Chapter 1: Take Me There
Updated: May 7, 2019
"Summer is almost over, so we better make the best of it," Rachel whined. Jamie, Candace, and Melanie all stood by one of the empty shopping buggies that one of us was about to climb into to race the other across the parking lot. "Who cares," I scoffed.
"Don't be such a buzz kill Sydney Gayle. I can't handle any more of your teenage angst," Candace said as she snatched my third cigarette in five minutes out of my hand. I honestly couldn't care less. It was just going to be another year where I had to listen to my parents bitch at me about truancy. It was either go to school or get sent off. That's literally all I ever heard. I would have to get up every morning at the ass crack of dawn, plaster a fake smile on my face, and see the same old ass hats that I'd been looking at for most of my life. I wasn't old enough to be legally responsible for myself, but God, I couldn't wait. My parents weren't bad people. I just had zero tolerance for people sweeping their bullshit under the rug and trying to pretend like they lived a happy life when in reality, everything was falling apart. That's why I kept my distance whenever possible. I was constantly couch hopping. You'd think that they would at least try to put up a fight to stop me, and secretly I wanted them to, but they figured the closer they tried to pull me in, the farther I would drift away, but they always made it very clear that they weren't going to suffer any of the consequences of my actions. Sometimes, I wished that they would have held me closer, but hell, it was too late.
"Smile for once. It wouldn't kill you," Mel added. I rolled my eyes and walked toward the group. I smiled sarcastically at her and then gave her the finger. "Cut her some slack you guys. We all know how rough things have been for her," Jamie said in my defense. She was right. I had my demons and every day, I thought that life couldn't make me any more miserable. Some days I thought I was strong enough to make it and others, I just wanted them to consume me. I didn't have much of anything to smile about anymore. There came a time in my life when I saw the world for what it really was and all happiness just went out the window for me. Some of the smallest things could show you what kind of pain and hate there was in the world and it would fuck you up for life if you weren't careful and would I be who I was if I was careful?
All of my friends knew about my past and they stuck by me through every minute of it and that was why they were the only people I kept close to me. They were always truthful and straight up even if I didn't like it and that's how I knew that they were real. With the small town that we lived in where we knew everyone we went to school with since diapers, everyone slept with everyone, and news spread faster than the common cold, they never had my business out in the streets. It was only ever out for the world to see because that was my choice and they stood behind me, ready to talk shit to each and every single person that had something to say about it. I eventually figured out why my parents weren't phased by the fact that I was always with them. They knew that I was being taken care of. They knew that their parents would watch after me and let them know my every move even though they never rode my ass about it.
"Are we drinking tonight?" I asked, almost getting excited because the sun was setting. That's all we had to do around here was party, drink, and try to avoid causing a scene. Alcohol was my vice. It kept me numb and that's what I looked forward to every night. It wasn't healthy, but I didn't care. Half the time I prayed for death and as horrible as that sounded, it didn't really bother me. I wasn't suicidal, but every single night I wanted to get pulled into that black hole and hated when I had to come back out of it."Not if you're planning on blacking out again!" Candace shouted.
Candace was only a few months older than me, but she acted like she was my big sister when she was just my first cousin. She did have a baby sister at one point. When we were kids, at least six at the time, we were on our way to a family reunion and we were meeting my parents down in Virginia. A semi t-boned us when the driver fell asleep at the wheel. I walked away with a broken collar bone and Candace had a broken arm and some memory loss. Her parents walked away without a scratch, but her nine month old sister Corie didn't make it. She died in her arms. The events from the wreck were fuzzy for a while, even though I remembered every detail and never said anything to her, but they all came flooding back when she went into therapy for anxiety. She hadn't been the same since and I suspected that she was doing a little bit more than what the rest of us were doing. It almost killed me when she refused to speak to me because I didn't fill in all the blanks when she put all of the pieces together. When she went off the deep end, I felt guilty. She had a right to know, but I just couldn't bring myself to tell her and have her fall into depression because of me, so I ended up being okay with her being mad at me for a while. But, I also felt like I was the reason why she turned to the poison that made her a totally different person than what I remembered. When she stopped talking to me, she was Candace. When she finally forgave me, she was just a hollow shell of what used to be Candace.
I shot her a look, warning her not to go there with me. She had her habits and I had mine. I wasn't in the mood to go back and forth with her and when she saw the look on my face, she shut the hell up. I was no stranger to her bullshit. We really did go back and forth at each others' throats like we were sisters.
"We can all head over to Reggie's!" Rachel cheered. Reggie was Rachel's boyfriend that was entirely too old for her. He frequently lied about his age to everyone else, but we all knew that he was at least twenty-three while she was seventeen like the rest of us. Her parents knew that they had a thing for us, but we put up a pretty good show so they wouldn't suspect that they were in a relationship. She was our girl and he made her happy, so that was the only thing that mattered. It was stupid and reckless, but that was the shit that we lived for.
"I'll call Derek so he can meet us there too. Candace, you and Jamie can call the twins," Mel added. Great. I wanted to have a few drinks, not hold up the wall all night while everyone else was coupled off. I'll admit that it sucked being a fifth wheel all the time, but I'd much rather be lonely than to let someone close enough to hurt me. There was no way I was going to let that shit happen again. We all knew what happened because I thought it was a good idea to be in a relationship with someone."Here we go. Same old thing. Sydney mopes around while everyone is going on about their lives as happy as they can be." Like I said, they always told me what I needed to hear whether I liked it or not.
"That's because I don't need to pretend to be happy. That shit doesn't last forever." I was more than a little bitter about love because of how my last relationship ended. It made me sick to even think about it.
"Come on. Let's race and then we can go get ready for the night." I climbed into one of the buggies, squatting so I could easily hop out when it reached the patch of grass on the edge of the asphalt. It was the only way to avoid killing myself. I was a rider since I was one of the smallest in our group. Jamie crawled in the other. Candace grabbed the handle bar behind me and Rachel did the same behind Jamie. My heart was racing. I was in a shitty mood, but this was one of the only things that could cheer me up.
"Ready! Set! Gooooo!" Mel yelled from the end of the pavement. My heart raced with the wind whipping through my hair. I felt free. I felt like I didn't have a care in the world and I cherished these moments because one day they would only be memories that I would cry for. I would crave the way my blood rushed through my body and the need to make it to the end of the parking lot before one of my friends.
I glanced over my right shoulder to see Candace and Rachel laughing playfully with smiles so wide I thought their cheeks would burst. Even though I felt like I had a rain cloud over my head most of the time, it was true what they said. These were the best days of our lives and I was going to want them back. So much had torn me apart over the last few years and I never thought I was going to be okay again.
I was pulled back to the now when my buggy hit the patch of grass, jolting forward, and sending me flying. Thank God I didn't hit my head when I landed on my back, knocking all of the breath from my body. That damn thing had to have thrown me at least ten feet. I rolled over on my stomach to see everyone watching me in fear.
"She's alive!" Rachel yelled, throwing her hands into the air. They all breathed sighs of relief and started laughing cheerfully. I dropped my head onto the ground, letting the warm grass graze my cheeks and letting the sun warm the exposed skin of my shoulders and my white tank top. I breathed a sigh of relief that I decided to wear jeans and because I nearly skinned my knees down to the bone the last time I wore shorts while buggy racing. Right now, I was only concerned with insignificant things and for the very first time in a long time, without anything else going on in the world running through my mind, I smiled.