About the Book:
When I walked up the steps to Meager Senior High that September morning I had no idea that by the end of the year my life as I knew it would be over.
Every high school senior anticipates having their best year ever. I certainly did.
Senior year, here I come. Watch out for Grace Hastings!
I had everything going for me.
Only the everything I thought was real…
Was so wrong.
Everything I believed in, everything I was holding onto up until that moment, turned out to be meaningless.
Well, no. That’s a bit dramatic, isn’t it?
This is more accurate—everything can crack, break, crash. Flip the f*ck over and burn.
And it did.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Mom’s waspish voice seared through my stomach. She stood there with a cigarette in her hand, her eyes lasering over Ruby, then me.
Ruby shot me her famed “I got this” look. Oh no. “We’re going to a party.”
“A high school party?” Mom gestured at Tania and me with her cigarette. “What the hell business do you have going to a high school party?”
This was that part of the recipe where I watched for signs of the first boil. I got in between them. Time to lower the heat on the pot. “Everyone’s going, Ma,” I kept my voice soft. Defuse. Defuse. “It’s at the Hildebrand ranch. It’s like a spring reunion every year.”
“Right.” Mom slanted her head at Ruby, a sardonic look souring her face. “You going to find Deke, aren’t you? Show him what he’s missing?”
“I don’t give a crap about Deke,” came Ruby’s monotone reply.
“Right, right, ‘course not.” Mom’s voice rose in that way I knew so well. My insides cramped with the needles and barbs entrenched in that voice. It was a bitter poison building.
Ruby said, “He can go fuck himself for all I care.”
“Hey! What’s going on over there?” Dad’s voice rose from the other room, and my eyes widened.
“You’re going to go over there and strut your stuff all over the place and make him notice you.” Mom was on a roll.
Ruby’s face remained unruffled. “You got that wrong, Janet. I don’t have to make anybody notice me.”
“You two at it again? Cut the crap already,” Dad’s voice boomed over the television. “One night I’m home…”
Mom leaned into Ruby, and Ruby didn’t flinch, but I did. “He doesn’t get it, but I do,” Mom’s voice seethed, her lips twisting. “I would’ve thought that by now, you’d have better things to do on a Saturday night than chauffeur your little sister to her high school party.”
“All Ruby’s friends are going to be there, Mom. It’s like a reunion party every year. It’s spring break, you know?” My face heated, and I shot Tania a glance, my teeth scraping my bottom lip. “Sorry,” I mouthed to her, and she shook her head once to show me “no biggie.” Yeah, no biggie because Tania had witnessed a gazillion confrontations just like this between Ruby and Mom for years, all of them sour and pointless. But Dad was home today, and I didn’t want this to get any worse now that he was here, because once he joined in…
The day had skimmed along just fine up until this very moment. We’d even managed an uneventful dinner, thanks to Tania being present. Dad had extended my curfew to midnight from 11:30.
Ruby only flicked her keychain in response. She really didn’t care what mom said or didn’t say. Her jaw tensed. She was waiting for the inevitable tumble of curses and name-calling, but the words didn’t come today. Dad was home, and Mom was trying to ring in her temper.
Mom took in a deep breath, pressing her lips together, and they paled under the pressure. She scanned each of us intently, her harsh gaze lingering on Tania. “You trying to look like Madonna?”
Tania shifted her weight, a hand smoothing through her hair. “No, Mom!” I said. “We put on more eyeliner than usual and did our hair and—”
“I know what goes on at those parties,” Mom said.
“You do, huh?” Ruby pushed back from the doorway, hands on her hips.
“I was in high school once, too, you know. Don’t you dare get behind that wheel drunk. Don’t you dare.”
“I won’t,” Ruby said.
“Those One-Eyed Jacks going to be there? That why you going?” Mom’s voice sharpened again, slicing right through my insides even though it was directed at Ruby.
“What would those guys want with a crowd of high schoolers?” I said. “They have much more exciting ways to party than—”
“They certainly do,” said Ruby, a grin warming her face.
Fuuuuuuuckkkkkkk. My stomach plummeted into a dark abyss under a two-ton slab of cement. Why, Ruby? Whyyyyyy?