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Bette On It: Weird Adolescence

1998-1999 7th Grade

By Tinka Boudit She/HerPublished 3 years ago 85 min read

7th Grade 1998-1999

Bette was determined to start the school year different than the year before. She had grown a bit over the summer and wasn't wearing clothes from the kids section of the store anymore. It was fun to actually develop a sense of taste in clothes. For her first day of school, she picked out a pair of designer jeans from the second hand store and a V-neck olive green shirt, a grey zip up hooded sweatshirt, and her hair out of her face in a headband. "Why don't you kids dress up for the first day anymore?" Bette's mother Lorna asked. "It's new Mom. New is nice." Lorna hadn't bothered to try picking Bette's clothes for her since second grade, and they were both grateful for not having to worry about the other. Lorna took the customary first day of school pictures of her daughter and sent her off to the bus stop.

She waited at the bus stop with one other girl she had known from the neighborhood forever, Cassandra. They weren't close, they just lived close.

Cassandra was blonde, tanned from being outside all summer, outgoing, was already wearing makeup, petite, yet proportionally developed.

Cassandra was all bounce and bubbles at the bus stop. "Hey girl. New year, new me, what do you think?" She did a turn to show off her look: a baby blue fitted t-shirt, light blue jeans, and her bright white sneakers had stripes that matched her top.

"The classic girl next door." Bette said. "A modern day Cinderella. Cassand-rella."

"Thank you. Thank you." Cassandra bowed. "You look nice."

Cassandra and Bette had been childhood opposites. Bette was taller, had raven hair, a naturally pale skin tone that didn't change from a summer covered in SPF 50, reserved but strong in character, no makeup, and her breasts and blackheads had come in strong, but nothing else seemed to with their age. Puberty looked like it gave Cassandra a kiss and Bette a slap.

On the bus they sat together and recounted the last couple weeks. Cassandra has spent a lot of her time with her family at a cabin. Bette went to a family reunion where no one was within six years of her age, so she spent most of her time reading whatever she could get her hands on.

"What did you read?"

"Are you familiar with the high quality novels of your local pharmacy?" Bette answered.


"Neither am I. There's no such thing."

Cassandra giggled.

More kids got on the bus. Mostly people they knew or at least had familiar faces from the last six years of school. About three blocks from their homes, the bus stopped again and let on one kid.

"He's huge." Cassandra turned from looking out the window, whispered to Bette, and elbowed her. Bette turned and saw him get on the bus. Bette was 5'2" at her checkup last month; this boy on the bus must have been 5'9". Neither of them knew him. He was husky, olive-tanned, brown-haired, and brown-eyed, but still very boyish in face for being so grown.

Bette whispered back to Cassandra and tried to dismiss her shock. "He's tall; he's probably an 8th grader."

He walked up the aisle of the bus, trying carefully not to bump anyone with his size. The rest of the ride into school, he sat alone.

The morning was the same kind of first day stuff she expected, but it was the first year they changed classes every hour.

When she got to lunch, she saw Cassandra again along with a couple of others to sit with. Cassandra had brought over Stella to sit with them who she knew from near her cabin. Bette had Jenna join the table too, who Bette considered her actual best friend. The four girls traded opinions on teachers and classes.

After lunch, Bette had two classes left, geography and gym. She was grateful for gym to be her last hour of the day. If she was going to get sweaty and gross, might as well go home right after.

She got to Geography class and saw that Mrs. Worth had assigned seats alphabetically by last name which was the third class to do so that day. She wasn't near Jenna, who had the same class, but it was nice to know she was there. Bette looked at the seating chart and sat at her spot. In the class walked the same tall kid from the bus that morning, she hadn't seen him since then. He looked taller now than he did that morning. He was taller than Mrs. Worth for sure. She saw him look at the seating chart he walked over and sat right behind Bette. Mrs. Worth had them hand out textbooks and then syllabus papers, "Take one pass it back."

Most people passed them off over their shoulders, but Bette spun in her desk chair. "Here." She let one slide off the pile on to his desk and handed him the rest.

"Thanks." He said, quick, soft, and low.

"Sure," she turned back around and wrote a couple notes on the paper.

After class ended, she walked out with Jenna. Bette filled her in on what to expect in English class next hour, and Jenna told her gym class was reporting right to the gymnasium and not the locker room.

The gymnasium had some of the bleachers pulled out at she took a seat with everyone else. She looked around to see no good friends in the class. Great.

Following not far behind her into the gym, was the same big guy from Geography and the bus.

Mrs. Golden, the gym teacher did the same first day introductions, expectations, and syllabus handing out as all the other teachers. That was easy.

After gym, it was a straight shot out the main doors and on to her bus to go home for the day.

The first couple days she found her routine: when to go to her locker, when to eat something after a class, and what not to eat at lunch. It was just another year of school.

A few weeks into school Bette and Jenna were leaving Geography and Bette asked her, "Were you going to come back for Puzzle club today? They mentioned it in the morning announcements."

"Why didn't you ask me at lunch?" Jenna asked.

"I had this feeling Stella was going to be mean about it. Call us nerds for wanting to go. I don't need that from her. Cassandra already said she wasn't going, so I don't have a ride. Please Jenna. It's not even nearly the walk home after for you after as it is for me."

"I will grace you with my presence," Jenna said playfully.

"Thank you! See you there." The girls separated for their respective classes. Bette changed into her gym clothes and reported to the soccer field for the unit. So much running. She had a sports bra, but it wasn't very good quality, and the class was miserable.

After Mrs. Golden dismissed them from the field, they all started walking back up to the school to the locker room to change. Bette was walking, feeling the wheeze in her throat, just focusing forward on getting there for a drink of water.

"What's Puzzles club?"

Bette looked on one side of herself than the other to see the big kid from the bus and Geography class, and no one else was walking near them.

"Holy shit, you mean me!" Bette replied with a rasp.

"Sorry. I shouldn't have-"

"No. No." She coughed. "Not that. I meant- You caught me by surprise." She caught her breath. "Ozzy, right?" She asked.

"Ozzy White."

"Not what I meant, but okay. Yeah. Puzzle club. It's just like it sounds. It's puzzles, games, logic, and lateral thinking. That sort of thing. Different stuff each week."

By this point they were at the divide of the locker room hallway. "It's actually right in Mrs. Worth's room after school today." Bette split off from him and went into the locker room to change. Her breasts ached from the class. Next time, two sports bras. Everyone else was in a hurry to go home, but she was going to puzzle club. She combed out her hair and wiped her face with a cold paper towel to try to get some of the redness out. It didn't help much.

Bette put her went to her locker and grabbed some trail mix and can of Diet Coke her dad had put in her back pack for her and read the little note he left for her that read 'Have fun my Puzzle Club Queen'. Jenna caught up with Bette and they went back to Mrs. Worth's class room. She asked the kids to push the desks back from their regular forward formation they were in into a ring with an open area in the middle. More kids showed up, a pair of fifth graders, some sixth graders, no eight graders, and then, Ozzy. Bette had nearly forgotten. Altogether, there were nine of them. It was the first club of the year, it was an expected amount, numbers would ebb and flow throughout the year.

Mrs. Worth had a big tote bin ready to go; on the top was "Clue-dun-it." She introduced herself to the other students who didn't know her or what the club was. She had the kids put out the big mat from the tote in the middle of the room along with the props and pawns. It was a giant, modified version of the game 'Clue.' She had each person grab a colored name tag, clipboard, a pen, and passed out cards. Bette grabbed the 'Green' name tag and hung it around her neck. Jenna grabbed 'Violet'. Ozzy grabbed his own name, 'White.' Bette got an excited smirk on her face. She liked this game and was pretty good at it. Each turn, you would make a suggestion to 'who broke into the school' with 'which object' and 'which room'. The first person after you who could disprove your suggestion would have to show you one of their cards. You could only suggest on your turn, but if you wanted to accuse someone, which is to try to end the game and guess the correct combination held by Mrs. Worth, you'd either win or the game or if you were wrong you would be eliminated and your cards would be passed out to everyone else who would continue until someone else accused and won.

It was two full rounds into the game and Bette had her game sheet narrowed down. Her sheet looked like a complicated checklist from how she was reading the other kid's choices and answers in the room. She knew the tool was a hammer, and the person was the girl wearing 'red,' but she wasn't sure if the room was the music room or the cafeteria. Do I go for it?

And out of turn came his voice, "I want to make an accusation." It was Ozzy.

Mrs. Worth had him show her his game sheet. She nodded, "Go ahead and say it."

"It was Miss Red, with the hammer, through the music room."

Mrs. Worth opened the game file and showed everyone he was right.

The game reset and they played again. When Bette was in the same spot again: narrowed down to one last thing to eliminate, Ozzy piped in with an accusation and was right. On the third game, she was determined to win, and she knew she was getting close, she was down to four to eliminate, when Ozzy made his accusation and was correct. By this time, there wasn't enough time to start another game, so the game was packed up and put away and the desks put back into place.

Bette and Jenna started the walk home. It was only a few blocks for Jenna, but a mile for Bette. "That was fun,"

"Fun? Yeah. Right up until I lost. Every time. I don't know how he did it."

"Maybe he's just better than you."

"That game had 10 rooms, 10 tools, and had 9 players. That's 900 possible combinations. He did it in less than 20 turns each time."

"You can fume about it as much as you want. But you shouldn't worry about it." She pointed. "This is my block. I'll see you tomorrow." Jenna walked away up her street and Bette walked on. A couple blocks later she stopped to tie her shoe and realized Ozzy was barely a half a block behind her. He did get on the bus after her in the morning, and off before her in the afternoon, so she had an idea of where he lived in the neighborhood from her, his would only be a few blocks past her from her walk. She intentionally retied the same shoe, and then switched and untied and retied her other shoe. By the time she was up and walking again, he was barely ten feet behind her.

"Hey," she said.

"Hey yourself," he kept walking.

The question persisted in her head as he past her and she took a few quick steps to catch up and walk with him. She looked up at him and asked, "How did you do it?"

"Do what?"

"'Do what?' You know what. You swept the games. I was this close to making the accusations and you pulled the rug out from under me every time. How did you do it?"

"Same as you. Process of elimination, logical reasoning."

"No," She persisted. "There had to be something else."

"What if there was? What would that change?"

"It wouldn't--I could have-- I--" She let out an agitated huff and laughed at herself. "Jenna was right."

"What's so funny about that? And right about what?"

"I couldn't figure out how you beat me, and I was really annoyed. Jenna was right. You were just better." She chuckled.

"She wasn't totally right..." he curled in his lips and bit them to try and hide his smile.

"There is something you did! I knew it!"

He snickered. "Okay okay. It was two things. One, distinct advantage."

"And what's that supposed to mean?"

"Mr. Cerulean next to me couldn't hold his cards right to save his life. It's like I had a double hand. I didn't need to ask what any of his cards were. And once or twice, I suggested my own cards just to throw off the group."

"That's cheating!"

"No. That's being strategic, tall, and sitting next to a chump."

She laughed. "Fine, I'll concede that's not cheating. What's the other?"

"I don't know if I should say."

"Why not?"

"You might think it's weird."

"Weirder than me being annoyed at losing?"

"Maybe. You won't get scared and run off if I say?"

"You've seen me in gym class. I'm not running anywhere for the rest of the day."

"That may be true enough." He took a deep breath. "It was you."

"Me?!" She didn't think it was weird, but she didn't understand. "What about me?"

"You moved your lips. Your eyes were really intense looking around the room. You were deliberate when you marked your paper. With my own deductions, Mr. Cerulean's cards, and your complete lack of a poker face, there was no losing for me."

Bette stopped dead in her tracks. Ozzy walked another step before realizing she stopped and he turned. She was stunned. She started with a chuckle and she was laughing so hard until he couldn't help but laugh too. "So--" She tried to catch her breath, "I mean-- You're saying there's no lying to you."

"You? No. Probably not. Not unless you somehow get really good, really fast." They kept walking. "But I don't see that happening."

"Why is that?"

"Because I know your tells already."

"You know it's not going to be 'Clue-dun-it' every week. I'm not always going to have a poker face to read. There are going to be co-operative games and other stuff too."

" think I should go again next week?"

"I think it doesn't matter what my answer is because whatever I say, you'll know if it's true or not. But as I observed, you knew what you were doing, you won, and you seem to be good at it. So logic would dictate you probably would."

"Maybe I would go because it was fun."

"Well, yeah."

"Maybe that's all. Isn't that why you go?"

"It is. That, and it's so satisfying."

"How is a club satisfying?"

"I don't--I don't know why I said it like that."

"Yes, you do."

"Damn it. If you are going to be able to call me out on every little bluff or fib I ever make, I need you to be able to be honest with me too. If I tell you something, it's not going to be because I have no choice but to tell you the truth, but will you keep it private too?"

"The door swings and locks both ways." He offered his hand to shake on his word.

Bette looked at his hand then up at him, he was innocent, honest, and intuitive. He had been open with her. He gave her no reason not to trust him. She shook his warm, strong, yet gentle hand.

She took a deep breath. "It's fun being the clever one in the room," and it came out somewhat sad. Ozzy looked at her knowingly. "Because it's about all I can do. I'm not artistic or athletic as you've seen. And-- and so if I can outwit people, that's something." She ran her hand through her hair. "It's what I can do. And I'm pretty good at it."


"And what?"

"I still hear you holding back. I can see it."

"I don't want to say."

"Alright. I get it. You're going to need some collateral."

"Wait what?"

"I'm going to tell you something, but I hope it's enough for us to understand that I am telling you this in the same good faith you told me a minute ago. The door swings and locks in both directions, remember?"


"I barely spoke to anyone up until this week because my voice finally settled and I hated it changing that much."

"How-How did? You were able to- And no one--You were with--" She couldn't complete a single thought to reply. "I don't understand. It's so normal. All the guys are squeaking right now."

"Not all of them are taller than the teachers, have to squeeze in bus seats, and feel like a giant freak!"

"Oh my God. I see now. I know it all too well, and it isn't fair, is it?" She didn't want to touch her blackheads or her breasts, but she knew.

"It sucks."

"It does suck," she kicked a rock on the sidewalk.

"So what is it?"

"What's what?"

"What did my collateral buy? Why do you like being the clever one in the room?"

She huffed. "'Albino freak.' 'Ugly freak.' Which doesn't make sense, because it's not medically accurate. But those words used to wreck me. You know Jason Kaye, from gym?"

"Blond guy. Wiry. Only guy even close in height to me."

"Yep, him. His nicknames for me back in 5th grade. I used to come home crying. My mom offered to send me to private school, but I didn't want to leave my friends. One day I came home from school, upset from his name calling and my dad was there instead. He is a firm believer in 'two wrongs don't make a right.' Gave me different advice in this situation. He said next time he calls you one of those names to call him 'dickless.' Someone was hurting his little girl, and she had to stand up for herself because looking back on it, there was nothing he could do about it. So, a few days later here comes Jason Kaye, 'Hey albino, ugly freak.' I sharply reply with, 'Hey dickless,' and the look on his face was priceless. Never again did he call me 'ugly freak.' If I can't be the pretty one in the room, I'll be the clever one. I'll be the sharp one. I won't set myself up for that again."

"I'm sorry."

"No. Don't be, that was two years ago."

"No, about Clue-dun-it. I didn't mean to take that from you. I wouldn't have had I known."

"Oh, don't you dare! I need a challenge in that club. And it seems like you're the one to step up to it."

They both didn't speak for a few steps. "You know it's not true though, right?"

"I'm pretty sure Jason has no dick, but I cannot confirm."

He laughed. "You are sharp. But not what I was going to say." He hesitated, “You’re not a freak." She could hear the serious tone in his voice. "The room thing...What you said about-"

"Don't." Her face turned red again. "Don't do that, please. I wasn't trying to get you to say something nice."

He looked sad and regretful. "I wouldn't--I didn't--I didn't want to feel worse for having talked about it."

"Not at all." She gave him a gentle prod in the shoulder. "I have a very healthy level of self-esteem, thank you." She gave him a great, big smile. "Are we going to be okay?"

Ozzy smiled. "Yeah."

"You're telling me the truth? I haven't learned to read all your tells yet."

"I promise. I won't lie to you. And in the future, when it comes to you, anything you tell me that's private, stays private. Anyone asks anything, I simply don't know what they're talking about."

He offered his hand in agreement again and she accepted and replied, "This door swings and locks both ways. Anyone asks, 'I don't know what they're talking about.'"

"Your poker face is terrible, so it's going to be all about your wit."

"I accept the challenge." A minute later they were at the end of a block. "This is my turn. I'm the fourth house in on the left."

"I'm three blocks further and a few in. It's a teal one with a stone gargoyle in the front."

They high-fived again and went their separate ways.

The next morning when Cassandra and Bette sat on the bus and saw Ozzy get on Bette addressed him. "Mr. White."

"Ms. Green," he passed and took a seat a few rows back.

Cassandra leaned into her ear. "Does he know your last name is Wheelan, right?"

"Of course, we have two classes together."


"It was Clue-dun-it at puzzle club yesterday. He was there."

"What else did I miss?"

"He won all three games. Jenna saw it. I was so annoyed. But it was just a game. There's always next week."

"He beat you in three games of Clue?"

"What's his deal?"

"What do you mean?"

"We've been riding the bus with him, you have two classes with him, we've been in school almost a month and you are pulling out inside jokes? Where are you hiding this guy and what's in the cookie jar?" Cassandra asked suggestively.

"Ugh. Don't be weird. He's just a person who showed up to puzzle club. You could have if you didn't flake. I didn't get that much information. Besides," and she tried to say it somewhat loud, "I don't know what you're talking about." Bette turned her face away from Cassandra and made a little grin. I really do need to work on my poker face.

Over the next few months, Ozzy integrated more and more in school. She hadn't noticed it before, but Ozzy had been eating lunch with Tylor and Greyson, cousins who were practically brothers, who had gone to the same schools as her since kindergarten and another kid Norman. Bette and Cassandra made an effort to sit in the same row as him on the bus ride to school. By Thanksgiving, the silent kid from the first few weeks of school was gone. Ozzy impressed teachers, excelled in classes, made other kids laugh and gained their respect; his confidence skyrocketed yet he remained humble.

Christmas time came around and Cassandra handed out invitations to her parent's Christmas party. It was really an excuse for her parents to have a party with their friends and keep Cassandra out of their way in their basement rec room. In previous years when Bette had gone, it had been a slumber party, but this year, Cassandra was itching for boys to go. Her parents didn't care as long as everyone had their own way to and from the party and was gone by 11 PM. The last week of school leading up to the holiday break, Cassandra had seven other kids from school going: Bette, Jenna, Stella, Ozzy, Greyson, Tylor, and Norman. It was a pretty easy reach for Cassandra to ask their one guy friend Ozzy, and have him rope in his friends.

Cassandra had asked Bette to help decorate before the party, which wasn't hard, the house was already decorated for Christmas and her parents held the party on the Saturday between Christmas and New Years'. The girls put up more tinseled garland and stringed lights, changed out the regular light bulbs for red and green ones, and set-up tables of snacks and sodas. When Cassandra was setting up the music system, Bette pulled Cassandra's dad's guitar out into a clear spot. Bette also pulled Twister and a deck of cards out of the closet. Cassandra saw what she was doing, "Oh you are freaky. I don't know why I didn't think of that!" She realized what she was holding and dropped it and turned red, but the light bulb hid her coloring.

"No! I was looking for the conversation cards. I thought they were behind this box."

"Too late. It's too good of an idea," Cassandra burst with excitement and picked up the box.

"What are you even hoping will happen with Twister?"

"A good party, that's what."

Bette rolled her eyes at Cassandra but her mind was stirring. Ozzy had told her that he's been crushing on Cassandra and it grew more and more clear to Bette; Cassandra liked the attention, so she soaked it up. Bette had asked Ozzy for some information on Norman who she had liked since they were at the same session of summer camp that past summer. He had treated her different outside of school and away from their respective friends after they had spent some time together. She hoped that there would be another opportunity tonight, considering they didn't have any classes together. She knew she couldn't tell Cassandra, she would have blabbed, but Jenna knew since summer, and Ozzy knew for a few weeks.

Everyone started trickling in and for the party. And for the first twenty minutes or so, nothing really happened. They talked about school and what they got for Christmas. It was Stella who decided to stir the pot. "This game of Twister is happening now." She flipped open the box and whipped the mat onto the floor. "Spin to see who plays?"

She had this tone of total authority. It wasn't even her party. "I'm in." Said Greyson.

"It wasn't an option." Stella replied. She took the spinner, held it out and spun it. It landed on Tylor and Jenna first. They both relented and played. Several rounds in, either of them fell over. "We need a third body." Stella spun the spinner again and it landed on herself.

"Now it's interesting," Jenna said with a smile. Stella handed the spinner off to Cassandra and a few more turns were played until Tylor fell over. People laughed and the iciness of the room was finally broken.

Norman had a hacky sack and showed Jenna and Bette how to play where the Twister mat was. Stella found herself holding court with Tylor and Greyson, playing rounds of two truths and a lie. It didn't surprise Bette at all that Ozzy was following Cassandra around like a puppy, and she was eating it up.

Tylor, seeing what Ozzy was doing, saw an opportunity for him, "Ozzy, two truths and a lie: What can you do?"

Ozzy saw the eyes on him and glanced around the room. When he saw Bette, she eyed the guitar. It all took a split second.

"I got it. I can do a full cartwheel. I can play guitar. I can eat a whole jar of jalapenos. Which is the lie? One, two, or three?"

Stella answered, "It has to be the cartwheel."

"Cartwheel," guessed Jenna.

"Jalapenos," Greyson and Tylor said in unison.

"I'm with the girls. Cartwheel." Said Norman.

Bette made sure the space was clear between Ozzy and the guitar. "It's the jalapeños."

"Which is it," Asked Tylor.

In a graceful movement, Ozzy did a strong, steady cartwheel in the room and landed near the guitar and picked it up.

The roar of the room was clear, they were impressed. Bette gave a knowing applause to Ozzy and a wink to Tylor.

Cassandra turned the music down, "Now you have to show us!"

"It's okay to play this?"

"It hasn't been played in a while. Dad won't notice or care."

Ozzy took one of the chairs and opened the case. The acoustic guitar was ready to be played. Ozzy plucked the strings, "You sure it hasn't been played in a while? The case isn't dusty and it's in tune." Cassandra shrugged. "I'll only play if you guys sing along too." The everyone agreed. "Oddly enough, you guys know the words to 'With a Little Help From My Friends,' The Beatles?”

Ozzy closed his eyes and focused on the music and played. He started to sing and Greyson, Tylor, and Norman joined right away. The girls joined in a little slower. Bette wasn't watching Ozzy play, she watched Cassandra watch Ozzy and she became the puppy until the song was over. They applause him for his song.

"You pick someone else now," said Tylor.

Ozzy looked around. "Jenna. Is there something you can do?" Ozzy asked.

"I think I got something." She grabbed three dry, sealed cans of soda and tucked her foot into other leg to stand in tree pose. She juggled the cans and named the states in alphabetical order. When she got to Wyoming, she slammed all three cans on the table. "Now don't open those for 24 hours."

Her show got a laugh and light applause from everyone. "Stella. Truth or dare?"

Stella gave a sly smile. "Truth."

"What's the worst thing you've ever been in trouble for?"

Stella sucked a breath through her teeth and looked over at Cassandra.

"I wasn't the one who got in trouble," said Cassandra.

"So Cassandra and I, our families have cabins near each other. We went late night skinny dipping with some other girls and I snuck out first and took a most of the clothes. I got massive trouble when a different girl told. My girl Cass didn't squeal on me. I was grounded for the rest of the summer."

The boy's jaws hit the floor along with Jenna's. "That's ridiculous!" Said Bette. "Absolutely insane."

"I bet you've never done an insane thing in your life." Stella said to Bette.

She replied matter-of-factly, "Besides jump off the big rock at Pebble Lake. No, I have not committed any sexually offensive felonies."

"I didn't say felonies."

"She needs a dare," said Greyson just as matter-of-factly.

Bette tried to stand her ground even though Stella made her stomach churn. The tension in the room grew. Stella eyed their giggly friends, and the one person who wasn't laughing, Ozzy.

"Twister was just a warm up. I dare you to kiss Ozzy for 10 seconds." Everyone looked back and forth to their reactions.

"You dared me to do something, not him. He already did something," she replied quickly.

Ozzy set the guitar down and made his way over to Bette. He turned the music back up behind her, cupped his hand around her ear so only she could hear what he whispered.

"You don't have to if you don't want to. We can figure something out real quick." He pulled back and gave her a look. They had an audience.

She waved him down to her height, cupped her hand, and whispered back in his ear, "If we give them a decent show, they'll drop it. And Cassandra will get envious. We can do this. I trust you."

She let him go and he gave her a surprised-looking nod. Bette looked square at Stella, "We'll give you four seconds."

"Are we good with that?" Stella asked the room.

"Get it Oz," cheered Greyson.

Bette looked at Greyson with sarcastic contempt.

Ozzy placed a hand on her shoulder and went in for the kiss. They closed their eyes.

The room started counting, "One-one thousand."

I can't believe this is happening. How did I fall for her bullshit? Stella is such a petty brat.

"Two-one thousand."

Relax. It's a party. What did you think was going to happen? You have been saying 'I don't know what you're talking about' to these girls for weeks when it comes to Ozzy.

Their count was intentionally spoken slower, "Three-one thousand."

He's not so bad-

Ozzy pulled back and looked at the group, "You had your show. Move on." He was stern with them, and being so large, his voice boomed throughout the space. Bette had turned the other way and was looking at the music system.

"It's your turn to pick now Bette, if you're still up for it." Stella said with some attitude.

"I need a drink of water first," and she walked past the table full of sodas and away without looking at anyone. She went up the stairs and stood at the kitchen sink bracing herself against it. The light was on over the sink and it was dark outside and she could see her reflection in the window. She was red and embarrassed. Not for what she and Ozzy had done, but for letting Stella get to her. She opened up the cabinet and took out a glass, filled it from the tap, and drank it. The parties were going on in the rooms next to her and below her; it felt nice to be alone for a minute.

She finished her water and looked at the window again; Ozzy had come up the stairs.

"Jenna was going to come up to check on you, but I thought she would be better to listen in on anything said without us there. Are you going to be alright?"

She turned and leaned against the sink crossing her arms, still holding the glass. She held it up and looked at him through it with one eye closed. "I'm still a terrible liar, aren't I?"

"Only because I can tell."

"Then why ask?" She lowered the glass and looked at him with a head tilt.

"Because I won't know for sure unless I ask." He came and stood next to her. "Because not everything is a logic problem to be solved."

"And yet I solved nothing with our little show. You didn't have to, you know. You were right. We should have figured out something else."

"She could have easily picked any one of the other three, but she didn't. What would they have said or done? They're my buddies, and they're mostly smart, but guys can do dumb stuff too."

"Oh, I know that." Bette looked out into the living room to see the adults having their party. "They don't even see us. Look."

Ozzy stood next to her, looked over her head, to see a bunch of different adults in the living room: mingling, eating, drinking, "That has to be Stella's mom. They look exactly alike."

"Yeah. You live close, where are your parents?"

"They stopped coming to these parties years ago. I don't know why." She took a beat. "Look at them. It's weird, isn't it? If they don't notice us, you think they even hear us?"

"Let's find out." He looked towards the room, “Monkey hair!" Bette covered her mouth and less than gracefully hid a snorting laugh and stepped across the kitchen. He looked over at her. "Try it, they didn't even flinch." He looked over at the party again, "Fruity pancakes!"

"I can't. I won't." She said with a laugh. She made her way back to the basement. Ozzy stayed for another minute to see if there was a reaction.

Bette was flushed from laughing and all smiles when she came back into the room. "Take some time for round two?" Stella asked and she licked her lips at Bette.

"Close." She spoke with the sharpness she knew she had, "We were about to and your mom came in. She pushed me away, she ripped off her top. She was slurring her words. Said something about 'my biggest regret downstairs'. Then she tried to grope Ozzy's ass. I guess that sex offender thing runs in the family."

There was a collective "Oh" and laughter from the boys and Jenna. Stella was not amused. Ozzy came down the stairs a moment later to the reactions of the room.

"What happened?" He asked.

"You tell us," Stella said.

"I don't know what you're talking about," he answered. And for once, he really didn't know. Bette laughed even harder.

"It's all good. Hey Cassandra. How 'bout that thing you can do? That double jointed thing?" Bette knew Cassandra liked showing this trick off.

"Alright." She stood in the spot where the Twister board was. She looked around and made sure there was enough space. She made sure everyone was looking.

Bette stood back by Ozzy and whispered up to him, "This is her favorite thing to show people when she gets the chance." Cassandra put out her arms and slid into a right split. She leaned forward, crawled to her stomach into a middle split and around into a left split and stood back up, ending with a playful curtsy.

"A-thank you." There was a round of applause from the group and more dropped jaws from the boys. "You close your mouths. Greyson, can you do anything? Or would you rather be asked something else?"

"Ask me anything."

"We know what Stella did to get in trouble, but have you ever done anything that you thought you were going to get in trouble for, but didn't?"

Greyson eyed Tylor and the two of them snickered and spoke in unison again, "Fourth of July!"

Greyson collected his laughter, "Okay. Okay. Fourth of July, we stole a whole bunch of fireworks and set them off in a canoe in Sandy Lake. I have no idea how we didn't get caught. The cops drove by us about three times."

"That was you guys," said Jenna. "I was at Sandy Lake. My parents were convinced I knew something about it."

Greyson continued to recount the story of how they did it. While he did, Stella pulled out an orange and signaled Tylor. She put it between her neck and collar bone and had him take it the same way without using his hands. Tylor looked to Bette, and she accepted. "You always carry around an orange for such occasions?" Bette asked after taking it.

"This was premeditated,” Stella replied.

Bette turned to pass the orange to Norman but saw he had moved across the room. Ozzy had picked the guitar back up. Greyson was still recounting the story and Tylor was throwing in details. It was in that moment that she saw that no one had turned to take the orange from her. She let it drop into her hand.

Stella passed in front of her, "But that was an accident," she said with a cruel whisper. Stella sat down and kept laughing at Greyson and Tylor's story.

They all kept talking, exchanging stories, games, and songs for a couple hours. Jenna got picked up early at 10 PM. When Bette took a moment to go to the powder room off the basement, she opened the door to hear the screaming laughter of everyone else. She hurried back into the room to see everyone laughing, "Aw, what did I miss?"

"Norm was just recounting tales of summer camp," Stella answered coldly.

Bette looked to him, "What kind of tales, Norman?" she said through gritted teeth. "Arts and crafts stuff right?"

"Something about your crafts busting open and everyone seeing your set of art," said Stella.

"Fuck." Bette's head dropped back.

"Shit, she's gonna cry," Stella snickered.

"No." Bette stood strongly. "But Norm might. Norman, are you familiar with the term 'mutually assured destruction?'"

"You wouldn't," he said.

"Clearly you did, so I'm going to have to. Truth. My most embarrassing moment? My boobs out grew my swimsuit top and it broke at camp and a flashed a bunch of kids. Norman included. I didn't swim for the last three days of camp because I was afraid it was going to happen to my other top. Truth. Norman's most embarrassing moment?"

"Shut up, Bette."

"No! You started it, so I'm going to finish it. He was on the dock and not in the water so the same group who saw my boobs saw him pop a boner when it happened. They were shocked at me, but they were laughing at him."

"Shut up!"

"I got cheers. He got pointing. We could only talk to each other for the rest of the week because no one else would."

Norman began to get up towards Bette, "I said shut up!" Ozzy set a hand on his shoulder and easily pushed him back down.

"Don't you dare." Ozzy gave her a nod.

"Whatever," Norman sneered. "That's supposed to happen to me. You're not supposed to be such a freak."

She looked at the hushed room, everyone was sitting except her. Everyone had been talking about her while she had been gone. Jenna had already gone home. Ozzy was sidled up next to Cassandra, he wasn't going to move. "Curious Norm, you were really nice to me after that had happened. What changed your mind since then?"

"Nothing changed. Bette Wheelan is still the pale kid who hangs out with Cassandra, now featuring big, weird boobs."

"I see now." The clock on the wall showed 10:45. "On that note, this pale kid is gonna get out of here. See you next week."

She started climbing the stairs and went to grab her coat from the guest room where they were all being kept. She was irritated, mostly at herself. Two wrongs don't make a right. You know that. If you'd kept his secret you wouldn't be such a freak.

"That wasn't cool what he did," of all the people who could have been nice to her in that moment, Tylor was not the person she expected.

Tylor was shorter than her and a little chubby with big cheeks and lips. He had braces on his teeth and copper-brown hair with dyed blond highlights. He looked more like he was cousins with Ozzy than Greyson. Greyson looked like he could have been related to Bette. Greyson was as pale as her with black hair too. He was taller than her and skinnier with a thin skinned face. Puberty had slapped him to with zits and a bizarrely deep voice. The cousins couldn't look more different.

"I didn't help the situation much. If I'd just leaned into the story instead of throwing one back, it wouldn't have ended like that."

"I wasn't talking about Norm." He grabbed his coat from the pile. He whispered, "Ozzy and I hang out most weekends and every day at lunch. I know you two are better friends than you let people know. If someone did to me what Norm did to you, he would have laid them out flat. The only reason he didn't is that he is blinded by Cassandra. He doesn't see anyone but her right now. But I can tell you this, Cass is a flash in the pan." He put on his coat. "He'll come back around to us."

"Thank you for that." She put her coat on and felt in her pockets.

He stood in the doorway looked behind him and back at her, "Maybe while he's preoccupied, maybe I'll be worth a look." He gave her a little smile, tapped the door frame and walked away. She looked at herself in the mirror of the room, she wasn't sure if was everything that had happened, the coat, or Tylor's words, but she was red in her face again. She walked out of the house and saw Tylor was waiting for his ride.

"It's cold. Why aren't you waiting inside?" Bette asked.

"It felt weird in there," Tylor scrunched his face.

"Thank God, it wasn't just me. That house has such a weird feeling."

"Yeah. It's like a super nice house but it feels..."

"...malicious?" She said it in a slow high-pitched voice.


"I swear that house is about to sprout a poltergeist at any time."

"So how are you and Cassandra so close?"

She answered him pointedly, "Ah! We live close." She turned and pointed, "I'm half a block that way. We've known each other forever."

He gave her a laugh. "You're funny. You don't get enough credit for that."

"I can't believe you did that thing with the fireworks."

"That's just the tip of the iceberg. I've got so many more."

"Okay then."

"'Okay then' what?"

She pulled a pen from her pocket, pulled up her sleeve, and handed him the pen. "I'll call you and you can tell me more."

His face lit up. "Cool." He wrote his phone number on her wrist. "Or can I call you?" he asked excitedly.

"Yeah." She wrote her phone number on his wrist. "Tomorrow?"

The pair said their good nights and Bette walked home.

When school started back up again, Cassandra had made Ozzy her boyfriend. The lunch table got really big as all eight of them from the party started eating together regularly. Things remained frosty between Bette and Stella. Norm and Bette eventually apologized to each other and as far as they could tell, no one outside their group learned about their summer camp incident. They agreed that if they wouldn't make a big deal about it, no one else would either. Bette and Tylor grew to be better friends and even went on a date to a movie together; by the time it was over they both realized dating was a terrible idea.

February came around and it was a cold morning on the bus. Bette got on alone that day. Ozzy got on and was happier than usual to see her. "Hey, I'm glad you're here. Kinda glad Cassandra isn't. I need your help with something for her."

"What's up?"

"I want to do something for Cassandra for Valentine's Day. What do you think she'd like?"

"She's pretty typical. The usual: flowers, card, basic nice things. You can't go wrong with commercial stuff with her."

"Really? You don't think I could do something more special than that?"

"Could you? I absolutely know you could. Should you? No."

"I was thinking I'd play some music--"

"Nope, buy her a CD."

He squinted at her pessimism.

"I had been working on an original song."

"I'm sure it's super great. Buy her a card with a poem in it already."

"Bake her cupcakes?"

"Buy her chocolates. Seriously, you can't go wrong with $20 and the Walgreen's. That will make her feel special."

"I think you're wrong."

"You asked my advice. But you are clearly going to do what you want."

The school week ended. It was Sunday afternoon and Bette was at home in her room when she got a call. It was Ozzy, "Hey. Are you busy?"

"No. What's wrong?" She asked. His voice was timid at best.

"It's over. Cassandra broke up with me."

Bette was grateful they were on the phone and he couldn't see the look on her face. She knew it was a matter of time before Cassandra was going to do that to him. He was too into her to break up with her. She knew he was hurting. "What happened?"

"I'm not even sure. She said that she didn't want to be my girlfriend anymore. She said she thought she should be single for a while. I don't get it." She heard him sniffle. "Did she say anything to you?"

"No. She didn't." She took a deep breath. "Do you really want to know? I mean, really, know what I think?" He didn't reply. He just kept breathing and sniffling. "Okay. I can come there. And you can hear and see and hear the real truth. How about that?"

He managed to eek out, "Yeah. Please."

"I'll see you soon."

Bette told her mom what was going on and walked the three blocks to Ozzy's house. Ozzy lived with his Aunt Darrah. She was fun and kooky, and took great care of Ozzy. Bette liked her a lot. She knocked and Darrah let her in with a big hug. Bette hung up her coat on the rack. "He's in the basement. He won't come upstairs and he doesn't want to talk to me about it. Would you bring this down for him, see if you can get him to eat? He's been a mess all day."

Bette nodded and took the tray. It was the same kind of thing her dad would do when she was sick. A sandwich, a cut up apple, chocolate chip cookies, iced tea.

"You're a sweetheart," Darrah said as she opened the door to the basement.

"I'm no miracle worker, but I'll try."

Ozzy's basement was his own space. A TV, an old couch, a rocking chair, his guitar, some hand weights, a mini fridge and it had access to walk out to the back yard. When she got to the bottom of the stairs, she couldn't see him, "Ozzy? I brought tributes to Oz the great and powerful."

"He's not here." He said from the floor behind the couch. Bette looked up the stairs at Darrah and nodded. She set the tray on the end table and crouched on the floor. He was sitting on the far side of the floor by the wall with his head in his hands.

"You wanna try getting up? Maybe sitting on this side of the couch?"


"You know I gotta come back there then, right?"


She grabbed one of the pillows off the couch and set it near him and sat down next to him at the base of the floor lamp. "You know I've known Cassandra since before I can remember? We grew up at the same time, but we didn't grow up together, you know what I mean? Our moms used to be good friends. Then one day, they weren't anymore, don't know why. She and I just kept hanging out, it was convenient, it was easy. She was easy. Cassandra is a girl of convenience. Remember what I said? She'd feel good with $20 worth of pharmacy trinkets. She's pretty. She's shallow. But she doesn't understand special."

She sat there and waited. Ozzy wiped his face with the back of his hands again.

"It sucks."

"It does suck."

"I still can't stop thinking about her. The last two months. Her face. Holding her. The pain. All of it."

"She cut you pretty deep?"


She looked forward at the doors to the back yard, two glass French doors.

"You come to two doors. Through one door is Cassandra; through the other is your guitar. You can only pick one forever. Which one do you pick?"

"My guitar. My music. Easy."

"How about picking that up? Holding that? Seeing how that feels?" She gave him a nudge. "Hm?"

He began to get up and she got up with him. She went around sat in the rocking chair next to the couch. He picked up the tea from the tray and drank it then set the glass down. He took the guitar off the stand and sat on the couch with it. He adjusted and rotated his pick around his fingers. He looked at it and played a few chords. He took a couple deep breaths and started to sing, "In My Room" by The Beach Boys. It was timid, somber, and he let out the pain he was feeling. He made it through the song, barely, and another tear streamed down his face.

"How did that feel?"

He wiped his face again. "Still sucks."

"As bad as before?"

"Maybe not." He couldn't even look up at her.



"Look at me."

His puffy red eyes finally met hers. "Cassandra: is not that great. It's probably why you didn't sing about her now. It hurts because it's going to hurt, not because it was her."

"How can you be so sure?"

"Because the first one always hurts. You were either going to be the one to hurt or get hurt. And I don't think you could have hurt her."

"How do you know all this? You hadn't mentioned being dumped before."

"I've seen it happen to enough people to know it's not easy. And I know you well enough. It helps to have someone around, doesn't it?"

He played a chord and sang, "It still sucks."

It made her smile. "But maybe a little less than it did before?"


"You wanna try eating something?" She pointed back to the table.

He took half the sandwich and some apples slices off the plate and tossed her a few of them. He ate it quickly. They talked for a while longer until she was sure he was feeling better. She heard the clock upstairs strike five PM. "I should get home. Are you going to be alright?"

"Yeah." She knew he was going to be.

He walked her upstairs and to the door. "Bye Darrah." She leaned her head down the hallway and waved.

"See you in the morning."

"See you then."

Bette headed home.

The next morning Bette and Cassandra waited at the bus stop together. Cassandra was her usual perky self that morning. Bette was less than enthused to see her after the previous day. "Hey girl," said Cassandra.

"Hey yourself," said Bette tiredly. "How was your weekend?"

"Not great. But you should hear it from me; I broke up with Ozzy this weekend."

Bette looked up the street looking for the bus. "You don't say."

"Yeah. It was time. I knew I had to do it before Valentine's Day, otherwise I would have had to wait another month."

Bette had seen and heard the effects of what she had done to Ozzy, and she was sickened. "You know what? I don't want you to tell me about it. It's not my business, I don't want to hear your reasons," she barked at Cassandra.

"Jeez. What did he tell you?"

"I don't know what you're talking about. What I know is how you value things and treat people. I've seen how he is around you and how you are around him and it bums me out."

"I get it." Cassandra's attitude rose, "You were jealous. You like him. You're mad because you think I ruined him for you."

The bus pulled up and they got on, Bette followed Cassandra on. Cassandra got in a seat and slid in by a window and Bette intentionally sat in a seat across from her and a row back. Cassandra slid in the seat to the aisle. She saw what Bette did and leaned over the seat for her to hear. "Admit it!"

"What do you want me to say?"

"You like him and you're mad because he liked me and not you. He made his choice."

"You know why I'm mad Cass? You can have anything and value nothing."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"You're a princess. And if you think that's a good thing, you're sadly mistaken."

"Whatever Bette. I've moved on. He's all yours."

"Ugh. You're gross."

They both slid back to their windows.

A minute later Ozzy got on the bus and Cassandra couldn't even look at him. He sat in the seat right behind Bette and leaned against the window. She leaned against the window too and spoke to him through the crack in the seat. "She told me," she said quietly. The bus engine was so loud and so many other kids were talking, there was no chance Cassandra would hear them.


"I don't think you're the only one who broke up with her in the last day."

"I'm sorry."

"She isn't that great, but you were right."

"About what?"

"It does still suck."

Before lunch time, Bette had a chance to talk to Jenna. Ozzy took the time to talk to Tylor and Greyson. The five of them sat together at the boy's old table at lunch. Stella and Cassandra sat together at their old table with Norman. Ozzy and Bette had a rough couple days, but by the end of puzzle club on Wednesday, they were back to their old selves.

It was late April on a Friday in gym class and unit focus was basketball. Bette was not happy about it. She lacked the coordination for it and could barely shoot. She had preferred the badminton unit they had finished the previous week or even the jump roping unit was manageable with the right sports bra. The class was in two rings, an inner and outer for chest passing drills. Most everyone was decent enough to compensate for one another's skill level, but Bette had this impending feeling of dread as Jason Kaye made his way in the ring closer to Bette. Over the school year he'd grown even taller and stronger. His wiry arms were more muscular than earlier in the year. She was worried. A couple more chest passes later and her heart was racing. Jason was the next person. Bette had her hands out in front of her ready to catch, but Jason's version of a chest pass was higher. To Bette, it seemed to happen in slow motion, yet still too fast to stop. Jason sneered and launched the ball from his chest at her. Being as tall and as strong as he had grown, the ball flew square into the bridge of her nose with a clear *whack*. It seemed inevitable. The pain was immediate and her nose was bloody and her eyes welled up with tears. She cried out, "What the hell!"

Jason actually laughed at her before trying to look ashamed.

Mrs. Golden heard the scream and saw Bette's face grow bloody. She rushed to the girl. "Did you hear it crack? Let's get you to the nurse." She turned to the closest girl, "Katie, bring Bette to the nurse's office."

Bette was still crying and blood trailed down her face and shirt.

"Jason. You know better than that. Watch yourself," Mrs. Golden snapped at him.

"Keep going everyone." Everyone got back into the formations, Ozzy intentionally moved himself next to Jason. Mrs. Golden blew her whistle. The kids kept passing balls between them.

"That wasn't cool." Ozzy said to Jason.

"No. But it was kinda funny."

"Tell me. How is making her bleed and cry funny?"

"She used to give me shit. So, I gave it back to her."

"That's messed up. You have no idea."

"Hey, if she doesn't know how to take a joke, how can she expect to take a hit? It's part of life. She's a freak."

Ozzy saw red. After he passed the ball and slapped Jason's ball out of his hands. "You dickless monster!" He jumped him and the pair crashed to the floor. "What's wrong with you?!" He shook Jason by his shoulders. Ozzy was bigger and weighed more than him but Jason was more athletic and was able to wrestle away from him. Mrs. Golden blew her whistle and broke it up as quickly as it started. "Ozzy. Hall. Now."

"Jason. Far wall. Now."

Katie arrived back to miss everything.

Meanwhile, Bette was in the nurse's office with tampons up her nose and a frozen gel pack on her eyes. "Sweetie. I need you to try and breathe slowly."

She cried, "Is it broken Mrs. Finch?"

The nurse pulled back the ice pack, "let me know where it hurts." Mrs. Finch lightly touched Bette's nose and got through it without wincing too much. "I think you got clocked. But no, it's not broken. If it were a bowling ball this would be a different story."

"Sure felt like one."

"Try taking those out of your nose."

Bette pulled out the tampons and sniffed. Only one had blood on it and it wasn't much. "Still hurts a bit."

"Take a couple of over the counter pain killers when you get home. If you're lucky, you'll come back to school on Monday with no black eye. You seem like a tough girl."

Bette looked at herself in the mirror and saw how red she was around her eyes. Bette walked out of the Mrs. Finch's office and by the principal’s office. Both Ozzy and Jason were sitting there in their gym clothes. Jason looked annoyed and Ozzy looked sad, even a little scared. He gave her a little wave and she waved back before returning to the gym. By that time, they had been excused to the locker room to change.

Bette went to her locker and put in the combination. She looked over at Vanessa who was near her in the circle, "Did I miss something while I was getting checked out?"

"Yeah. Jason and Ozzy got into a fight," said Tina.

"You're kidding."

"Not exactly. It was more like Ozzy knocked over Jason, yelled at him, and then Mrs. Golden broke it up," Vanessa said.

"You didn't say the part where Jason scurried away like a cockroach," said Tina.

"He is a cockroach. A dickless cockroach," said Bette.

"How did you know that?" Asked Vanessa.

"Know what?" Asked Bette.

"That's what Ozzy said when he jumped Jason, except he said monster. Ozzy called him a 'dickless monster.' How did you know he said that?"

Bette tried to hide her smile by touching her nose and bruises. "I didn't. It must be known that Jason Kaye has no dick."

Vanessa, Katie, and Tina laughed. Bette turned into her locker to put her shoes in and closed the door. She stuffed the bloody shirt into the backpack. As the bells rang for school to be over, Bette passed by the office windows one more time, Jason must have already been in with the principal because she didn't see him. Ozzy was still sitting there, he was leaning his forearms into his knees, looking at the floor. She looked to him and tapped the glass. She saw him and he mouthed "Are you okay?" And pointed to his face. She nodded back. "Are you okay?" She mouthed. He shrugged and looked back down. She tapped the glass again and he looked at her. She mouthed, "Thank you." He nodded and she left.

Bette was making her way to the bus when she saw Ozzy's Aunt Darrah coming in for him looking rushed and worried. Bette crossed the hall to stop her. "Darrah. Hi. I guess you got called about Ozzy."

"Hi Bette, yeah, I did." She didn't sound as angry or frustrated as Bette imagined she would be.

"You need to know. Ozzy's in trouble because of me. It's not all his fault."

"Sweetheart, that other boy who Ozzy fought with, Ozzy was doing what he thought needed to be done. His reaction was probably bigger because you're friends, but it has more to do with his mom."

"His mom?" He rarely even mentioned her.

"He can't stand girls getting hit. It's a visceral thing for him. Sweetie, I gotta go." And Darrah went to the office.

Bette was dumbfounded and left for the bus without saying a word to anyone else.

Monday morning came around and Ozzy got on the bus for school. He sat down across from her. "Hey."

"How are you feeling?" He asked and tried to subtly point to his face.

"Lots of ibuprofen and arnica gel. It doesn't hurt anymore. I can tell it's swollen, but I don't think anyone else can. If you look close there's just the tiniest hint of yellow bruising on the side of my nose left." She turned her head to show him. "What happened with you? You're here. You didn't get suspended."

"We both had to do Saturday school the next day. Easy sentence. Did my homework, lots of reading, and some puzzle books. Would have been easier if I didn't have to be in the same room with him."

"I still I can't believe you did that."

"He messed up. You didn't hear what he said after he did it. I can't believe they didn't even make him apologize to you. To me, what he did was unforgivable.

"He wouldn't have meant it. It wouldn't have been believable. I wouldn't have wanted to hear it."


Bette thought about what Darrah said to her. "I get the feeling you know about those kinds of lies. Those fake apologies. The ones that come from guys who hit girls."

"I don't know what you're talking about." He looked down the bus aisle out the front window and not at her.

"We don't have to talk about it." Ozzy mashed his mouth closed and bit his lips. "I don't expect to understand. But what you did was more than anyone I know would."

He looked back at her and tried to give her a smile. "I had to. He was so wrong."

"The best part is the silver lining in all this."

"There is?" He was confused at her joy.

"Of course! Now our whole gym class knows that Jason Kaye has no dick." They both smiled and high-fived.

The last week of school was always fun. Teachers stop caring, no more homework, warm weather, and fun clothes. The final tests and projects for classes are all spread out, so nothing felt like cramming. The last week of gym class became her absolute favorite: swing dancing. They didn't have to wear their gym clothes and she got to learn something new and fun. There were more girls in the class than boys and the girls mostly enjoyed it.

Mrs. Golden spent each class teaching basic steps, counting, and the rhythms. Bette and Vanessa paired well and got a nice, memorized routine going. On the last day she had them do round-robin partnering, "Have a new partner each whistle. If you have to wipe off your hands, do it politely and discretely. We've been going through these motions all year, I can still put in a zero for a final grade for any of you if you are little jerks to each other and you can do this again next year."

Bette and Vanessa found each other first. They had a solid eight-move routine with each other that they could get through twice before the whistle. Next Bette found Ozzy. He didn't have quite the pairing with her that she and Vanessa had, but he tried, he was good, and they had fun with it. Next few rounds, Bette found herself dulling her skills for a couple of skittish boys who didn't have much enjoyment for it. Then Tina, who was also enjoying it and another boy Terry who was pretty good too and didn't seem to hate it. Mrs. Golden blew her whistle one more time "Last round. Partner up!"

Something odd happened that Bette couldn't explain. It seemed like as soon as she stepped towards someone she hadn't partnered with who would be fine to dance with, they were pairing with someone else. It was this awful phenomenon that fell like dominoes before her eyes and she could see the undesirable result at the end: Jason Kaye as she soon as she saw it and tried to compensate for it, it was too late, they were the last two unmatched. They approached each other and the music started again. They did the most basic required steps to get through it. His hands felt like greasy chicken bones in her hands. He smelled like cheap, men's cologne. She tried to simply not smile, he glared at her. What was probably only 45 seconds to a minute felt like an eternity touching him.

Mrs. Golden blew the whistle twice and cut the music. "You can grab your bags and sign yearbooks if you want. The last 10 minutes before the bell are yours. Have a good summer."

Bette stepped away from him as quickly as possible and wiped her hands on her skirt. She heard Jason mutter behind her, "Freaky bitch."

Bette just closed her eyes and rolled them in her head. Two wrongs do not make a right. You don't have to see him for three months. She went over to her backpack and grabbed her water bottle out of it and took a drink and stuck it back in. Vanessa came up to Bette, "That was fun! You are so good at that. Correction. We are so good at that."

"Yeah. It was great, right up until the end," Bette said.

Ozzy approached them.

"Why," said Vanessa.

Bette looked around to make sure Jason Kaye and his friends were out of ear-shot. "It was nothing, really."

"No it wasn't," said Ozzy.

"Look, I was just gonna let it go. But I got paired with Jason Kaye and I heard him call me a 'freaky bitch' after it was done. It's over, I don't have to see him for three months and I don't want to worry about it. He's beneath me."

"That's very big of you," said Vanessa.

"Thank you." She took out a pen. "I haven't had Katie or Tina write in my yearbook yet." Bette walked away from them.

"You wanna do something about it?" Asked Vanessa sharply, looking up at him.

"Yep," said Ozzy with a single nod.

Katie and Tina got a signal from Vanessa, 'keep Bette occupied.' Ozzy went and asked Mrs. Golden a question to get her to turn her back to the door and distract her. Vanessa snuck out of the gym and started flagging down kids who were waiting by the doors to be dismissed and let them know the simple plan and if they wanted it to be epic, and legendary, tell everyone, because in 8 minutes, school was going to be over, but in 13 minutes, they could to be a part of history. She ran through a hallway and a teacher let out a class early, she knew a lot of people in that class and told them and told them to keep passing the word: when, where, and what to do. She ran up a flight of stairs and peaked into a class of a teacher who was notoriously apathetic. She opened the door and whispered to the first kid there the plan and to pass it on. She sprinted back to the gym and was able to sneak back in without Mrs. Golden noticing. Ozzy thanked Mrs. Golden for whatever she was talking about and walked away and to Vanessa.

"So?" he asked.

"If I low-ball it, maybe 10-20 if they come through. But if it grows, it could be insane," said Vanessa.

"I know she'll be there, she took her bike and I'll make sure, Can you get him there?"

Vanessa spoke dramatically, "It will be my greatest performance."

Ozzy went up to Bette who was laughing and talking on the floor with Tina and Katie. He crouched to a knee to join them. "I need your help with something." He ticked his head to ask her to get up and step away.

"What's up?"

"You are a bad liar," he hunched down slightly and spoke softly to her.

"We would file that under old news, but go on," she matched his tone.

"But Vanessa tells me acting is different than lying. It's a performance."

"Okay." She said it slowly and wasn't following his thought process.

"Something is going to happen in about six minutes, and I need you to act."

"Act like what?"

"Here's the hard part. It's a surprise and you need to not be surprised."

"And the easy part?"

"I guess this is also a hard part. You need to either act like you have done nothing at all or performed the greatest witchcraft that has ever been seen. It all depends on how well it works."

"But I can't know what it is?"

The school bell rang.

"Nope. Because you’re about to find out. I need you to go to your bike and wait in clear shot of the flag pole." He ran out the door ahead of her along with everyone else and she made her way down to her bike. The bike racks were next to the wall of a school protected by some trees. She unlocked her bike and walked it the 20 feet into the grass towards the flag poll that was outside the main doors and the buses. She put the kickstand down and sat on the seat and crossed her arms and waited. She could see into one of the class rooms and one of the clocks. One minute. The sun shown down on her as she watched other kids gather, talk, get on buses, or start walking. For the last day of school, there was still a surprisingly large amount of kids still hanging around. Tylor and Jenna saw Bette and raced up to her.

"I just found out. I had to be a part of this," said Jenna.

"Same. I was in the class Vanessa poked her head in. I tried to tell at least ten people before coming out here, but most of them already knew," said Tylor.

And all of a sudden, it began. Vanessa had Jason Kaye near the flag pole and at the top of her lungs, Vanessa chanted, "Jason Kaye! Has no dick! Jason Kaye! Has no dick!" Vanessa was loud and every time she yelled it, more kids joined in and the chant grew.

"Jason Kaye! Has no dick!" There must have been forty kids shouting by this point, including Jenna, Tylor, Vanessa, and Ozzy. Bette covered her mouth and tried to hide her surprise and joy. "Jason Kaye! Has no dick!" Kids who didn't even know them were yelling from the bus windows "Jason Kaye! Has no dick!"

Jason was looking frantic and couldn't stop what was happening. "Jason Kaye! Has no dick!" Bette saw him look to Vanessa then point to her. "Jason Kaye! Has no dick! Jason Kay! Has no dick!" The greatest witchcraft that has ever been seen. Bette swirled her hands near each other in front of her chest and then imitated an explosion with them until her arms were stretched wide and made a sinister smile. "Jason Kaye! Has no dick! Jason Kaye! Has no dick!" Jason ran back into the school and the chant ended with cheering as he ran. At least a hundred and fifty kids were chanting from all over the yard and bus windows by the time it was over.

Ozzy and Vanessa ran over to Bette who was laughing and applauding. "I don't know how you did it. But that was so fucking awesome. Revenge is a dish best served cold...and by other people...chanting that Jason Kaye has no dick. What did you say to him that made him look over?"

"I told him this is what happens when you mistake powerful ladies for his enemies and there are more of us than there are of him," said Vanessa confidently.

"Do you know how much therapy, bed wetting, and nightmares he's going to have from this?!" Bette chimed.

"Karma is only a bitch if you are," said Jenna with some attitude.

"I'm more content with the idea of all the women who won't have to go to therapy because of him now," said Ozzy.

"We have become the monster," said Bette.

"No. We became your justice," said Vanessa. She gave Bette a hug before running to her bus before it took off. Ozzy was spending time with them and missed his bus. Bette, rolled slowly on her bike beside Jenna and Ozzy walking. Tylor walked in a different direction towards home. After Jenna peeled off from them, Bette and Ozzy continued towards home.

"You know you don't have to hang back with me," said Ozzy.

"You didn't have to miss the bus," said Bette pointedly. "So tell me. How did you do it?"

"Do what?"

"Circumnavigate the globe in less than seven days. Do what? I mean the chant. How did you do it?"

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Oscar White. Do not pull that with me."

"Alright. Alright. It was mostly Vanessa. I was the distraction for Mrs. Golden."

"That's why you were talking to her for so long?"

"Yeah. It was weird. She was talking about some sport she invented. I was really uncomfortable. Anyways, Vanessa got Katie's attention told her to keep talking to you with Tina. She snuck out; spread the word to enough people. Then she got Jason to come outside by the flag pole five minutes after the bell. And that was that."

"God, she is so cool."

"Yeah. It was her idea. She was really charismatic too. She whipped all those people together and spread the word in less than 15 minutes."

"That's amazing."

"Yeah. I guess she has some pull and some favors from doing the school plays, speech club, and stuff. She helps people and people like to help her."

"What about you?"

"What about me?"

"Was it her favor, the charisma, or her coolness that roped you in?" She tried to tease him.

"I was all for growing the common knowledge of Jason Kaye having no dick. Vanessa was just a bonus."

"So you admit, she was a bonus?" she teased him again.

"No! That wasn't what I meant. Working with her was a bonus. I couldn't have done that on my own. All those people in a short amount of time? I couldn't have done that. I'm not stealthy. She did about 90% of the work. I just had to make sure you were there."

"Well played. I'm convinced, for now."

"Whatever." He gently pushed her shoulder and it steered her on her bike away.

She turned herself back on course next to him, "Oh, dramatic comeback. I can't be stopped," she joked in a cartoony voice.

"Why don't you do that more?"

"Dramatic comebacks?"

"No. Be funny. You're sharp and witty, I know you know what is and isn't funny. Even Tylor told me. He asked if you're any funnier around me. He even told me he told you he thought you were. You're not an overly serious person and I know you like to laugh and have fun. Why aren't you making other people laugh?"

He seemed so worried for her, like her lack of outward humor was damnation of her soul if she didn't fix it. "That just now was osmosis. You're the funny one. That only happened because you touched me."

"See? You're clever. You add a dash of silly to that and you'd be hysterical."

He was so concerned. "Because I don't need to be the punch line for everyone. I don't need to be the clown."

"Of course you don't need to be, but don't you want to?"

"I want to be lots of things. But perception is a hard thing to change."

"I don't think it would be that hard if you wanted to be funny."

"No. It probably wouldn't be hard if I wanted to be funny. But you didn't know me before this year. You heard the camp story. You know about the pale, ugly, freaky bitch. There are a lot more you haven't. This healthy level of self-esteem did not come from being other people's punch line. I don't need it!" She looked over to him and he looked like he felt badly. "I'm sorry. I didn't want to dump on you like that. You don't deserve that."

"I'm sorry too."

"No. You didn't do anything wrong."

"I shouldn't have pushed you."

"Figuratively or literally?" she snickered a little.

"See! What am I supposed to think when you're funny that quick?"

"Hey. You set me up for that one. It was perfect. But seriously, seriously. I don't do it for everyone. I do it for people who are important to me; those who I let know me. Those I trust and can't lie to, sound familiar?"

"Yeah. It does. That still leaves me with another question."

"What's that? What kind of personal humiliation collateral am I going to have to tell you for you to tell me the other stuff I haven't heard?

"Oh, there are not enough human follies on this planet for me to tell some of these stories. There are grave-worthy stories and being buried alive, while terrifying, would be better than reliving some of those."

"That bad?"

"So, so bad."

"Well it breaks my heart."

"Nah. I came out of those experiences with this crispy candy shell."

He laughed at her then spoke in a serious tone. "It breaks my heart that I couldn't have been here for you sooner."

"Ozzy." She was touched. "You know you're too much, right?"

"That might not always be true. But you've been true. You can't hide that. I do not have the ability to un-see you."

"Damn it, Ozzy." She stepped off her bike and let it fall to the ground and she hugged him tightly around his middle, weaving her arms under his backpack. "You are too much. How did I get a friend like you? I shouldn't get a friend like you."

He carefully hugged her back around her shoulders and back and he touched his cheek to the top of her head. "I vomited on myself on the third grade trip to the zoo and somehow no one ever found out!"

"What now?"

"It was the last week of school and I had the flu and I was missing all the fun field trips, but I didn't want to miss the trip to the zoo, so I insisted to my mom that I go. I was in a small group with Tina, her mom was, still kinda is, one of those helicopter moms, and I couldn't get to the bathroom fast enough because we were too far from it and I vomited on my entire outfit. She had a whole change of clothes for Tina, put me in them instead, and then took me home. No one ever found out, except Tina of course, but she never told a soul."

"I was irrationally scared of chickens because of a petting zoo incident when I was little. And then, last year, I saw, in person, a chicken getting its neck wrung. I didn't eat chicken for three months after that. I still have some difficulty with it."

The pair stopped hugging and she picked up her bike and they kept walking. "I once bumped my nose while on a see-saw on the playground at recess and it gave me a bloody nose and I cried and a bunch of kids laughed at me. I haven't been on a see-saw since. I'm too scared of it happening again. Even though I'm probably too grown for that to ever happen again."

"I didn't learn to ride a bike until I was eight."

"I absolutely hate gum. It feels weird, it smells weird, and people look like cows when they chew it. I automatically think people are dumber than they are when they chew gum. People think I'm a snob because I don't like it."

Ozzy's voice got firm and throaty, "I live with my aunt because my mom can't take care of me because my asshole of a dad screwed her up. I haven't seen him since I was six and I'd be happy if I never see him for the rest of my life."

Bette stopped dead in her tracks. It was the most he has said about his parents all year. Her eyes got really big and she exhaled through her mouth slowly. Her face stumbled through nervousness and confusion. She tried to start saying a couple different things before she settled on something. "When I was seven, I found a porno magazine in the woods and it made me feel weird things. I kept it hidden for way longer than I should have."

Ozzy got a curious look on his face and tried to hide it. He turned to her and raised an eyebrow and cleared his throat and put his hands in his front pockets. " kind of magazine was it, thematically?"

Bette got an awkward look on her face and tried to hide her smile, biting the inside of her cheek.

Ozzy sighed then got a great, big smile on his face. "Wow. It took you all year and it only lasted a moment, but you finally found a way to bluff me."

She gave him a Cheshire-cat smile and laugh. "It didn't happen to me, but someone I know."

They kept walking.

"Was it Cassandra?"






"It was Jenna."

"You can't tell her I told you!"

"That's right, because you didn't tell me. And it's like we always said..."

They said it at the same time, "The door swings and locks in both directions."

Over the summer Bette saw Ozzy at least twice a week. Aunt Darrah co-managed a grocery store, so the house was always stocked with the best snacks. Most of the time, Jenna, Tylor, Greyson or a mix of them were there too. There was always lots of music, games, and laughter. They rode their bikes everywhere and went on adventures to the pizzeria, ice cream shop, Pebble Lake, the video store, the public library, and more. Bette's house was a little more strict. She could only have Jenna over if her parents weren't home. So Ozzy, Vanessa, and others were over more frequently on weekend days for croquette, bocce ball, and lots of deli meat and cheese sandwiches. Part way through the summer after her parents got to know Vanessa, she was allowed to be there unsupervised too.

Bette's parents, John and Lorna, did encourage independence: if you want to go somewhere you can ride your bike or take the city bus, here's a little cash allowance, a little more if you need to buy lunch, and here are some chores you can do to earn some extra spending money, leave a note if you go out, be home by nine, call if you're running late or going somewhere else, if we tell you to be home, you better be home. As an only child of two working parents, it was a lot of trust for a 13 year old and she was careful not to abuse it. Over the last couple years, she heard other kids at school bad-mouth their parents. Kids who got a lot more in terms of stuff, money, privileges, and luxuries around their own homes. Bette could see how things like that spoiled them. Then there were the kids who had less and got away with more, which was even worse.

Lorna was a hospital administrator who liked antiques, vintage clothing, and décor which made a lot of the house miss-matched but had so much flavor and personality. John was an accountant for the state department who was worldly and loved history and movies, and the music and book collection in the house was vast. Bette figured their work was boring, but saw they weren't. She was an utter reflection of them: Lorna's pale skin, wavy hair, and her face, and John's black hair color, green eyes, and smile. Had she been born with the opposite looks, her mom's blonde hair and her father's ability to tan, she wondered how different things might be for her. Though Bette didn't have a lot of lofty desires, her needs were always fulfilled; there wasn't much to want for. When she did express interest in something John and Lorna nurtured her interest or hobby; but if anything required a commitment, they made sure she honored it.

It was a late Friday afternoon mid-August. Bette had Vanessa and Jenna over at her house for another game of croquette in the yard. John had taught her to be a good hostess, so she made sure there was plenty of lemonade, crackers, and deli meat and cheese cut before they showed up. The balls clacked against the mallets and the balls swished through the grass.

"You guys get your schedules yet?" asked Bette.

"Yeah, earlier this week," said Vanessa.

"Yesterday," said Jenna.

"It's always alphabetical! I probably won't get mine until next week. I swear there are no perks to having a W-last name."

"You always get to sit in the back of the class room," said Jenna.

"That's not really a perk to me."

"You're right next to Ozzy and you two are close. Wheelan / White. You don't worry about sitting next to someone you don't like," said Vanessa.

"We've only had two classes together and you were each in one of them. And how often did alphabetical order put us on the same team in Gym class. Except..." Bette grew a big smile and her whole expression warmed. "Badminton day."

Jenna looked at both of them. "What was badminton day?"

"I'm not sure. I thought we did that unit for two weeks."

"The Badminton unit was three weeks and it was awesome, because I was awesome at it. There was a day of round-robin doubles play and Ozzy and I got paired. We were undefeated that day. He had the reach and could be swift, and I was spry and willing to take a fall to make a shot. We were so synced up, there was no stopping us. It was the best day." Bette was in a daze.

"...of gym class?" Vanessa attempted to finish Bette's thought.


"It was the best day of gym class is what you meant to say, right?" asked Jenna.

"Yeah. That. That's what I meant to say, Jenna."

Lorna pulled into the garage and walked through the yard to the house. "Hi girls. How long were you staying around? Should I anticipate two more for supper?" Lorna was outwardly sweet and chipper and as much as Bette knew Lorna adored Jenna, she wasn't fond of being responsible for other children when she wasn't asked and Bette knew that.

"I need to start biking home in about 15 minutes," said Jenna.

"My dad is picking me up around that time too," said Vanessa.

"I'll get the yard cleaned up and be in to help after, Mom." said Bette.

"No rush, Betty."

"Betty," said Vanessa. "That's still so weird to hear."

"Because she's the only one who calls me that." Bette pointed the croquette mallet at each of them. "The only one. Got it?"

Jenna took her turn and hit her ball through the final two hoops into the stake for the win. They helped her clean up the game and put it away in the garage. Bette paused and looked along one of the long walls in the garage before walking back out. With only a few spare minutes, Jenna took off on her bike a little early. Bette and Vanessa waited outside on the steps for her dad.

"You got kinda weird about that badminton thing," said Vanessa.

"What do you mean by that?" asked Bette.

"I'm not sure what you were more into: being undefeated, the game itself, or Ozzy."

Bette treaded carefully. "Do you not remember how un-athletic I was? I can barely do a 12 or 13 minute mile. Badminton was one of the few things I was great at doing. That and being your swing dance partner."

"What about Ozzy?"

"What about Ozzy?"

"What's your deal with him?"

"We're friends."

"That's it?"


"And there's nothing else between you two?"

"We had to kiss on a dare at Cassandra's Christmas party. Jenna was there, she could tell you. It wasn't a big deal. We trust each other."

"Trust each other like how?"

"We tell each other everything. We can't lie to each other. He knows where all my bodies are buried, I know where his are buried."

"So, he's your girlfriend."

Bette gave her an annoyed face. "Don't make it weird like that. He's a guy."

"OH!" She whispered, "He's gay, right?"

"No, he dated Cassandra for almost two months. He likes girls. I don't understand your questions."

"I'm just trying to understand what the deal is with you two."

"No deal. Just friendship, complete honesty and trust."


"It helps that he's a really good person. He's also talented, smart, and hilarious. All those things encompassed when you two coordinated the Jason Kaye chant, And I believe I can say this without violating his privacy, Ozzy told me how you did it, and he was impressed with you."

"He said that?"

"My words, not his. Let me be clear: he described what you two did in honest detail. I described you as cool and amazing and he agreed. I also recall he used the word charismatic to describe you."

"Really?" Vanessa sounded intrigued.

"He said he couldn't have done it without you."

"In truth, I couldn't have done it without him. He laid the groundwork with that awesome tackle after Jason hurt you. And what guy calls another guy a 'dickless monster'? He's brilliant. And we are told chivalry is dead." Vanessa's face lit up.

Bette knew she couldn't lie to Ozzy, but she couldn't let Vanessa down with the truth. "Keep your eyes and ears open around him. He's worth a look and a listen."

"And that wouldn't bother you?"

"I'm his friend. I'm not his keeper and I'm certainly not his mother. Ozzy is his own person who makes his own choices."

Vanessa's dad pulled up in front of the house. "There's my ride," she popped up from the stoop.

"Hey. I can give him your number if you want. Or I can ask to see if he would want yours."

"Would you offer him my number and tell me what he says?" Vanessa bounced on her toes.

"No, I won't violate his trust like that."

"But haven't you already telling me all this?" Vanessa asked with a head tilt. Bette thought about it. It was questionable, maybe, but she knew she'd talk to him about it soon enough.

Vanessa's dad honked the horn.

"I can do this or not," she said with a shrug.

"Give him my number and if he wants to, he can call me."

Bette smiled, "Absolutely."

The girls gave each other a wave and Vanessa got the car and left.

Bette went back into the house, put the leftover snacks back in the fridge with the lemonade, and met her Lorna in the living room. She had the news on and had steeped a pot of tea. She was sitting in her favorite sunny spot like a cat and she was buffing her nails through the view of her reading glasses. "Did you girls have fun?"

"Yeah. Jenna and I always have fun, and Vanessa is so cool."

"Cool." Lorna said in a playful, mocking tone.

"I take it you didn't need my help with supper?"

"Nah. It's Friday. I called your father; I was able to reach him before he left the office. I told him I was in the mood for that whiskey chicken and cornbread from The Lodge tonight."

"Sweet," she said in a deep, cartoony voice.

"Yeah. I thought it's a nice evening we can get a spot on the patio."

Bette was silent for a moment. "I feel a little weird about something I did today."

"Uh-oh. What is it Betty baby?"

"I think--I think I pimped out my friends to each other."

"W'oh!" Lorna gave Bette a pertinent, motherly look for her language choice.

"Sorry. What I mean is I think I kinda set up Vanessa and Ozzy and I didn't really ask Ozzy's opinion or permission."

"Uh-huh. And now what?" Lorna applied a clear coat of polish to her nails.

"Well. I need to tell him and see if he's either interested in her or if I need to apologize to him."

"Sounds easy enough. So what's the problem?"

Bette adjusted her seating and looked at her own nails. "I guess it's--" She took a breath, "If Ozzy's happy or mad about it, we can work it out, and it's going to be fine. But if Vanessa is happy or sad about it...I mean she's cool and a fun to hang around with but, and this is going to sound kind of cold but: I won't care. Does that make sense?"

Lorna answered in a way and tone that looked and sounded like a bobble-headed, singing bird. "Well sure. You and Vanessa only just became friends this summer. You and Ozzy have been friends for a year. It makes perfect sense."

"Then why does it feel like that's not the only thing?"

"What kind of thing Betty Baby?" She closed the bottle of clear coat with pointed out fingers.

"I don't know. And it's going to bug me. Maybe it'll come to me when I tell him." She popped up from the couch.

The side door of the house opened and closed. "Hello!" The gleeful greeting of her father John coming into the house and the living room. "My ladies: Lorna Vue and Bette for Two."

She hugged her father then he went over and happily kissed her mother, "JW!"

"I believe my fair baroness was interested in h-whiskey chicken this evening." said John, grand and playful.

"Yes, my good sir!" said Lorna in a happy, chirped tone.

"Then let me change into my finest attire from our Hawaiian escapades and we shall go." John kissed Lorna again and went to change.

It wasn't that they ignored Bette; she just saw them as so madly in love with each other that she wasn't always in their picture. So many of the kids at school had parents that were divorced. Ozzy didn't even have anything to do with his father. Bette knew how rare her parents' love was. "I think I also want to change and freshen up." Bette ran up to her room and changed out of the shorts and t-shirt she was in and into a long sundress. She kicked off her shoes and socks, slid on some sandals, and grabbed a cardigan sweater from the closet too. Before she went back downstairs, she grabbed the phone and called Ozzy, the phone rang and rang and she got the answering machine. "Hi Oz, It's Bette, I was hanging out with Vanessa today and long story short, she wanted me to give you her number and if you're interested, you should call her," she left the phone number. "Talk to you later." She hung up. It was the best she could do in the moment.

The three of them got in the car and headed to the restaurant, recounting their day on the way. They only had to wait ten minutes before getting a table outside. They ordered their food and continued to talk and enjoy each other as a family. Then something happened that frequently happened with Lorna and John whether there was an official dance floor or not. John got up and took Lorna's hand. They found a clear spot on the patio together and got into formation to do their basic tango routine. This time it was to "My Girl" by The Temptations playing over the restaurant music system. They had other dances in their repertoire that were much more elaborate, but in this moment, this was what they could do in the space. Bette loved watching them. She loved other people's reactions to watching them. She loved it when people came up to them and told them how wonderful they looked together. They were totally in sync and happy. They ended their dance with a kiss and sat back down. Bette asked them, "Mom, Dad, I know it's a little late in the season, but I was wondering, can we please get a badminton set for the yard?"

Teenage years

About the Creator

Tinka Boudit She/Her

contact on FB & IG

The Soundtrack BOI: WA


Bette On It: Puddle, Desks, Door, Gym, Condoms, Couch, Dancers, Graduate.

Purveyor of Metaphorical Hyperbole, Boundless, Ridiculous, Amazing...and Humble.

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