The Wrong Side of the River
The world is not thy friend
Once Julian won the argument, Parry became the most sullen, least pleasant, Romeo ever. He muttered his way through his lines, and when Mrs. Kempf yelled at him to perk up his ideas, the most he could manage was a half-hearted flailing of his arms.
“Parry!” Mrs. Kempf slapped her script down on the front of the stage. “This has got to stop. You are Romeo. You are our hero. You cannot be this limp fish sulking its way around my stage. Now, get your act together, young man.”
I leaned on the balcony, which wobbled a bit. “Please, Parry? We don’t have much time left for practice before the play opens.”
“I just want to get to the kissing scenes,” Parry said, the most honest and believable thing he had ever said on that stage. Then he grinned up at me. “It’s my chance to show the world how I kiss my girl.”
My stomach turned, and I thought I might hurl. Worse still, I saw Julian in the wings, staring up at me with the worst disappointment on his face.
“I’m not your girl, Parry,” I said, but it came out so quiet he barely noticed.
“What’s that, darling?” he asked, winking at me.
This time it came out as a shout. “I said, I am not your girl!”
Parry’s face changed expression so fast, I barely saw it happen. “What?”
“We’re not boyfriend and girlfriend. I am breaking up with you, and I don’t actually remember the part where you even asked if I wanted to go out with you. You just assumed. And I don’t, actually. You’re a jerk, and I don’t want to be your girlfriend.”
I thought he would look shocked, or upset, or even angry, but he didn’t. He grinned. “See if you still say that after the big kiss, baby.”
You should never stomp in pretty pink open-toed wedges. They made my legs ache so bad by the time I reached our front walk. I slipped off my shoes, hooked them over my finger, and walked the rest of the way barefoot. Something caught my eye over by the trees at the far side of our yard beyond the garage. A tent.
Oh, no.
Forgetting about whose time I was on, I ran across the lawn and dipped inside the tent. Dad sat on a blow up mattress, sipping coffee poured from his thermos. His suits hung from the ceiling on coat hangers, and his shoes were all lined up in neat rows against one wall.
“What’s going on?” I asked, panting for breath.
“You shouldn’t be here, sweetie. It’s not our time.” Dad took another sip from his plastic mug.
“I don’t even care! Why are you out here in a tent? What happened?”
Dad sighed and set down his mug. His eyes were tired when he looked up at me, and I wanted to hug him. “Your mother changed the locks on the garage while I was at work and set this up out here. Mayor Griffin put me in charge of fighting the injunction. This,” he waved his arms to indicate the inside of the tent, “is the consequence.”
“You have rights, you know. You can’t let her do this! It is still half your house.”
Dad smiled. “Please, don’t be upset with your mom, sweetie. It’s the way she is, you know that. If she isn’t in control of the situation, then she just can’t cope. I would rather she coped.”
“Even if she makes the entire town miss out on a new park?”
Dad laughed. “I might be a bit of a martyr, but not enough of one to want to suffer alone.” He threw his head back and made a joking, maniacal laugh. “You can all suffer with me! Muahaha!”
I tried to grin as I lifted the tent flap to leave, but it wouldn’t work. “I’m sorry, Dad.”
Mom gave me a look as I plonked down on the sofa inside. The sort of look that made it clear she knew I had been to see Dad. I ignored her and opened up my phone. It had buzzed in my pocket as I let myself inside, and the text was from Julian.
“You were brilliant at rehearsal. You make Juliet seem so sweet.”
I smiled, and texted back. “Thank you. I’m sure I seemed very sweet when shouted at Parry.”
His reply came so fast that I knew he had to have been sitting waiting for my answer. “Ha ha. That was the best part.”
“Who are you texting?” Mom asked, trying to bend over to see for herself. I snatched my phone away.
“No one much. Just a friend from school.”
“No one from Southside, I hope?” she asked.
I closed my eyes for a second, and took a deep breath. When Mom found out who it was, she would think a mere Southsider would be a dream come true. I replied quickly to Julian’s message, to let him know I would be busy with dinner for a while.
“Forget your phone and come help me dish out the dinner, please.”
I slipped my phone into my pocket, and resisted the urge to pull it back out again when I felt Julian’s reply buzz against my leg. He probably just wanted to let me know he got my message. It still itched and bothered me, though, just in case it was important.
Mom handed me a big spoon to scoop potatoes onto everyone’s plate. Except, there were only three plates.
“There’s no plate for Dad.”
“No. There is not. A bit of hunger will help him figure out his priorities.” Mom took a big scoop of beef stew out of the pot and ladled it onto my plate.
“I’m not hungry.” I muttered the words, but she heard them of course.
She slopped the ladle into the stew and gave me her “why I oughta” look.
“I’m not, Mom. How am I supposed to eat if my own dad is sitting outside in a tent with no dinner and no one to talk to him. He’s not even being mean about you. He’s worried about you.”
“He is?” Her expression went softer for a second, but hardened up again as she picked up the ladle. “Good. He should be. I’m going to make his, and his boss’s, lives miserable. Northsiders aren’t prepared to stand by and let this injustice go un-challenged.”
Except that the Southsiders felt exactly the same way. But, I knew logic would not get me anywhere with Mom, she was immune. While she was busy draining the vegetables, I whipped out my phone to see what Julian had said. “I hope Parry doesn’t mess up on opening night. Have a good dinner.”
My stomach did a painful jerk at the thought of opening night, of Parry Hendricks grabbing me and kissing me in front of the whole school.
Something had to be done.

Keep Reading

Chapter 15

Begot of nothing but vain fantasy Julian

  • Unlock this sticker:

    Redeem Crowns


    There was an error redeeming your Crowns.

    Only upgraded members can redeem Crowns for these stickers.

    Unlock Stickers

    Earn 20 more Crowns to unlock this sticker. Or, upgrade to get it right now.

    Unlock Stickers

    Crowns FAQ

Add your comment

Sign into Storybird to post a comment.

Create an account

Create an account to get started. It’s free!

Sign up

or sign in with email below