Bette On It: Weird Adolescence
2000-2001 Freshman Year
WARNING: Story depicts teen smoking, teen marijuana use, teen drinking, and sexual assault
Freshman year 2001-2002
It was a warm morning at the bus stop that first day of freshman year. She genuinely wanted to relax. The day before was a day for freshman only to walk through the school to get their schedules and lockers and get to know the building a little. She had had a good time seeing her friends, but realized when she compared her schedules with them; she didn't have lunch with any of them. They had some of the same teachers, but none of the same class periods. She got paired in a locker with a girl named Becca that she didn't even know. Becca had gone to the other middle school and seemed to be somewhat unassuming. Maybe she was nervous and didn't know anyone around her either.
Bette was at the bus stop alone. She actually wished for Cassandra's company that day. She didn't know if she got a ride or what, but she could have used that energy to feed off of, or at least put hers onto. The bus arrived and she got on. She didn't know anyone on it and she sat alone. She bounced her knee and waited for Ozzy, at least that would help. The bus stopped at his usual stop and other kids got on, but he didn't and her stomach churned. She was alone.
She went to her morning classes and she was assigned the first lunch hour where all her friends were in the second or third. She went to her locker to get her lunch after her last morning class before lunch and Becca was there. Becca had first lunch too and asked to sit with her and she was fine with it. The two of them sat in the hall outside the busy lunchroom with Becca's friend Lidia. They had both gone to the other middle school and were both fairly tight-lipped people. Bette found it hard being the third wheel to them.
The afternoon classes were not much better. The school was three floors. Her locker was on the third floor and her afternoon classes were on the first and second floors on opposite sides of the building and had her zigzagging across the building all day. She had no chance to get to her locker again before the end of the day. She had to carry three textbooks in her backpack and wasn't happy about it. She saw other people carrying one book and one notebook or girls carrying a purse for their stuff and she felt like an overloaded hiker. The building was huge. The student body was nearly 1700 students and the hallways were packed shoulder to shoulder between classes and they were herded like cattle. She felt small and insignificant and in the windowless hallways and the florescent lighting, she felt hideous prisoner. She was grateful when the day ended and she got on the bus. She didn't think she spoke more than 100 words that entire day. When she got on the bus, it filled up quickly, she saw Ozzy get on, but she didn't get to sit near him. She barely got more than a nod of a hello.
The routine of tight-lipped, loneliness went on for the first few months of school for Bette. She felt like early middle school all over again. But this time, she didn't even have Jenna or Cassandra to keep her company. Becca and Lidia were okay during lunch, but they weren't exciting. They didn't elevate her like her other friends did. One day in mid-November, Becca and Lidia said they didn't want to sit outside the Lunchroom anymore for lunch, they found out some of their other friends were eating their lunch outside the gym and Bette could come if she wanted. Bette clung to them like a life preserver. When they got to the spot in the alcove by the gym, there was this group of smiling, laughing, stylish girls who welcomed them by opening the circle and letting them sit. Bette knew Ashleigh in the group from middle school but most of them had gone to the other middle school. Bette sat next to her.
"It's cool if I sit here?" Bette asked.
"Sure." Ashleigh slid her books and moved her lunch bag.
Bette sat cross-legged next to her. "How do you know all these girls? I'm in English with Jen B but we haven't spoken. And Skye is in Algebra 1b with me, but there's usually no chance to talk in that class."
"Christa is my cousin and so I've know most of these girls for years. I used to go to their middle school dances and hang out in their neighborhoods, so I got all the dish on their boys and all the gossip if you want."
Bette cracked a playful face in school for the first time all year. "Ashleigh. I think you just made high school not suck."
The next several weeks Bette immersed herself among the girls. At first she listened and observed. Something about the cruelty of middle school had disappeared there. These girls were not like the cliquey girls she went to school with the last few years. These girls were not 'prep lemmings.' They didn't know her childhood humiliations. These girls didn't make fun of her for being so pale. They called her skin porcelain. They called her elegant-looking. These girls shared lunches when one of them forgot theirs. They loaned sweatshirts when one of them was cold. There were playful barrages of ibuprofen bottles when one of them complained of cramps. They traded homework and helped each other. They uplifted each other and encouraged each other. They shared make up and clothes. If one of them cleaned items out of their closet, they brought the items into the group to let them go through them first before getting rid of them. Skye was a bit of a hippie-type and one day after they a clothing pick among Jen H's clothes, they took what was left of them up to the lost and found, raided some of the clothes in the pile there, and left hers behind. Bette ended up with a black DKNY hoodie and felt naughty and thrilled about it. Skye justified it as they were giving back more than they were taking and as long as they didn't do it all the time, it wasn't a bad thing. Bette called Skye a powerful lady that day.
It was mid-December and the all-school Holiday assembly was gathering in the gym. She walked in with Skye up the bleachers in the section where freshman sat. She looked around and saw her other friends. Jenna had reconnected again with Vanessa and Terry and more of the theater crowd. Ozzy was still tight with Greyson and Tylor and saw some other guys she recognized from classes but didn't know, along with a group of girls making aggressive flirtations at them. Tylor had hit a growth spurt, grown out of his chubby phase, ditched the blonde highlights, was done with braces, and had a thick goatee. Girls were swooning and Ozzy and company seemed to be catching the leftovers. Bette breathed a laugh and shook her head. Good practice for being a rock star. Skye and Bette sat along the aisle on the bleachers that was next to the section where the sophomores were. Bette and Skye were sitting and chatting and more students filled in around them. Across the bleachers someone called, "Hey Sunny Skye!"
Sky turned and Bette tried to see who she looked at among the waterfall of people. Skye yelled back, "Hey PJ!" She waved.
Bette still couldn't see who she was waving to; there were dozens of people in the general direction of where the voice came from.
"You know no one calls me that anymore." He got up and walked towards them and sat down on the bleacher across the aisle from them.
"And no one calls my Sunny Skye except my family." She barbed at him. "Bette this is Pete. We've lived on the same block forever."
"She was the best street hockey goalie to practice with," he said to Bette, pointing at Skye.
"And no one played Barbies like you. Can we move on?"
Bette loved how sharp Skye was and laughed. "Powerful ladies unite!" The girls did a high-five a slap of their own chests.
"And that would make this powerful lady, Bette?" Pete nodded to Bette and looked her up and down, clearly checking her out.
Bette and Skye made eye contact and she tried to silently ask Skye. Is he serious? Pete was sitting down but she could tell he was taller than her, maybe 5'10". He was stocky, he had round glasses, and a buzz cut. He wasn't unattractive but he had a lot of confidence, he dressed well, and he came off as suave the way he spoke.
"My reputation as a powerful lady is small here, but it exists." Bette said crossing her legs with a little attitude.
"Does that make you a good witch or a bad witch?" Pete asked with a provocative tone.
"I only wielded the most powerful witchcraft ever seen a couple times. But it is not something I practice."
Skye laughed. "She took away a guy's dick. She's an urban fucking legend."
Before Bette could react with embarrassment, Pete got an intrigued look on his face and raised his eyebrows at her. "So you kept it then?"
Announcements came on over the microphone and the assembly started. Pete's reaction was not the kind of reaction that she normally got. When guys heard it they normally reacted with disgust or aggression or fear; rarely they laughed. Bette didn't tell the story a lot. She told it when she wanted a guy to leave her alone or when she wanted one of her girlfriends to feel better about a guy who had wronged her. This was the first time she thought a guy might have actually flirted with her about it. During different parts of the assembly Bette and Skye whispered to each other. Bette asked about who Pete was. What was he like? Was he mean to her growing up? Skye answered the best she could. Pete was kinda dorky. He was 16 and liked hockey but wasn't good enough for school sports teams. He liked anime and drawing it. He had a two cats and his parents were married. He had an older brother who graduated last year, but she was never close with him. She and Pete hadn't been close as friends the last couple years since they had gone to separate schools last year, but as far as she knew, he was never a bad guy and was never mean to her.
The next day in Algebra 1b Skye came dancing up to Bette. "Bee, BEE! He asked about you! Pete asked about you on the bus ride." Skye danced at Bette and almost sang at her.
"Alright, what did he say?" Bette got a little anxious.
"He wanted to know what I knew about you. Are you single? Are you crazy? Are you crazy in a good way? And so on."
Bette's face twisted. "Did you tell him I was crazy? Because among you girls I can be."
"I told him you were funny and thoughtful and sharp and definitely single."
"Why would you say 'definitely' single? That might make him think something's wrong with me!" Bette had a small panic.
"Sounds like someone is 'definitely' interested." Skye dropped her jaw at Bette.
"I haven't had a boyfriend since January. I haven't had anyone interested in me. Almost no guys were into me at my old school. I'm ready to take a chance," Bette was hopeful.
"He gave me his number to give you." She sing-song said it and wiggled as she handed it to Bette. It reminded her a little of Cassandra, but when Skye did it, it was sincere.
Bette took the paper from between Skye's fingers and unfolded it. It read: UR hot. Call me. Pete And his phone number was listed below. She started to turn red looking at the note. "Why did you call him PJ?"
"His last name is Johnson. When he stopped going by PJ he insisted he go by Pete. He said he was teased enough for having a two-cock name being called 'Peter Johnson.'"
Even after the short conversation with him, and that little information from Skye, knowing that this guy found her attractive and had been through the same kind of teasing gauntlet she had, she knew he was 'definitely' worth a chance now. Bette opened a notebook and wrote a note back: Sounds good. You can Bette 'on it' Wheelan And she wrote her phone number. "Give him my number when you see him on the bus."
That weekend Bette and Pete called each other and got to know each other a little more. The phone calls were heavy with flirtation and innuendo and she was left charmed by him. The holiday break was coming up quickly and he asked her out for one of the evenings between Christmas and New Year’s. It was Thursday evening the 28th when Pete arrived to pick her up. She saw him pull up from her bedroom window and ran out the house without giving him a chance to come to the door. She got in the car and he was still buckled up and had the car in drive. "You were ready fast." Pete said.
"You said you were going to be here at six. It's six. Where are we going?"
Pete took his foot off the break and started driving. "You ever been to Bumper's Pool?"
"No. Will they let us in?"
"They're a pool hall, not a bar, so it's not an issue. You play?"
"I like to. My parents and I go to The Lodge a lot. If we get a table in the bar are instead of the dining room, we play cut-throat. I never win. They also take no mercy on me. I expect you to do the same."
He looked at her through the corner of his eye. "No mercy. That's a promise."
They got to the pool hall and got set up with a table. As much as Bette was intrigued by Pete and as fun as it had been to flirt with and get to know him over the phone, they hadn't spent any time together in person, she was still hesitant. Before taking off her coat, she zipped up her hooded sweatshirt all the way when her back was towards him. He said she was hot, she knew her D-cup breasts were a draw, playing pool was a sexy date that he chose; she was not a total fool. He noticed immediately. "Aren't you going to take off your sweatshirt?"
"No, it was super cold out. I'm still kinda cold."
"You'll warm up soon enough." Pete set up the rack of balls on the table. "You wanna break?"
"Sure." Bette got in position prepared to take her shot. Pete stared her down, not in a creepy way or in a flirtatious way; she could sense he was trying to psyche her out. Bette took her shot and her break of the rack was not strong. Not a lot of the balls separated. His trick on her worked. She dropped her head in minor embarrassment. "Ah, you got me."
"You said 'no mercy.'" Pete walked to the side of the table and shot the cue ball against the rest with power. The balls flew across the table sinking two solids and one stripe. "Solids," he called. He continued to take his turn and sink two more balls before missing a shot.
"I see I have my work cut out for me." Bette took her turn sank one ball and missed the next. Pete missed his next shot. Bette sank one ball and missed the next. Pete sank two more then missed. They were into the game and not speaking much. He was focused and she liked competition. They didn't need to talk; the tension between them was thick but positive energy. Bette missed her next shot. Pete sank his last ball. "Eight ball corner pocket." He tapped the corner he called with his cue. Pete sank the shot with a hard, sharp clack on the table.
Bette gave him a smile and a light clap. "If I knew you were going to destroy me so badly, I might have found a way to practice."
Pete re-racked the balls. "No mercy."
She gave him a soft glare. "No mercy is a two-way street I can go down. Or we can keep these games a little more friendly," she tried to use her more seductive tone as she chalked her cue.
Pete went around the table and broke the rack with a power; none of the balls went in. "You said you were a powerful lady." He stepped around the table and leaned on it with wide arms, making himself visible under the table light. "I have yet to see it."
Bette heard the music play over the speaker system. The song "One Headlight" by The Wallflowers played. She listened for the beat. 4/4 time. You can tango to this. The song was about death, not a seductive song, but a great song still. This is a dance. And you know how to dance. No mercy. Bette stepped around the table to where the cue ball was, and in time with the music, she did a back-step like a tango. This is a dance. Let him follow you. She lined up her shot with her body close to the table, arching her back making graceful lines with her body; she bent her knees with the music and made her hips go up and down. She watched his eyes watch her butt. She took her shot and sank a ball. "Solids." She said before getting out of the position. She had the lead. She took a couple steps with the rhythm of the music to where the cue ball ended up and attempted another shot but missed. When Pete came around the table to line up his shot, she walked to the opposite side to be in line with where his shot was going. She stood with both hands on the pool cue, tilted her head back and let her hair fall back. Pete sank his shot. He stepped around the table and she moved slowly away from him to the rhythm of the music to let him take his next shot. She stood behind the pocket where he was aligning his shot, and turned around, briefly, showing him her butt. Pete's ball ricochet off the pocket and missed. The song changed to "Cum On Feel The Noize" by Quiet Riot. Bette continued her dance. She clicked her boot heel on the floor to the beat which made the right parts of her jiggle, and swished her hair with the music. She flipped her hair back over her head as she lined up her shot. She sank her ball. The table was set in a way that left her no viable shots. She stared at the far wall of the pool hall and looked confused, Pete looked to see what she was looking at and Bette slid a striped ball across the table and one of her own solids into the pocket to improve her game. When Pete looked back at her, she shrugged. She took her next shot and missed. Pete walked around the table towards her to make his next shot. She walked around the table backwards staring him down so he could watch her. He lined up his shot and Bette put her hand on the zipper of her hoodie and moved it up and down a couple inches. She looked away from him nonchalantly but could still see him out of the corner of her view. As he appeared to pull back for his shot, Bette pulled her zipper half way down and Pete took his shot. He scratched the eight-ball and lost the game. Bette zipped back up.
Bette stood strong in place with one hand on the cue and the other on her waist. "Do you doubt my power now?"
Pete walked up to her and spoke in his suave tone, "The urban legend of the powerful lady. I had heard a story from Skye. When she said that at the assembly, you were not who I pictured would be the kind of person who that could be."
"To be clear, I am the source of disappearing the dick. The rest was a team effort of powerful ladies. We are everywhere."
"So you are a bad witch." He used his flirting tone again.
She reached into the corner pocket and picked up two of the billiard balls and smoothly rotated them in her right hand; a trick Jenna had taught her. "Only when no mercy is involved." She set the balls on the table. "You wanna make these games a little more friendly?"
"Yeah." He gave her a playful smile. "I'll rack 'em, you break 'em."
"I'll do a better job this time."
"Where did you learn that thing? That thing you did with the balls?"
"My best friend Jenna does contact juggling. She showed me how to do it. I can't quite do it with my left hand, or backwards, or with more than two, but she can."
"Yeah. You ever see the movie 'The Labyrinth?' That one with the Muppets and David Bowie? It came out around the time we were born."
"No, I haven't."
Bette's face lit up. "It's one of our all-time favorites. Top five for me, for sure." Bette broke the rack. "They do that style of juggling in the movie. People think the balls are on wires or are fake or something, but it's all real. It's awesome."
"What other movies do you like? What are the others in your top 5?" Pete took his turn.
"In no particular order: Dirty Dancing, Young Frankenstein, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, except my all-time favorite movie: Cabaret."
"I've seen the first three, but I don't know anything about Cabaret."
Bette's jaw dropped and spoke animatedly, "It's an amazing film. It won eight Oscars. It takes place in Germany right before the Nazi rise to power when there's all this great music, culture, art, and sex. Liza Minnelli is powerful in it. Bob Fosse, who directed it, was a genius and a perfectionist. Michael York, he played Basil Exposition in Austin Powers, he's young and handsome, and is a bisexual icon in it. I've probably watched it a hundred times."
"Basil plays a fag in it?" Pete chuckled.
Bette's face dropped. That's what he took from my love of Cabaret? "I don't like that word. I don't like people who use that word." She said steely.
He was still chuckling, "I'm sorry. I didn't see it coming."
"Yeah. Neither did I," she said coldly. She went and took her turn at the table, not caring, and didn't even come close to making her shot.
"Hey. Hey." He stepped around the table and faced her again. "Seriously, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to say that. I always think I know the right thing to say until I say the extreme wrong thing. This was one of those extreme wrong things."
"It was pretty bad."
"The absolute worst you'll hear from me." Pete raised his right hand as he said it.
"Then I think we can move on." Over the next hour the conversation did remain friendly and less aggressively flirtatious. Bette did eventually unzip her hoodie and the shirt she had on was just a fitted t-shirt and wasn't revealing anyways. By the time they left Bumper's Pool, he tried holding her hand, even though they were wearing thick, winter mittens, she let him. She couldn't feel his hand, but she felt his intent. When they got back to the car, Pete turned up the heat full blast and took off his mittens, his hat, and unzipped his coat. The car got warm quickly and she did the same as he started driving her home. During the drive he reached over and held her hand again.
"This was fun." Bette said. "I get competitive when I play games. It doesn't always end well."
"I thought this ended well." He parked outside of her house.
Bette saw the porch lights were on, she could see the hall lights were on, but the living room lights were off. Her parents had gone to bed already. "Thanks for tonight," she said. Bette unbuckled the seat belt. Pete was still holding her hand and his thumb moved back and forth against her hand. She looked at their hands and up at him. She knew she felt attractive around him, and he had been fun to flirt with, but she wasn't feeling a real spark. He began to lean into her and she decided in that split second, if she felt something in that kiss, then maybe there was something there. He had leaned most of the way and she leaned a little toward him.
He was right in front of her face and let out a little laugh, "Hi," he said.
"Hi." she laughed. It was disarming enough to take the pressure off. He kissed her. His head tilted a little further to the side and his lips separated. She put her fingertips along his jaw to lead him. Pete's mouth shot open, his tongue jammed into her mouth, and he grabbed her breast with a hard squeeze. Bette's eye's shot open; she pushed her nails into his face, pushed him back, and slapped him.
"Ow! That fucking hurt!" He rubbed his cheek.
She quickly pulled back from him. "What the hell? Where did that come from? I touch your face and you do that?"
"I thought you would be into it. The way we've been talking on the phone and how you've been acting all night."
"Way to ask me!" She opened the car door.
"Fucking tease!" He yelled.
"Piece of shit!" She yelled back and slammed the door. She tightly held her coat closed as she walked up the sidewalk. He peeled away before she got to the door of the house.
Tuesday morning January 2nd, Bette was back in school. Her second hour class was Algebra 1b and Skye flagged her down before the bell. "Bee Bee! Talked to Pete this morning. He told me everything. When are you guys going out again?" Skye was excited for Bette.
"There's not going to be a second date," Bette said coldly and shuttered.
Skye leaned in and whispered, "He said that he got under your shirt and stuff and you were into it. You were into him. Did something else happen?"
Bette took a sharp inhale thinking of the events that led up to everything that happened with Pete. Powerful ladies unite. Urban legend. No mercy. Peter Johnson. Fucking tease. Piece of shit. "You know what. I was into him. I was. Until he touched my boob...and immediately came in his pants."
"Nope. I would say he suffers from premature ejaculation, but he seemed to enjoy it. And if he told you this, which means he probably told other people. So if you hear any whisper, or rumor, or anything..." Bette made clear eye contact with Skye and nodded slowly to communicate her true intentions, the way teenage girls can. "Let anyone know, on behalf of The Powerful Lady, Pete Johnson can't touch a boob without immediately cumming in his pants."
Skye high-fived Bette and they slapped their chests. "Powerful Ladies unite."
Over the course of the day, friends and classmates who she had told about Pete asked her how things went with him over Christmas break, and she answered, "Pete Johnson touched my boob and immediately came in his pants." She knew if she was going to say it, she had to make the story clear and consistent. She had to sacrifice a small part of her dignity for a much larger part of his. He was already telling people that he had felt her up, so if she agreed with it, it would be plausible, but the stigma of him suffering from premature ejaculation would be a rumor that would be hard to fix. She had some classes with sophomores and when they heard it they laughed hard.
At the end of the day, Bette made her way down the stairs through the hall to catch her bus; Pete found her and stopped her. "What the fuck, Bette?"
She shrugged his hand off her shoulder. "Don't touch me."
"I got people telling me I can't hold my load because of you. People are calling me 'Puh' because I don't have enough discipline to hold in the rest."
Bette snickered in his face. "You mess with a powerful lady and that's what you get."
"You bitch, I can't believe you!"
He started to walk away from her toward the lobby and she followed. "Me? You jammed your tongue in my mouth and groped me. You didn't ask."
"You were all over me!"
"I never touched you!"
"That was practically a lap dance you gave me around the pool table."
"It was a game!"
"You were so flirting with me on the phone, and with those tits. You were begging for it." He took a couple steps away from her.
Bette fumed. There was a river of students leaving all around them and the hum of them was loud, but she could be louder. She yelled in the lobby, "Pete Johnson touched my boob and immediately came in his pants!"
The dozens people around them laughed. Pete turned back around to her horrified then angry. She stood strong in place and stared at him sternly. He started to step back to her then he shook his head and walked away. Bette took a shaky breath and waited a moment before starting to walk to her bus. She stared forward feeling a twist in her stomach. She put her hands in her coat pockets to grip her stomach.
"That was you I heard yell, wasn't it?"
She looked up and to the side, it was Ozzy.
"Yeah. It's a big step up from 'monkey hair,' huh?" Bette said defeated.
"I heard about what happened to you today. I wanted to know how you were doing."
"I'm pissed. Mostly about what just happened, less about what happened last week. They were both bad. Hard to say which is worse."
They got on the bus and sat together.
"Did that really happen? What you yelled? What people were saying?" He asked.
Bette had Ozzy lean over and she whispered into his ear. She told him about the date, the heavy flirtation, how she moved for him around the table to throw off his game, how she wasn't that attracted to him, but he made her feel attractive. When Pete took her home he forcefully kissed her and groped her, but he didn't ejaculate. Then forcing him off her. She found out that morning that he was telling people that he did more with her and she had been more sexually aggressive with him. That's when she came up with the idea to add that to the story. Then in the lobby he yelled, swore at her, and told her she was asking for it. That's when Ozzy heard her yell.
By the time she finished whispering in his ear, she was crying.
"That's messed up. You know you did nothing that allowed him to do that. You are right, he should have asked."
She sniffled and wiped away her tears. She leaned her head on his shoulder of his black leather jacket. "I couldn't believe how quickly he switched like that. He was so smooth. He knew almost all the right things to say. I feel like such an idiot." She covered her face with her hand.
"That's how guys like that work. They're all shine no content."
Bette had an epiphany and gasped. "Oh my God." She looked at Ozzy. "He was! All he did was flirt with me and make me feel attractive. I think I got more info about him from Skye than I did from him. He took me to play pool, that's a sexy date, and cheap. He didn't get out of the car to pick me up. He didn't even put the car in park! He didn't care about me, he just wanted me. I could have been any girl! Ugh!" She bent over and put her face in her hands. "I think I'm gonna be sick."
Ozzy looked around and rubbed her back. "You don't want to do that. You're stronger than that."
"I think I still might be."
He whispered in her ear, "This isn't third grade and we're not at the zoo."
Bette inhaled sharply and sat up. "Okay, that's not fair. I did not tell you that so you could weaponize that against me."
"Are you going to puke?"
Bette thought for a second and the knot in her stomach was gone. "No. I'm not. How did you do that?"
"I didn't. You did."
"I feel so cheap, so icky."
He tapped his shoulder for her, offering her to lean on him again.
"No. That's okay." She stared forward with a blank look on her face.
Ozzy thought for a moment. He turned and started to sing "In My Room" by The Beach Boys in her ear softly. He was more whispering than singing and it comforted her. She began to relax and felt the tension and anger leave her body. She silently took his offer and leaned her head on his shoulder. He finished the song and she took a moment to enjoy the silence. "I needed that."
"It's amazing how that song works, isn't it?" Ozzy said.
"No. I needed you. We haven't talked much. The beginning of school was hard. It's gotten better, but, I hardly see any of our old friends anymore. I see Jenna on weekends, but we've all been scattered, you know?"
"You didn't call. We have no classes together. I had no idea."
"You looked so happy when I saw you around. I didn't want to bring you down."
The bus pulled up to Ozzy's stop. Bette sat up to let him get up. "Call me when you get home. Fill me in. Alright?"
Bette nodded. She got home and called Ozzy. She told him how lonely she had been up until Thanksgiving and how lucky she had become to meet the lunch group, especially Skye. Ozzy told her his new friends around him were 'the Ricks' from the other middle school. Rick M & Rick S. They both played bass and they jammed together on weekends. Ozzy told her how Tylor had been needing to beat off girls with a bat they were all over him. Tylor was loving the attention from the girls and Ozzy certainly did not mind the residuals that came off the crowds.
A few weeks later Ozzy called Bette. They had been talking more consistently again and it felt good to have her old friend back.
"Hey Bee, you got some time? I was hoping you might be able to maybe, possibly help me with something."
Bette could hear the hesitation in how he spoke. She was in her room standing at her dresser puttering and reorganizing stuff with one hand and holding the phone with the other. "What's going on?"
Ozzy took a deep breath. "I'm going to say some stuff. And I want you to hear me out on this. Do you think you can do that?"
"Okay." She looked at herself in the mirror at her own confused face.
"Okay. Alright. Okay. Um...You know how you've seen Tylor's swarm, right? All the girls? So, um, yeah. Some of them, a few of them, aren't all into him. I think some of them are kinda into me. And it's kinda scary. It's good. But it's scary. Like the roller coaster ride, you know?" He cleared his throat and she could tell he was pacing. "After what you told me what had happened with you and Pete. And it's been so long since Vanessa, I'm-I'm not sure what I'm doing." He groaned in a frustrated way. "I don't know where the lines are. I don't know where the boundaries are. Some of these girls are super flirty, but I don't know if it's just for fun or not. If--If they actually find me attractive. Like what you said happened to you. What I'm saying is, I need someone to show me what is and isn't okay to do with girl. And I'm hoping because we trust each other you would consider helping me find that line. What's good and what's bad. Specific--to my skills. Do you get what I'm trying to say?"
She could hear him plop down wherever he sat. Bette looked in her mirror with a red face. She had a jaw-dropping smile. She did everything in her power not to laugh. She was touched. She was flattered. He was so innocent. He was asking for a platonic make-out coach. She knew she had no way of lying to him, she never could. "Ozzy. Are you asking me to--help you--practice?"
"If you want to put it like that, yes," he said nervously.
Bette tried to speak in a gentle way to put him at ease without making him feel ashamed. "Ozzy, no. And I am going to tell you exactly why. Do you think you can hear me out on this?"
"Mm-hmm." Even without words, he still sounded skittish.
She took her time speaking, thinking of her reasons. "First of all, you have nothing to worry about. From what you told me about your time with Vanessa, you were a great boyfriend, and she told me you were a great kisser. So you already know what you're doing and you had less experience then. Second, you listen, you ask, you offer. You can read girls so well. You understand, and when you don't, you try. You said it yourself: they're into you. They're not Tylor's leftovers, they're your buffet. Third, you are absolutely no Pete. You are all content which is what makes you shine. Open your wallet and look at your kindness survey again if you need a reminder. At no point did anyone ever call you a 'smooth-talker' or 'a ladies man'. Even at the Halloween dance, people knew you were a gangster and not a pimp. It's not who you are. I could keep going. So, no, Ozzy, I will not help you find the line, because you have the ability to find it with whoever you are with. You don't need me to be your practice girl. You don't need some make-out coach. You are already working with everything you need, and the fact you care so much to ask for help, means you're going to be just fine." Ozzy was silent on the other side of the phone. "Ozzy? Are you there?"
"Yeah," his voice was hardly more than a whisper.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah. I will be."
Bette heard the ache in his voice. "Ozzy. It's been a tough year so far. It's been...lonelier than I thought it would be."
"For me too."
"You know I trust you with my life, right?"
"I'm having a hard time trusting anyone right now. You've seen how I've been dressing lately? It's all baggy jeans and pull over sweatshirts for me. I don't want to be seen after what happened with Pete. I don't want to be visible to guys. I don't want to feel that cheap feeling again."
"I didn't mean to--"
"And I know you didn't. Which is why I'm not angry or hurt. You came to me for help, not out of lust, and I see the difference. It's that I don't know when I'm going to be able to trust any guy in a romantic-physical sense again. Even if it's with someone I trust with my life who asked me for help."
"I get it." He sniffled.
Bette heard it. He had gone out on such a limb asking to for help, she didn't know what he was feeling, but at the very least, he was hurting. "You know how helpful these last few weeks have been? I mean, I barely talk to you from the time school started to New Years, and now we're talking almost every day again. It's meant a lot to me."
"It has for me too."
"It might not be everything that you want or need right now, but I will always be here with a hug. I know there have been times when I could have used one from you and you weren't around."
He took a deep inhale, "I think I can manage that."
"And we're going to be okay?"
"Yeah. Going to be, but yeah," Ozzy's smile returned to his voice.
"And look at it this way. I was able to be your wing-woman for you once with Vanessa. I can easily do it again. All you have to do is tell me who."
Ozzy paused before speaking again. "If I gave you a grocery list of girls, would that be too much?"
"As long as it's not all junk chicks. I don't think I'll have any issues."
The next couple months got better for Bette. She made an effort to reconnect more with Jenna after reconnecting with Ozzy. Jenna was helping with stage crew in the late winter play, so she was hard to get a hold of on weeknights. But on weekends they worked on reconnecting again. Jenna gave Bette her first toke of weed in the garage next to the pool cleaning supplies. Bette coughed hard and wasn't graceful, but she got a good high and was giggly for a couple hours. The pair ate a whole box of Cap'n Crunch cereal and played Mario Kart and Mario Party for hours until it stopped being hilarious. "Why do you always pick Wario?" Jenna asked Bette.
In both games, he was a playable character. "Because no one picks Wario first. Why shouldn't someone pick him first? And he's a bad boy. I kinda like a big, bad boy." Bette snickered. "Why do you always pick Peach?"
"Because I'm the blonde princess. I've always liked Princess Peach." said Jenna.
"You are so not a princess. Cassandra's a princess. Stella's a princess. A bratty princess, but a princess." Bette was sharp and pointed when she said it.
"There's more than one definition of princess."
"What kind of princess does that make you?"
"One who rules. One who takes on unwanted subjects. Not a Disney one, that's for sure. Look at the Mushroom Kingdom. It's all weird creatures and stuff. Who wouldn't want to rule all those kingdoms with different kinds of beings?"
"Who's your Mario or Luigi then?"
"Screw that. I'm gonna get me one of those sick, green boots or a Tanooki suit from Mario 3, eat some 'shrooms, and tell the plumbers to fuck off. Bowser can stay to light the fireplace if he feels like it."
Bette laughed, but Jenna was serious. "Fair enough. As long as Wario here can get another bowl of Crunch Berries, I think that sounds like a bitchin' way to rule. And I'll be here for it."
It was Saturday April 21st and Ozzy was throwing a party. Darrah had gone out of town for the weekend and Ozzy was ready to take full advantage of the situation. Bette had been helping him out with Jen B from her lunch group, telling her good things about him. Jen B had been flirting with him in art class. Ozzy took the opportunity with the party to strike. Ozzy invited his friends: Tylor, Greyson, Rick M, Rick S, Bette, Jenna, Jen B, and some others he had grown closer with over the school year. Darrah had left the house fairly well stocked and everyone brought snacks, so there would be no running out of food with a bunch of hungry teenagers. Bette had walked to Ozzy's house and arrive after Tylor and Greyson. Hugs were passed around and they helped Ozzy set up. It was a warm evening so it would be nice to be able to be inside and outside. The basement was set up as more of a 'mood' area. Ozzy was hoping that something would happen with Jen B that night. Ozzy brought Bette down to the basement to ask her opinion of the set up and lighting.
Bette eyed the giant new couch, "Oz, that might be the biggest fucking couch I've ever seen." she said flatly.
He jumped on it and landed with his arms up. He was able to lay on his back and there was still a little space on either side of him. He was able to touch the armrests with his hands and feet, but no one else could. "It was an unsold custom couch. I got it at a great price. I wanted something big enough I could nap on without curling up."
"You got this from mowing lawns last summer?"
"Darrah matched me dollar for dollar. Still took a big chunk out of my cash. But I take good care of it so it'll last me a long time. The naps on this thing are amazing."
"You could get three couples going at it on this thing and it still wouldn't be an orgy." She was still in disbelief at the size of the couch.
Ozzy gave her a shocked but excited look. "You think the party could turn into that?"
"No! Maybe. I'm not sure yet. It depends on who Jen B brings."
Bette helped Ozzy move a few other things around. The rocking chair that used to be there was gone and a small love seat couch was in there next to the TV. They put out extra blankets and pillows around the room for comfort and privacy, so if it did turn into a hotter party, people would be comfortable. The last thing they did was dim the floor lamp to a romantic setting. He brought his guitar upstairs to the living room and set it up in there.
People started showing up, and Bette quickly realized that even though she knew most everyone there, this party was not her scene. The Ricks and Tylor were talking about girls in a way she had never heard him speak. Tylor talked about 'pussy' a lot, and the specific details of certain girl's bodies they knew. He never talked like that a year ago. Jen B and some of the other girls that came were ones from her other classes, not from their lunch group, and Bette quickly fell out of the conversation of not knowing the inside jokes and the references to middle school and interests that she did not like. Another guy brought a small bottle of gin. It was the cheapest, nastiest booze Bette had ever smelled and had no interest in partaking in it. She thought the pine-scented floor cleaner under the kitchen sink would have been preferable to the gin. Within an hour of the party starting, Bette was outside of the French doors of the basement with Greyson and Jenna. Greyson was smoking a cigarette and Jenna and Bette were sharing a joint.
"No one else better come out here. This is the only one I brought tonight." Jenna said. She exhaled smoothly and passed it to Bette.
"I consider myself lucky you're willing to share." Bette smiled at Jenna
"Aren't you worried about smelling when you get home?" Greyson asked.
Bette took a hit and coughed, "I smell with my nose all the time, not just at home." She handed the joint in the roach clip back to Jenna.
"You know what I mean." he said, taking a drag.
"Darrah keeps a stocked laundry room. Lysol spray. Febreeze. Dryer sheets. When I think about leaving I can spray myself down or throw stuff the dryer. I'd do the same if I were you. That's gotta be your second smoke tonight, Grey."
He ashed his cigarette. "Third. Whatever. Dad smokes. He doesn't smell it anymore."
"So much for the D.A.R.E. program." said Jenna.
"I always wondered where all those coke dealers were that they talked about. And what exactly is an 8-ball?" Asked Bette giggling.
"It's--" Greyson was cut off by a commotion they all heard in the basement behind them. From where they stood outside the doors it was dark, they specifically hadn't turned the patio light on so no one would bother them. They could see inside the room. Jen B was walking backwards across the room to the far side of the couch and set herself on the couch.
"Oh shit. It's happening." Bette said in an excited whisper.
"What's happening?" asked Jenna.
"Just wait, then we'll give them some privacy." Bette was giddy. Her excitement ended quickly when the person who joined Jen B on the couch was Rick S. "Oh fuck." Bette whispered.
"By the looks of it." Said Greyson taking his last drag and putting out his cigarette in the empty flower pot.
Jenna passed the joint to Greyson and he took an easy drag off it. Bette walked up the porch stairs away from Jenna and Greyson. She went in the dining room porch sliding doors and looked around. Tylor and a girl were talking in the kitchen. A couple others were grazing on food. She walked through the house to find Ozzy and Rick M playing their instruments for a couple other people, singing a song. When they ended Bette did an exaggerated clap and cheer for them. "Great job guys. Sounds like you've earned a break." She tried to make specific eye contact with Ozzy.
"Yeah, I could use a drink," said Rick M.
"Grab a Mountain Dew for me, would ya?" said Ozzy.
Bette gave him a specific stare to tell him she wanted to talk and sat in a chair next to him. "Do you notice anything here, Oz?" she spoke low.
He got a whiff of her, and gave her a look, one of minor judgment. "You're high."
"Yes." She said it a little agitated, "But that's beside the point." She collected herself, "Who would you want to hear you play, and who isn't in the room?"
Ozzy looked to one side to one room through the doorway and got up and looked in the kitchen and dining room and sat back down. "She left?" He sound confused.
"She didn't leave. She's in the basement," It came out more blunt than she wanted to say.
Ozzy closed his eyes and shook his head. "Rick S...I knew it." He muttered.
Rick M came back in the room and handed Ozzy the can of Mountain Dew. "Are we playing or what?"
Ozzy cracked open the can took a long drink, sniffed, set it down. "I'm in the mood for something old. You know 'I Get Around' by The Beach Boys?" Without waiting for Rick M's answer, Ozzy started playing his guitar. "This song only works if other people join in, otherwise it sounds weird," he said it cantankerously.
Rick M started playing along and singing with Ozzy. Bette sang the high notes in the chorus and clapped when the song required; she was stoned enough to not care what she sounded like. She knew Ozzy needed the song more than she needed her pride.
They finished the song and he took another long drink and set the can down. "'Help Me, Rhonda' by The Beach Boys. Go!" He rolled right into the song without leading Rick M into it. Bette tried singing what she could. She got up and stood in the door frame to the kitchen. Ozzy sang passionately and strong, but Bette could hear the stress in his music. During the interlude, she ran to the dining room door, opened it, and called and waved Jenna and Greyson to come in. They finished the song. Ozzy took another long drink from his can and appeared to be at the end of it.
"California Girls," Bette said before he put the can down. "It's Jenna's favorite, right?" She turned to Jenna who was behind her.
"She's right. It is my favorite song by The Beach Boys. You guys know that one?" Jenna and Bette sat on the floor of the living room.
"Yeah." Ozzy took the time to count out the song with Rick M and they started playing. The tempo was slower than the last two songs and she hoped that would calm him down. When the song got to the line about northern girls, Bette and Jenna sang it loudly, identifying regionally with that part of the song. When they got to the end of the song Jen B and Rick S had emerged from the basement and stood in the far door frame of the room. There was applause from the group after.
"Do you know 'God Only Knows' by The Beach Boys? We heard you playing their songs," Jen B asked.
"Nope." Ozzy said sharply. "I need some air." He put down his guitar and walked out of the room, through the dining room, out the sliding room doors and stood on the porch.
"I got this one." Greyson said to Bette quietly. Greyson went out onto the porch and talked to Ozzy. They went down the stairs and paced through the back yard. Bette uncontrollably grazed over the table of snacks watching them when she could. She could see the red glow of Greyson's cigarette go back and forth across the lawn.
The night was getting late and Bette's high came down. With Ozzy irritated and preoccupied, she found herself becoming the 'party mom.' Jenna had left for the night. Tylor was getting hot and heavy with a girl in the basement. The Ricks weren't her people. Jen B chatted up the friends Bette didn't know. Bette went from room to room picking up paper plates, empty cans, and putting things away. She cleaned up the snack table and put away the items that hadn't been opened and threw away stuff that was almost empty or no longer good. She loaded up the dishwasher and wiped down the counters. She took a couple bags of trash out to the cans in the attached garage and found Ozzy out there leaning on one of the walls.
"Hey stranger. You're missing your party."
"Ah." He scoffed. "That wasn't a party. That was an excuse."
"For Jen B?"
"Partially. Grey talked it out with me. I don't really want to anymore tonight if you don't mind."
She put the trash in the can. "Not at all. I think there are some things about tonight that won't want to be remembered, like my attempt at singing soprano and me wrecking the snacks like a hyena."
He laughed. "I find that hard to believe."
"I don't know how Jenna does it. I couldn't stop eating. She has wicked discipline."
"I wish I could tell you how." Ozzy tapped his own round stomach.
They went back inside the house. Bette threw her zip up hoodie in the dryer. She sprayed herself down with Febreeze air spray and rubbed her hair with a couple dryer sheets. She asked Ozzy to smell her hair and he gave her his seal of approval. Ozzy was grateful to see how much of the house was cleaned up by Bette and the amount of final cleaning he would have to do would be minimal.
People started to leave and Tylor's girl was one of the last ones to go. She went out the front door and he shut it behind her, he was staying for the night. He leaned against the door and grunted.
"Your fly is down, Ty," said Bette.
"You're looking?" He grinned at her.
"The same way someone looks at a train wreck." She sat in a chair and dismissed his comment.
"I still got fuel in the tank, Bee." He eyed her confidently.
"You know that didn't work for us." She looked at her nails and crossed her legs.
"That was two years ago, I've grown since then, you know what I mean?" He said lewdly.
"Yeah. That goatee never would have survived against your zits and braces."
He pointed to the goatee. "This thing is a pussy magnet! I had to ring it out like a sponge after we were done."
She tried not to look too disgusted at him. "If you ruined Ozzy's couch, he's going to kill you." She pointed to the basement stairs.
"Nah. She made us go in the bathroom. She didn't want anyone walk in on what we did."
"Thank God for mirrors!" Ozzy came back upstairs from the basement carrying some empty cups and a bag of garbage. Tylor bear hugged Ozzy who was unable to hug him back. "Thank you. Thank you for this epic party!" Tylor bounced down into the basement.
"Where's he going? There's no more pussy down there." Bette said coldly.
"When he's done, he's done. He'll be out cold in two minutes."
"So much for 'fuel in the tank,'" she said.
"It's so not important. Do you need any more help with anything?"
"I think you got most of it. Thanks for your help with that."
"I hate to say it, but besides you, Greyson, and Jenna, these weren't my people. I was more comfortable helping out. Which reminds me, Greyson left some butts in the flower pot on the patio. You might want to grab those."
"It didn't go unnoticed."
"I'm always glad to help," she said with a smile.
"I wasn't talking about me. Rick M thought you were sweet. He could tell what you were doing for me tonight. He told me he thought you were cute. He's super shy."
Rick M was barely taller than Bette, thin with a light-muscular build. He had curly, dark blonde hair that framed his face and a predominant nose and a deep voice, not as deep as Greyson's but deep enough that it complimented Ozzy's well when they sang together.
"Shy or not, he barely looked at me. I don't even think he said anything to me."
"Yeah. Super shy."
"But he had no problem singing or playing with you," Bette was thoroughly confused.
"It's what works for him. I read about these guys who will have terrible stutters, but then they get on stage and perform Shakespeare or whatever perfectly. Something clicks for them. That's Rick M."
Bette hesitated. "I don't know."
"He's a good guy. He's not a Pete. He's worth a chance."
Bette took a deep breath, "Here's what worries me, he's your buddy, right?"
"And we're friends, right?"
"What happened to Cassandra and I after you two broke up?"
"That was different. You said you two were friends out of convenience. And that was two years ago. That was a totally different situation."
"Exactly. You and Rick M chose each other. You two clearly have a better bond than Cassandra and I did. I don't want to even make you have to consider 'bros before hos' if something went wrong."
"You are not a ho." Ozzy said firmly.
"But don't you see my point? I'm not friends with Cassandra anymore. I don't hang out with Vanessa anymore. I don't know how much I want to talk to Jen B after tonight. If I'm going to consider looking at any guy, it has to be outside our group of friends. I never see Pete at school because we don't have any classes or overlap and I am grateful for that. Our only overlap is Skye and she isn't close with him and hasn't been for a while. I can't do that to you."
"You wouldn't be doing anything to me."
"You're right. I'd be doing it to myself. As much of a chance as Rick M may be worth, As good of a guy he may be, I'm not going to risk someone who hasn't said two words to me over us. That's a line I'm not willing to cross!"
The dryer buzzed in the laundry room. She and Ozzy looked at each other for another second before she went and got her hoodie. She opened the dryer door and dug among the clothes and pulled out her hooded sweat shirt. She closed her eyes and took a deep inhale of it. It smelled clean. It smelled good. It smelled comforting. Putting it on right out of the dryer was like putting on a warm hug, and maybe any of the residual pot smell on her shirt and hair would be absorbed by the cleanliness of the hoodie. She zipped it up and pulled up the hood and went back into the living room where Ozzy was. "Thanks again. I need to go. My parents will be expecting me soon."
"Thanks for coming over." The pair hugged. "Even if not everyone was your favorite, you're my favorite. Thanks for reminding me."
Bette felt his face rest on the top of her head as they hugged. She squeezed him a bit harder. "Pet Sounds."
"What about it?"
"Of all the Beach Boys albums, that's the one I think we've listened to the most. You know 'God Only Knows' and how to play it."
"She hadn't earned hearing it. Not even close."
Bette smiled and they gave each other another squeeze before letting go. "I'll see you Monday."
Ozzy opened the front door for her and Bette walked down the sidewalk and a little down the block. She turned back and could see him the living room window playing his guitar again. She smiled. She walked home whistling 'God Only Knows.'
Spring Spirit week was the following week. The theme was "A Trip Through Time." Tuesday that week was 'Early 20th century' and Bette thought it would be a great excuse to wear the flapper dress from the year before. She had to put a tank top on underneath the dress to cover her cleavage and her bra straps for the dress code. She got lots of compliments from her friends at lunch and people she sat near in classes. When a couple of guys said her dress looked nice, it didn't feel awful. She didn't feel like they said it crudely. She didn't feel cheap or icky. She felt good. Wednesday was a 1950s themed day. She channeled Rizzo, Cha-cha, and Sandy from the end of Grease. She wore a pair of tight jeans, a button up cardigan with beading on it of her mom's, strappy wood-heeled sandals, a red lip, high pony tail with a silk scarf around it and another around her neck. She felt fun and cheerful. She knew her look wasn't accurate, but it was great to try. More people told her look was great and she felt great about it. Thursday was 1960s themed. She wore one of her long floral sundresses with a plain blowy blouse over it. She borrowed some of her mother's beaded jewelry and wore a folded brown bandanna around her forehead. She was relaxed and played up the characterization of the costume. At lunch, she went and grabbed a bunch of paper napkins from the lunch room, rolled them into flowers and started giving them out to people. She made people smile and it made her happy. The theme for Friday was 1980s cartoons. Bette had an old flannel Care Bear bed sheet from when she was a kid. After Wednesday's spirit day, she asked Lorna if they could make it into a pair of pajama pants, and they did. Bette wore the pants to school on Friday and people were impressed. They asked where she got them and she told them she and her mom made them. Friday was the day of the assembly where the Spring king and queen nominations would be presented to the school. There would be an informal dance the next night where the whole school could go and the winners would be announced. It was better than doing it at prom where only part of the school could go and interrupting half that night. At the assembly they also announced the most school spirited in each grade and Bette won for the freshman class. She didn't even dress up on Monday's toga day. She was absolutely floored. She ran down the bleachers to cheers from her class and claimed her prize of a t-shirt and a couple of novelty costume props that had been sold as part of the fund raisers that week. She was bright red as she went back and sat down with Skye.
The next night at the dance, she bounced around from group of friends to group of friends. She went to the dance by herself and saw Ashleigh and Hannah first. They found some other people and went to dance. While on the floor, she saw Jenna, Katie, Vanessa, Terry and more kids from the theater crew dancing and danced with them for a while and traded moves. Terry was an especially good hip-hop dancer who had come out of his shell in the last year. Ozzy, Tylor, the Ricks, and their other music buddies were sitting on the bleachers talking. When Bette took a bathroom break she waved them out to the floor, but none of them came. She didn't know about the Ricks and the others, but Tylor and Ozzy used to love dancing. She wasn't going to be sad, but she was bummed for them that they were missing out on their own fun. The dance was paused for forty-five minutes for the coronation ceremony of the Senior Spring King and Queen. Bette didn't know who they were, and she didn't care. She cared about dancing. Even when she saw Pete across the gym a few times, the sight of him didn't bother her anymore. He wasn't important enough in her mind to upset her. She was free.
With summer coming up fast, Lorna insisted Bette get a job that summer. Lorna brought her to a job fair for summer jobs and Bette was less than enthused about most of them. They were all the typical jobs all teenagers got: fast food, gas stations, bagging groceries. The one that got Bette's attention the most was for the local history museum. She chatted up the lead docent. They knew John. John was on the board of directors for the museum and Bette had hope that her summer job would not suck. She filled out the application then and there for a job in guest services. The museum had fixed hours with the exception of special events that they would need hosts, coat room staff, and servers for, so the opportunities for extra money would be there. Lorna still made Bette fill out and turn in the other applications, but that was the only job she wanted. After an official interview with the manager, Bette got the summer job. Being only 15, she couldn't work a ton, but Lorna was glad she was working, and Bette was glad to be working at a job that didn't leave her smelling like grease. The job was hard. 'Guest services' turned out to be a glorified term for janitor. Bette spent her days at the museum cleaning glass, dusting, sweeping floors, picking up garbage, and wiping up fingerprints. She gave directions in the museum and took photos for people with exhibits. She helped tourists find things to do in town when they left the museum. She read placards for people who didn't feel like reading them. The work was both boring and interesting. She was both alone and around people all the time. She worked with another girl who went to Private West High did the same job as her named Kasey. She was a cheerleader for their school and was a grade ahead of her. Her mom was on the board of directors for the museum too, and they laughed about how their parents probably influenced their abilities to get the jobs there. Kasey made no qualms about it; she said her mom absolutely got her the job. The two of them didn't hang out outside of work, but they got along just fine.
That summer was harder. Anytime Bette wanted to hang out with one of her friends, she felt like a telemarketer. All her friends got jobs that summer. She would call one after the other and they would usually be working. If they weren't working, they were traveling with their families or already out. Jenna was her go-to first person to call. She was working in a fast food restaurant, so she worked a lot of evenings and weekends, so their schedules didn't line up a lot, but when they did they had a lot of fun in Jenna's pool or playing yard games at Bette's house. Ozzy was less available. A lawn care company noticed how much work he had been doing in his neighborhood, hired him, and bought out his client list. He made more money and had a better schedule working for them than he did working independently. When he wasn't doing that his Aunt Darrah would let him work at the grocery store in the evenings stocking shelves whenever he wanted. He saved all his cash and started thinking about his next guitar and the car he wanted to buy in the next couple years. Skye was easier to reach and talk to on the phone, but they didn't live in the same neighborhoods. Their parents worked so they didn't get to hang out much, but they talked a lot. Ashleigh had taken the same drivers community education class that year with Bette, so they would talk to each other about the countdown to turning sixteen and getting their driver's licenses.