to the class photo tucked between all my dreams of grandeur. Eddie Nix was the most popular boy in high school, and every girl (and probably a few guys) wanted to be on his arm. He was a star quarterback of the Fighting Otters, with a scholarship to take him to Des Moines in the fall. He had wavy blond hair and crystal blue eyes, and a smile that could make any dentist proud.
I’d been in love with him since third grade, when he told me how much he enjoyed my performance as the Cowardly Lion in the school’s production of The Wizard of Oz. We remained fast friends up until puberty, when girls and boys finally discovered each other. He turned into a teen dream and I turned into a pudgy, acne-ridden butterball with greasy hair and a mouthful of metal to straighten my unfortunate overbite.
After that we went down very different paths. He hung out with the cool kids and managed to date all the cheerleaders from middle school on. I ended up in drama class with all the other performing freaks. The jewel in my crown? A starring gig as the Fighting Otter mascot, Oscar, from freshman year until senior year, so that I could have an excuse to travel around the tri-state area with his team.
Our biggest connection was my best friend, Brianna. Bree was one of the few who could orbit in both galaxies in the high school universe. She was pretty and perky enough to be with the cool kids, and just geeky enough to fit in with all us outcasts.
Thanks to her (and Oscar the Fighting Otter, of course,) Eddie still considered me in his inner circle. He even took pity on me and gave me my first kiss during a late night study fest in tenth grade. I played it cool and never pressured him for anything more, which was a good thing because I think he might have thought better of it in the bright light of day. We never talked about it after that, and he made sure we never ended up alone again.
At least that held true until the night the Fighting Otters kicked the butts of the Mid-City Jaguars, 21-3 in the regionals junior year. The team got ahold of a case of cheap beer and played quarters into the night. That night I ended up in the backseat of Eddie’s car out on Makeout Bluff.
Just like before, we didn’t speak for a week or so afterward, and then when he did pay me attention neither one of us broached the subject of our night together. Eventually he’d start flirting again, start calling again, and we had ended up at the Bluff three times since.
Nobody knew, and we never talked about it. It just sort of happened, even when I’d given up hope that it would ever happen again. He’d never ask. I’d never offer. But somehow or another we’d end up at the Bluff, hidden amidst the old maple trees and sleepy, weeping willows.
All he had to do was give me that knowing grin after he unbuckled his seatbelt and I was toast. In his arms I forgot I was some awkward teenaged outcast. He was the popular quarterback, and for some reason I couldn’t fathom he kept coming back to me – the girl that nobody else seemed to notice. As such, Eddie became the ideal and earned a spot on my Vision Board.
Somewhere along the line I decided I wouldn’t be living the life of my dreams if he wasn’t in it.
Ironically, of all the dreams on my Vision Board, he was the most attainable. But he was still as far away as the moon.
And just like any other time I knew I may get to see him, my heart leapt a little as we climbed into my mother’s minivan and headed for the church. The one good thing about the First Baptist Church of Oswen was that Eddie and his folks were members, and they were going to be there for the carnival that happened to coincide with my monumental day.
In fact, my mother was so preoccupied with her duties running the bake sale that she had so far neglected to mention my birthday at all. Instead she barked orders and delegated responsibilities, making me run around as much as she did. The apron I had put on over my brand new royal blue crushed velvet birthday blouse was soon covered in flour and powdered sugar, with precious few to even notice.
Finally I saw the smiling face of my bestie, Bree.
“Happy birthday,” she greeted in a sing-song voice. She had been my choir buddy since we were in grade school, although my voice tended to be far more bombastic. I learned early on to tone it down or else drown everyone else out, especially my best friend with a whisper soft voice.
The spotlight was reserved for a solo artist. No outcast in her right mind wanted to fly solo through the treacherous terrain of adolescence.
“You’re the first one that remembered it was my birthday,” I told Bree with a wry smile.
She shrugged. “They’re just busy,” she said. “They’ll remember.” I mirrored her shrug but said nothing. She gave me a big smile as she reached into her purse. “I was going to save this for later, but I think you should have it now.”
My eyes met hers in surprise as she handed me a thin box tied with a red, glittery bow. “What’d you do?”
“Open it,” she said with a smile.
Carefully I pulled the box open. I found a gold charm bracelet inside. It had to cost her all of her paycheck down at the Buy and Grab local market. “Bree…”
She held up her arm to show me a matching bracelet. On hers was one half of a “best friends” heart, and on mine was the other. I couldn’t even speak as I reached for a hug. She really was my best friend. “Thank you,” I whispered.
“Sisters in spirit,” she affirmed as we pulled apart, pausing only to wipe the tear from my cheek. “So. Are you ready for our star performance tonight?” she asked. We had earned the distinction of being spotlight performers for the choir in a concert that would top off the day’s festivities. Given the way this day was going, it was pretty much one of the only things that I had to look forward to. Like I said earlier, I’m always happiest when I’m singing… even if it’s in front of half of Oswen’s most religious and devout.
“I was born ready,” I smiled. I glanced down at my dusty, dirty blouse. “Guess I’ll have to clean up a bit, huh?”
“You look delicious,” a male voice said from over Bree’s shoulder. My face flushed bright red when I realized Eddie was standing there, giving me his lopsided grin.
“Shut up,” I said as I furiously began to dust off my shirt.
He just laughed as he draped an arm around Bree’s shoulders. “Someone tells me it’s your birthday. Have you gotten your swats yet?”
He blushed even deeper as I glanced away. “Not yet.”
“Let me be the first,” he growled as he reached over and swatted my backside. “There’s more where that came from,” he said near my ear before he chuckled to himself and walked away.
Bree glanced over my flustered expression. “Something going on I should know about?”
I shook my head. She was the best friend I had, but my dreams were a precious commodity. As long as no one knew about them, no one could talk me out of them.
I figured this was never truer than with the boy I wanted to take away from every other girl in our senior class.
Bree would have gently told me that he wasn’t the kind of guy who was going to settle down and live in Oswen, as if that was all I could ever hope for anyway.
Little did she know that was a big part of his appeal.
I glanced around where my mother was calling from the kitchen. With a sigh I told Bree that duty called. I trudged over to where my mother stood, with not a hair out of place. Her face skewered into a scowl when she saw the state of my brand new top.
“Jordi, you’re a mess. What a disrespectful way to treat your brand new blouse. We had to get this specially made, you know.”
Of course I knew. She made sure that I knew from the moment I found it on the Internet. It came from a specialty store, had to be specially altered and was shipped special order. As far as my mother was concerned the only thing that wasn’t special about the shirt was the girl who happened to be wearing it.
“You better go wash up,” she said. “Sister Racine wants you to warm up a bit before your performance. But get right back to the kitchen when you’re done. I’ll need your help cleaning up.”
I nodded. I didn’t bother to ask her if she would see my performance just like I didn’t bother to remind her it was my birthday.
After eighteen years, I had learned such things were pointless.
So I took off my apron and headed toward the tent in back of the church, where the choir had been instructed to congregate to prepare for their performance.
What I didn’t expect when I walked through that flap was the entire choir, aged 12 to 92, to start singing the very same song I had performed all by my lonesome in the shower that morning. The chorus hit me like a thunderbolt, taking me completely by surprise. Even Bree was up front and center with our choir director Racine Larchmont, as they serenaded me with one of my favorite songs.
I was laughing and crying as I walked into their embrace when they finished. “You guys!” I think I said, or some variation thereof.
All the greetings of “Happy Birthday” I had been denied all day began to rain down on me by those who understood me best. I was passed from hug to hug all around the room until I ended up face to face with Racine. I knew in an instant she had coordinated the whole thing. I hugged her strongest of all.
“Thank you for remembering,” I whispered in her ear.
“How could I forget?” she admonished. “You’re my best student, after all.”
Sister Racine was not only the choir director of the church, she was also the musical director at Oswen High School. I had been under her wing since my freshman year, and pretty much thought she ruled the world. Racine came from Memphis, Tennessee, where she had worked as a backup singer for a blues band throughout the 1960s when she was just a teenager. She ended up following her heart to Oswen when her husband, Wayne, decided he’d had enough of the show business life and wanted to return to his roots.
He had escaped Oswen, but only briefly.
They came back, found God, and never once thought about what might have been in Tennessee.
In my mother’s mind, this is what the life of a singer entailed. You go, you try to live out your dreams, you fall miserably on your face and then you come home to get a real job.
But oh, how I envied both Racine and Wayne that they got their time in the spotlight… if only for a while.
 I had bugged Racine relentlessly to tell me every single one of her tales from Memphis. I could sit for hours and listen to her melodic Southern lilt regale the ins and outs of the music industry, and how it had impacted society as it swept the nation during the turbulent 60s.
“Music is the cord that ties us all together,” she would say. I didn’t remember much of what the pastor had to say, but I knew deep in my heart Racine spoke the gospel truth. In all my life, she had been my wisest teacher. Only she had any idea that I wanted something much bigger for myself than a regular life in Oswen.
Racine took me by the arms. “You’re a woman now,” she said. “Where are you going to fly, baby bird?”
“I don’t know,” I told her honestly. I had dreams, sure. But not one single clue of how to make them come true. I had a very small savings from my part-time job at the local Burger Palace, but it wasn’t nearly enough to buy a car and all the gas it would take to get to Des Moines, much less New York or Los Angeles.
Plus there was that pesky 262 pounds to contend with. If only I could break 200, then I could break free.
From my mother, to my job, to my size, I felt stuck. And I knew it had to show on my face to anyone who gave a damn.
Fortunately for me, Racine Larchmont gave a damn.
She pulled me to the side and offered me a small, gift-wrapped box. I’d gotten enough Bibles in my day to know it was a book, but I couldn’t contain my gasp when I opened it. It was a songbook of all the songs she used to sing in Memphis, complete with notes in the margins.
“Racine,” I began, ready to refuse such an important gift. This was her past. I couldn’t take that away.
“Don’t you dare say you can’t take it,” she said. “It’s just collecting dust at my house anyway. Collecting dust just like all my memories, and it’s worth way more than that. Music is a living thing. It won’t mean anything as long as it’s silenced in some box somewhere. And just like it was passed along to me when I was ready, I’m passing it along to you. Because I think you’re ready.”
There were tears in my eyes as I took her in a big hug.
That night I belted out our songs with no hesitation, which blew nearly everyone in our choir away. Bree was stunned as she tried to keep up, but her voice was effectively thinned out and squashed by my enthusiastic rendition of a gospel classic. I did feel free. I did feel liberated. It was such a little thing but someone out there believed in my dream.
It was like being given the keys to heaven itself.
Afterwards, even though several folks wanted to stop me and congratulate me on my performance, my mother pounced almost immediately to remind me we had cleanup duty. This was especially annoying to me because I had hoped to meet up with Eddie again after the concert, but he was nowhere to be found. Racine wished me a happy birthday once again as I followed my mom back to the kitchen.
I said nothing as I wrapped up the food and cleaned off the tables. The longer she went without telling me what she thought about my performance, the more I sensed that she was angry at me for some reason.
It wasn’t until the car ride home when she finally leveled the boom.
“So is that what your showing off was all about?” she asked without even glancing sideways. “It’s your birthday so you wanted to steal the thunder of the whole choir?”
I opened my mouth to tell her that I hadn’t intentionally stolen anyone’s thunder, but before I could say anything she forged ahead.
“Pride is a very slippery slope, Jordi. Singing in the choir at the church isn’t supposed to be about you. If you want to be vain, do it elsewhere.”
“How is it vain to use the voice God gave me to sing his praises?” I wanted to know.
“Because you did it for you. Not for him.”
I couldn’t argue that. I did sing for me. I just always kind of hoped God would understand. “Fine. I’ll quit the choir.”
“You made a commitment to that choir. You can’t just quit.”
I felt exasperated as I stared at her. “Is there anything that I can do to make you happy, Mother?”
We pulled into our driveway. Without looking at me she answered, “Yes. Put up the food.”
She slammed the door shut and headed toward the house.
It occurred to me she still hadn’t said word one about my birthday.
I tried not to let it get to me as I lugged in container after container of food. All these leftovers would fill our fridge until I could bear the temptation no longer. As much as my mother derided my weight, she really didn’t change her cooking or shopping much to help me tackle it. There were still cakes and cookies and fried chicken and macaroni and cheese. After all, I was the only one in my family with a weight problem, so surely the problem was with me rather than with her shopping or her cooking.
I sighed as I flopped down at the kitchen table with a slice of Mississippi Mud cake, with all its gooey fudgy goodness and sticky marshmallowy topping sticking to my fingers as I lifted the piece to my mouth. Apparently it was as close as I was going to get to a birthday cake, so I might as well enjoy it. I would have polished it off with a soda, but that was the one thing my mother never allowed into the house. Instead we got sweet tea by the gallon.
Apparently sugar and caffeine is only bad if it has bubbles in it.
But I tried not to feel too deprived as I sunk my teeth into each velvety bite of the cake. And of course after the chocolate settled I couldn’t stop thinking about the cherry cheesecake squares. It dawned on me that I hadn’t stopped to eat all night while I was helping with the bake sale, which was ironic. My stomach growled its frustration at me, reminding me of all the rabbit food I’d eaten all week to lose some extra weight, all to no avail. So I felt entitled to that extra bite of sweet, creamy goodness.
It filled me in a way not much else did. Nothing but the singing, anyway.
I cleaned up my mess as though I hadn’t pigged out on the goodies we’d brought home, so as to avoid a lecture in the morning. I tiptoed past my mother’s bedroom to escape into my fortress of solitude, with carpet as pink as the porcelain in our bathroom. Only then did I take out the music book Racine had given me. I touched the frayed edges, thinking of what kind of history this book had seen over the years. I could almost smell the cigarette smoke as the musicians tinkered on their instruments, and the background singers laughed gaily at some off-color joke the lead singer may have repeated.
I could feel the decades slip away as I opened the book to that very first song. I already knew it by heart. It was a classic by Etta James. I paid attention to the notes as I sang it softly to myself. Every now and then I’d glance over towards my closet, where I could see my Vision Board peeking out at me through all the clothes in the tiny, cramped space.
As if on cue, my cell phone buzzed to let me know I had a text message. I picked it up, assuming it was Bree. I lost track of her after the concert, and no doubt she’d want to know what happened with my mom. I was all prepared to tell her that I didn’t get my happy birthday when I read the name on the caller ID.
I sucked in a breath. It was Eddie.
“Meet me outside. You have 17 more swats to go.”
I hopped to my feet and glanced out my bedroom window. There idling by the curb was Eddie’s car. I grabbed the shoes I had kicked off upon entering the room as I raced as quietly as possible outside.
I climbed into the car. “What are you doing here?”
He laughed. “I told you. You have 17 more swats.”
I didn’t say anything as he turned up the radio and sped toward the outskirts of town – toward Makeout Bluff.
He kept the beat of the song by tapping out the rhythm on his thigh as he drove. I didn’t say much to spark a conversation. Somehow deep down I always figured I’d say the wrong thing and he’d realize what a mistake he’d made picking me up, turn the car around and drop me back off again. So I usually let him lead the conversation, but he wasn’t in a talkative mood that particular night.
Come to think of it, he wasn’t in a talkative mood most nights. He never even asked me if I wanted to go anywhere, especially Makeout Bluff. He just assumed I’d go because I never told him I wouldn’t.
I stole a glance at his darkened profile as he drove. There was no way I would have said no. He was the most popular guy on campus. At least a dozen girls were vying for his attention at any given time, figuring they could score themselves Oswen’s most eligible bachelor before the ink dried on their diplomas.
And here he was. With me.
My heart skipped a beat at the possibilities of what that could imply.
He turned the car off the highway toward the dirt road that ran parallel to the creek that led up to the bluff. Foliage brushed up against the car as he navigated the narrow passageway to the most secluded part of the area. When we parked it was mostly dark, except for the dim lights of Oswen down below.
He unfastened his seatbelt and turned toward me. “Come here,” he said softly, which made my stomach plummet down toward my feet.
I unfastened my seatbelt so I could scoot as close as one could get in the bucket seats. His kiss landed on my mouth as instantly as his hand found my right breast.
Apparently his car wasn’t the only thing that could go fast.
“Eddie,” I tried to say as I moved back slightly.
“Shh,” he instructed. His tongue drove between my lips and I could taste the beer he must have had after the church bake sale.
One of his hands slipped under my shirt, while the other grabbed the back of my head. He was more urgent than normal, his kisses more demanding. I groaned a bit, trying to find my voice to put the brakes on, but he took it as a sign of encouragement. He grasped my wrist and brought my hand into his lap.
I felt how hard he was through his jeans, which would explain the aforementioned urgency.
“Back seat,” he instructed breathlessly.
“Eddie,” I tried again, but this time he was out the door before I could stop him. Reluctantly I pushed open my door and scooted in between the tall weeds and the car to get into the back seat.
His jeans were already off by the time I joined him. He stroked himself as he watched me climb in beside him. He hooked a finger into my jeans. “Take ‘em off,” he instructed.
“Come on,” he said as he nuzzled my neck, which he already knew was my weakness. “Don’t you want your birthday surprise?”
His breath was hot against my neck. I reminded myself again that this was Eddie Nix. Any other girl would kill to be where I was. He could have brought any girl up to the Bluff, but he brought me. Without another word I slipped my jeans over my hips and crumpled them in the floorboard.
It was cramped and uncomfortable, but Eddie’s passion could not be contained as he pressed me back against the seat and slipped in between my parted thighs. He licked his hand to lubricate himself before he tried to enter me without any real foreplay. I reached for a kiss but he ducked his head to bury his face in my neck.
I bit my lip as he began to stroke. I was still dry and tight, but he didn’t seem to notice. He grunted as he rode me. I tried to muster some enthusiasm for our little romp, but it was rushed and decidedly dispassionate. Just as I started to get into it for my own pleasure, he shoved himself inside of me with a triumphant growl.  I could feel his heart thunder against my chest as he held himself inside me for a few minutes longer.
When he finally lifted away he gave me a grin as he honked my breast. “Happy birthday,” he said as he pulled away and stepped out of the car to dress.
I lay against the seat, unable to process exactly what had happened between us. It was almost as though I had come in halfway through the proceedings. As I lifted up to grab my jeans, something shiny on the floorboard caught my attention.
It was a gold charm bracelet.
My throat constricted as I reached for it. There, on the band, was half of a heart that read “Best Friends.”
It was the matching mate to the bracelet I wore.
Eddie got back into the driver’s seat and turned on the ignition. “You’re not dressed yet?” he asked as he glanced back where I sat, frozen to the spot.
I swallowed the rock in my throat. “I thought you were going to give me my birthday swats.”
He just grinned. “What I gave you was much better, don’t you think?” I didn’t say anything. “But if you really want, I can give you some swats next time.”
I slipped back into my jeans as he checked his phone for any missed messages. I didn’t say much of anything as I got back into the front seat and buckled in, but in my mind I was thinking that there would not be a next time.
It was obvious that he had used me to get off after he had been with my best friend.
It was a harsh wakeup call that this particular dream was not about to come true.
He didn’t even kiss me goodbye after we stopped in front of my house. I murmured, “See ya,” before I fled from the car, and he was gone before I even made it to the front porch.
Tears flew off my face as I made my way back to my bedroom. I was not the same girl I was a mere hour before, when the boy I wanted more than any other had texted me out of the blue.
I was not the same girl who thought the sweetest thing her best friend could ever do was give her a matching bracelet to show her devotion.
I was not the same girl who thought it was par for the course that her mother would forget her birthday – or simply not care.
And I was certainly not the same girl who thought she’d ever get the guy that everyone else wanted.
They could have him.
I pulled a suitcase from the back of my closet and packed everything I owned that would fit.
The Vision Board was too large to carry, so instead I took every single picture but one: the picture of Eddie Nix. I also took the nondescript envelope that had been pinned to the board, which contained every last nickel I had managed to save for the past nine months. The total came out to be $971.53. It wouldn’t buy me a car, but it could certainly buy me a one way ticket out of this hellhole.
On top of my treasures I put the songbook Racine had given me. It was the only real gift I got on this most important of birthdays. It was my ticket to dream… my permission to fly.
I zipped everything up and carried it as quietly as possible out of my bedroom toward the front door. I paused only briefly by the ugly pink bathroom. On impulse I went in and faced off with that mirror one last time. Before I lost my nerve, I reached into the drawer and pulled out some scissors. Thirty seconds later I left about ten inches of dull, drab, mousy brown hair in the trashcan next to the hateful scale.
Two minutes after that, I was on my porch, calling for a cab to take me to the bus station.
I was finally ready to take the midnight train going anywhere.

For more information about Ginger Voight, her books and the AWESOME GIVEAWAY this week – see my Author Page for Ginger – CLICK HERE

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