Here’s another little sampling of Drew’s life at Christmastime from her awkward freshman year. If you enjoy this, check out the link here.
Another Trip to Wonderland
During the week of school right before a big holiday break little happens educationally, except tests. Teachers figure kids will forget everything over the break, so they pack in the tests while it’s all still jammed in their flighty teenage brains. Or they have parties. The last few days before Christmas break were a confusing mix of both. The worst thing was crashing from a party in one class when there was a test looming in the next, such as I did in pre-algebra. It must have shown on my face because Chip even offered to share his test answers with me, but I knew I would have a better score even if I just made something up about a, or b, or x, or whatever stupid letter I was supposed to find a number for.
Chip was still hobbling around, but it didn’t stop him from giving me a bear hug as we parted ways that day. “I’ll see ya nixt year, little buddy, cuz we’ll be havin’ New Years and all. Git it?”
“Oh, Chip, you are clever. Have a good and safe break,” I said as we parted ways. Apparently, we had become quite good friends since he broke it off with me, or whatever it was. Chip even gave me a Christmas card with Rudolph’s head mounted over a fireplace. Classy. But at least he wasn’t flirting with me anymore.
Chorus put me back into party mode, but then again, that was usually all we did. Of course, we had done some Christmas songs and caroled around one of the elementary schools earlier in the week. Mona and Violet had made dozens of cookies and put them into little goodie bags to give out to everyone in class. I overheard Mona laughing to Violet and Julia, something about plumping up all the other girls so they’d be fat in comparison. I should have known there was a sneaky evil agenda behind the cookies. The three of them made a pact against all holiday temptations. If they wanted to sweeten up their celery sticks, they were allowed a small dab of peanut butter only. Interestingly enough, I felt no guilt over my plans to eat all the sweets I could acquire.
When class ended, I bid goodbye to Anne, whom I was fairly certain I would see over the break at some point, and Ally, whom I probably would not see. Her parents were planning to send her away to a boarding school because her grades were so bad, and because, according to Ally, her stepmom was evil. We hugged and exchanged Christmas cards, in which we had each included our addresses, hers being at the new school. “Bathroom breaks from photography just won’t be the same without you.”
“I know. Take care of yourself, and make sure you kiss Dustin today. Seriously, he needs something to think about over the break…you.”
“Yeah, sure thing,” I lied with a smile as we parted.
Adrienne met me in the hallway before photography. “We need to miss the bus today. My mom already said she could pick us up at Dustin’s at five.”
“Uh, ok, but we don’t even know if we can go to Dustin’s.”
“Yes, we do. We talked earlier when I caught him staring at Alyssa in the hallway. You need to make an impression on him before the break.”
“What?” Adrienne asked.
“You’ve never met Ally, right? But she pretty much said the same thing.”
“She’s obviously very smart.”
Dustin approached with a smile. “Hey. So you ladies are coming over to hang and play some Nintendo today?”
“Sure. You really know how to kick off a holiday break,” I teased.
“I know. But I might also have some mistletoe around if you get bored,” he replied with a smirk as he passed us and walked into the classroom for another holiday class party.
When the bell of freedom rang, Dustin said he had one thing to take care of before we left and that he’d meet us at the corner down from the school. Dustin had a real eye for photography and he had made some great prints earlier that week. One was of Alyssa. I had seen him pull it out of an envelope for a few seconds earlier, when he thought nobody was looking, and he wrote her name on the front of the envelope. As Adrienne and I walked down the hill, I found Dustin in the crowd, slipping the envelope into Alyssa’s book bag right as she boarded her bus.
A small, thin woman in red was heading out the front door of Dustin’s house when we arrived. I could see him tense up as we all approached each other. “Dustin, Sweetie, I’m off to run a few errands and then to my work Christmas party, after I pick up your father.”
“It’s not an open bar is it?”
“Dustin, now is not the time,” she said, almost under her breath. “Who are your friends?” she said more loudly and cheerfully as she smiled at Adrienne and me.
“Adrienne and Drew,” Dustin replied as he gestured towards each of us.
“It’s very nice to meet you girls,” she said as she limply shook each of our hands. “Don’t mind the mess. I haven’t had much time for tidying up lately.” She reached up a hand and touched Dustin’s cheek. “Be good.”
“Yeah, you too, Mom.” We watched her climb into a large old blue station wagon, start the sputtering engine and drive away.
“She seems nice,” Adrienne offered as we entered the house.
“Yeah, but she’s not the problem.”
In the corner of the living room was a sad looking Christmas tree. It wasn’t one of those charming Charlie Brown trees or anything either. This had been a nice tree, but a large chunk had been chopped off one side of the tree, ornaments scattered on the floor beneath, where not a single present sat. I tried to act like I hadn’t seen it, but Dustin caught me looking. “My father used part of the tree for kindling to start a fire last night. We had kindling wood, but it was out back, and the ax was closer. I hid the ax this morning. Good thing he wasn’t drunk.”
“So your dad is a drunken douchebag? My dad sucks too. Drew’s just about the only person I know with two good parents,” Adrienne said. It was true too. I tried not to take it for granted and sometimes I even felt guilty because most of my friends had weird parental situations of some sort.
We managed to escape the world where parents mattered while attempting to rescue Princess Toadstool, later known as Princess Peach, in Dustin’s attic bedroom. Guns N’ Roses blared from the stereo. We stopped between levels as “Don’t Cry” came on. “I love this song. I know it’s a released song and everyone knows it and all, but it’s still one of my favorites on this album,” Dustin admitted, and we listened without speaking, all the way until Axl Rose held out the final note, his voice wavering up and down, and then we resumed the game until Adrienne’s mom showed up.
As Dustin walked us toward the door, he caught me gently by the hand, letting Adrienne walk out ahead. “I couldn’t find the mistletoe, and I couldn’t afford to get you a gift, so I hope this is ok,” he said as he leaned in and gave me a quick, soft kiss on my lips. His hand let mine go, he smiled, his beautiful dark left eye showing more of the green flecks than usual, and wished me a Merry Christmas. I turned and walked into the wall.
“Yeah, Merry Christmas,” I said as I corrected my position and practically ran out the door. How clumsy!
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