Thursday, August 1, 2013

Inevitable by Tamara Hart Heiner



I turned the car on and checked my CD player. The Fray. The dramatic, melancholy sound was exactly what I needed. Turning it up a few notches too loud, I merged with traffic and headed to Dana's house. She lived in a posh residential neighborhood of Forked River, overlooking Deer Head Lake. With the late afternoon traffic, it would take me at least half an hour to get there. I settled in for the drive.

The music washed over my mind. By the time I parked the car in the circle drive of Dana’s white plantation-style mansion, the only worry left was if I had dirt on my shoes. The warm spring sunshine kissed my cheeks and I tossed my head, smelling the salt that carried inland on the breeze. I loved living close enough to the ocean to smell it.

I used my key to let myself in the front door. “Hello?” I could never remember Dana’s housekeeper’s schedule, and she didn’t like to be caught unaware. No answer. I slipped my heels off and padded up the off-white carpet.

Stepping into Dana’s room was like stepping into a fairy land. The bubble-gum pink carpeting interrupted the tranquil off-white at the door frame. She had finally replaced the twin canopy bed a few years ago with a full that had enough frills and lace on the comforter to be an advertisement for curtains. But the unicorn and fairy wall mural remained, a reminder of the care-free days of childhood, when we still dreamed of being princesses and hoped for happily-ever-afters.

Today, though, a mound of clothing grew outside the walk-in closet. Dana poked her head out, holding a phone to her ear. “Hey.”

“Hey,” I replied.

“Yeah, sounds fabulous.” She nodded at me and snapped her gum, round blue eyes sparkling.

What sounded fabulous? I cocked my head before realizing she wasn't talking to me. I crawled over her mess and collapsed on the bed.

“Listen, Jayne’s here. I’ll call you later. Great. Bye.” She tossed the phone on the covers next to me and pounced down, propping her chin up with her hands and flashing a smile. “Jaynie! If you really want a job, you’re going to have to stop being so picky, you know.”

“I know.” I grabbed one of her pillows and hugged it to my chest. “But not that job.”

She hopped off the bed and disappeared into her closet again. That was easy to do, since the closet was bigger than my bedroom. “You don’t really want to work. You just like having job interviews.”

“Whatever, Danes.” I couldn’t defend myself without telling her the truth, so I let her assumption slide. “What are you doing in there? Spring cleaning?”

Her head poked out, and she threw an empty suitcase on top of the clothes. “No. Packing.”

“Again?” I tried to sound light but ducked my head before she could see my reaction.

We had always planned to stay close to home and go to Brookdale Community College, about an hour from here. But when Dana got accepted into Massachusetts Institute of Technology on a math scholarship, she didn’t turn it down. Not only that, but she planned to exit Forked River as soon as graduation was over.

Not that I blamed her. Lacey Township and the towns that made it up had nothing new or interesting to offer. Which was exactly why I intended to stay put.

“I have to make sure I can fit everything.” The bed sank a bit and I looked up as Dana sat cross-legged in front of me. “You’re smart. Don’t you want to do something exciting with your life?”

That was just it. I didn’t. I faked a smile. “No. You think I’m boring or something?”

“Well, you were more fun before...” She looked up, her eyes widening. “I didn’t mean to say that.”

Before Stephen and I broke up. She didn’t have to say it. We used to do things together. And not just normal things like dances and movies, but things like scuba-diving and hiking and going to Walmart at two a.m. To restock our candy supply. Now all of my focus was on surviving the school year.

I chewed the nail on my index finger. “Let’s go do pizza-karaoke tonight.”

Her eyes lit up. “Now you’re talking. Karaoke! It’s been forever.” She tossed aside her suitcase. “You’re on, girl.”

“But I’m driving.”

“No problem.” Dana paused in front of her vanity, reapplying purple lipstick and fluffing her short blond hair. “I’m out of gas, anyway.”

I narrowed my eyes and frowned. Her parents gave her a handsome gas budget. “Wherever have you been driving to?”

She gave me a sheepish grin. “I met this guy at the club last week. He invited me up to campus, and I’ve gone a few times. I’m not interested in him, you know. It’s” Dana threw a scarf at me, which I caught. “Put that on, it matches what you’re wearing.”

I looked down at my short black skirt, white shirt, and black blazer, and thought how out of place the lime-green scarf would look.

“You need some color.” Dana nodded. “Put it on.”

“Fine.” I wrapped it around my neck and knotted it.

My phone began to vibrate inside my bag. I got an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach when I saw the caller: Beth. My little sister.

With a four-year difference between the two of us, Beth and I had always had a comfortable relationship. But ever since she developed the lemon smell two months ago, I couldn’t shake the fear I felt whenever I was around her. I had two choices: See the horrible way in which she’d die and live with the guilt of knowing I couldn’t change it, or avoid her as much as possible.

I chose to avoid her. Not an easy task when you share a bathroom with someone.

The phone was on its last ring. I flipped it open. “Hello?”

“Sheesh, Jayne, I thought you weren’t going to answer.”

I wasn’t. Out loud, I said, “Well, I did. What’s up?”

“I just got done with my study group and need a ride home. Mom told me to call you. I’m at school. I’ll wait at the curve by the flagpole.”

“Wait!” I protested, but Beth had already hung up. I sighed.

“What’s wrong?” Dana stood next to the bed, hands on her hips.

I cocked an eyebrow. “I’m on taxi duty.”

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Genre – YA

Rating – PG

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