“What do you think that was in the Field?” asks Henna, looking worried. “With the indie kid?”
“I hope nothing,” Mel says. “And even if it is something, they’d better hold off until after graduation.”
“I just mean I hope he’s okay,” Henna says, and we all can tell she’s thinking of her brother.
The indie kids, huh? You’ve got them at your school, too. That group with the cool-geek haircuts and the charity shop clothes and names from the fifties. Nice enough, never mean, but always the ones who end up being the Chosen One when the vampires come calling or when the alien queen needs the Source of All Light or something. They’re too cool to ever, ever do anything like go to prom or listen to music other than jazz while reading poetry. They’ve always got some story going on that they’re heroes of. The rest of us just have to live here, hovering around the edges, left out of it all, for the most part.
Having said that, the indie kids do die a lot. Which must suck.
“Where’s Merde Breath?” Jared asks, changing the subject. Our little sister, Meredith (and yes, I know, Michael and Melinda and Meredith and even Mary Magdalene the cat. We once even had a Labrador called Martha, but she bit a porcupine one day and that was the end of that. Apparently you can put a price on love. It’s slightly less than $1,200 for doggy face surgery).
Meredith is ten, a loon, maybe a genius (our mom is certainly counting on it), and is hopelessly, painfully ensnared by Bolts of Fire, the country and western boy band specifically created to hopelessly and painfully ensnare ten-year-old girls, even the geniuses. She’s played their biggest song, “Bold Sapphire” (by Bolts of Fire, get it?), exactly 1,157 times. I know, because I checked, after begging my parents for mercy from having to hear it a 1,158th. We’re all a little obsessive, us Mitchell kids.
Jared is a firm second in her affections after Bolts of Fire, though. He’s big, he’s friendly, and there’s the whole cat deal. If there’s one thing we all, every one of us, agree on, it’s that Jared is going to be a great dad.
Not that any of us have first-hand experience of one, really, except Jared, which figures.
“German lessons,” I tell him. “My mom didn’t think she was being challenged enough at school.”
Jared blinks. “She’s ten.”
“They’re still hoping they’ve got one left who isn’t screwed-up,” Mel says, flicking on a downloaded TV programme we’ve all already seen as background noise.
Henna looks at me. “You’re not screwed-up.”
“No one in this family is screwed-up,” says our mother, coming through the front door. “That’s the official campaign line and we’re sticking to it.”
She drops her purse on the table by the door, already frowning at the four teenagers draped across her couches. She’s two hours early. “Hello, everyone,” she practically booms, seeming friendly enough, though Mel and I can already tell we’re going to pay for this later. “Look at all the feet up on the furniture.”
Jared and Henna slowly put their feet on the floor.
“Hello, State Senator,” Jared says, politely.
“Just ‘Senator ’ is the protocol, Jared,” my mom says with a tight smile, “even for a lowly state government official. As I’m sure you must know by now. Hello, Henna.”
“Mrs Mitchell,” Henna greets, her voice three sizes smaller than a minute ago.
“You’re early,” Mel says.
“Yes,” my mom says. “I can see how you might think that.”
“Where’s Dad?” I ask.
“Still with your grandma.”
“How is she?”
Mom’s smile gets even tighter. “You two staying for dinner?” she asks Jared and Henna, somehow communicating clearly that they’re not actually invited.