by Chris Eng, illustration by Karlene Harvey
“So, we’re clear?” Becky wanted a straight answer from Jenn.
“You’ve been obvious enough with this conversation? She knows you’re on the phone?”
“Okay. We’ll let her take over then. Hang up. Talk to you soon.”
“Yeah, talk to you later.”
Becky hung up her cell and looked across her bedroom at Sarah, who was perched backward on Becky’s dining room chair.
Sarah sported tight navy jeans, puffy white sneakers and a form-fitting 3 Inches of Blood baseball tee. A mane of shaggy, strawberry blonde hair hung down to her chest and her bangs had started to creep down over her eyes. The look on her face stated wordlessly that she was unimpressed on a fundamental level. “And now we get a call back?”
“Probably. It’s not for sure.”
“You’ve got me waiting up here to pull a prank on Spit’s high-school-attending, kind-of-girlfriend’s mom and it’s not even a sure thing?! Jesus Christ, Becks—it’s not like I don’t have shit to do! I’d better really like this girl when I finally meet her.”
“Well, if everything comes off, you’ll meet her soon enough.”
“I’m getting a beer.” Sarah stood up, opened the fridge door, pulled out a can, cracked it open and drank half of its contents in one fluid motion. “You’re down to your last two, by the way,” she said, settling back into her seat.
“Great.” Becky lay on her back, tapping out a staccato drum beat with her fingertips on the wall above her bed.
“What’s in this for you, anyway?” Sarah asked.
“Nothing, really. She just seems like she deserves a chance.”
“To hang out with us?” A snort of amused disbelief escaped Sarah.
“To be more than she’s allowed to be right now,” Becky answered.
“That’s kind of a decision she has to make for herself.”
“Maybe we’ll give her the chance to realize she can make that decision.”
Becky’s cell phone rang in her hand and Becky was on her feet, taking a second to collect herself.
“Jenn?” Becky asked excitedly as she answered the phone.
“No,” the stern-sounding voice said on the other end. “This is Jennifer’s mother. To whom am I speaking?”
“This is Fiona.”
Sarah rolled her eyes and took a sip of beer.
“Fiona…” The line went quiet for a second as she processed the name and placed where she knew it from. “You’re one of my daughter’s friends from school.”
“You weren’t with her last Friday, were you?”
“I was, but I can totally explain what happened!”
“I’m not sure that will be necessary. Is your mother at home?”
“She is, but… I don’t–”
“Put her on the phone, if you’d be so kind. I’d like to have a few words with her.”
Becky held the phone out to Sarah. “It’s Jenn’s mom. She wants to talk to you.”
Sarah gave Becky the finger, mouthed ‘I hate you’ and took the cell. “Lillian Dickinson speaking, how can I help you?” The voice coming out of Sarah’s mouth was calm, measured and mature.
“Ms. Dickinson, this is Hesther McNabb. Your daughter is school friends with my daughter Jennifer.”
“Yes, how are you? It’s a pleasure to speak with you. Fiona’s spoken about Jennifer quite a bit. She’s quite taken by her.” Becky mouthed the word ‘taken’ and fell backward onto the mattress, rolling around in silent hysterics. Sarah picked up a convenient paperback and launched it at Becky, hitting her in the arm.
“Yes, well, to be honest, there was a bit of trouble at a party last Friday night and I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea if our daughters socialized.”
“Oh, really? I’m very sorry to hear that. I thought they sounded like they were quite good for each other. But I do understand about the party. Fiona didn’t make it home until the next morning.”
“Yes. Neither did Jennifer.”
“From my understanding of the situation, though, Jennifer and Fiona spent the night in each other’s company. And while I can’t say I approve of Claire—it was Claire that threw the party, wasn’t it?”
“I believe so, yes.”
“While I can’t say I approve of her at all, to hear my daughter tell it, Jennifer was a voice of reason in an otherwise unreasonable situation. Can I speak frankly?”
“My daughter took a drink prepared by someone else. I think it may have had something added to it. She had a bad reaction, regardless. She says Jennifer stayed with her all night. Apparently—and she’s not very proud of this part—she even vomited on your daughter’s clothes, forcing Jennifer to borrow a fresh set.”
“It sounds like you didn’t hear this version of events.”
“To be honest, I didn’t hear any version of the events. I was a little angry at the time and wasn’t interested in hearing a fabricated version of what went on. It appears I may have acted in haste by not hearing her out, though.”
“I think it would be good to talk to her. If you don’t want our daughters to socialize anymore, I understand, but I think it would be a disservice to both of them. Fiona is being punished for Friday night, believe you me, but I think Jennifer is a friend who would provide a very positive influence in my daughter’s life. In fact, if it was amenable to you, I would be pleased if she’d stay over at our house—under supervised conditions of course.”
“That’s something I’ll have to think over. And I’m going to need to have a talk with my daughter.”
“Of course. Let me give you my cell phone number. I’m an RN, so I’m easier to get in touch with on it than our house phone. 778-555-1862.”
“This has been an enlightening conversation. I’m glad to have talked to you tonight, for a variety of reasons.”
“Me too. Thanks for calling. I look forward to talking to you again.”
“Good night, Ms. Dickinson.”
“Call me Lillian, please.”
“All right. Good night, Lillian.”
“Good night, Hesther.” Sarah hung up the phone and lobbed it overhand at Becky who was laughing so hard she’d almost stopped breathing. It bounced off her shoulder and landed on the blankets.
“Ow,” Becky exclaimed.
“I gave her my cell number.”
“She has mine, too,” said Becky, coming up for air. “If shit goes down over this, we’re both gonna get the blame.”
Sarah shrugged. “Pfft, whatever. What’s she gonna do? Trace our pay-as-you-go cells?” She dropped back the rest of her beer and deposited the empty on the table. “That was some nice reverse engineering, by the way.”
“When you get someone to contact you instead of you contacting them. If they think it’s their idea, they’re more likely to give you what you want. Hackers do it all the time for getting passwords and shit.”
“I have hacker skills!”
“I’m pretty sure you don’t. Anyway, I’m gonna head back downstairs. If you need me for your next social engineering experiment, please forget I live in the same house as you. Or buy more beer.” Sidestepping her roommate, Sarah closed the door behind her.
“This was my mother. My mother! I can’t believe you actually got her to agree to let me stay over here! For the weekend!” Jenn was perched excitedly on the end of the Lark Street sofa, gazing wide-eyed past Spit at Becky.
“Hey, credit where credit is due—I just played your friend. Sarah was the one who pulled off playing someone’s responsible mom.”
“Thank you so much,” she gushed at Sarah, who was sprawled sideways on the easy chair.
“Your mother is a needy woman,” Sarah said. “An angry, needy woman.”
“I know,” said Jenn. “I’m sorry.”
“But I managed to convince her that what was best for everyone in your house was a couple of days away from each other. A supervised weekend with responsible friends.”
“Do you know how many times she’s called me this week? Three. Three times. I feel like I have to go to your house and play bridge with her or something.”
“Can I do anything to make it up to you?”
Sarah waved the suggestion away. “If that’s your homelife, I’m happy to have done my part in getting you away from it. And to keep doing my part. Oh, is that her calling me now? No, I’ve just gotten to the point where I hear phantom ringing.”
Jenn looked around at the other people in the room. “Seriously, if there’s anything I can do to repay you for this, I’m totally down.”
Becky nodded as she evaluated the offer. “Okay. Well, if you’re going to be eating our food this weekend, the least you can do is help us get groceries.”
“So… what? You need help carrying bags back from Safeway?”
“Not exactly. You’re coming with us on a dumpster run tonight.”