“Lauren, honey, Simon's going to pick you up from school today.”
Her nose wrinkled. Get in that car with Simon? Her mom was joking, right? “Really?” She didn't bother hiding her disappointment. “I hate being in the car with him. His smoking clogs up my sinuses. Why can't you pick me up? Why can't I take the bus home? It's the last day of school.”
“You have a dentist appointment after school. I've got a lecture to attend, and it won't finish till some time after five tonight, then I have to leave again for night class.”
Lauren tore off another big piece of toast and stuffed it into her mouth. The crock pot lid clinked down onto the ceramic bowl and she heard the dial click once for low heat. Despite the warmth of the kitchen, a chill went through Lauren. The last thing she wanted was for Simon to turn up in his really nice car- a car that happened to speed along the highway, smell like stale cigarette smoke and old liquor- and cause the admiration of every student in the school. There was nothing to admire about Simon.
“You've always got to lecture. Why can't the university find someone else?” Lauren heard her mother breathe in slowly and count to ten. Crap, now she's angry.
“Because, Lauren,” she said through clenched teeth, “the only other person who could lecture is off on an archeological dig. We have been over this.”
Lauren sighed. “Sorry mom. I don't like Simon's driving.”
“And how is my little historian this morning?” Simon stolled into the room, wrapping his arms around her mom's waist, kissing her neck. Lauren rolled her eyes. Gross.
“You're looking good babe,” Lauren's mom said, spinning around in his arms. Double gross. “Why the suit?”
“Meeting today with the boss. He's back from a six week vacation in Spain and wants to check out the construction site, have a few meetings, lunch and a around of golf. I told him I'd take a raincheck with the golf since Lauren's got a dentist appointment.”
“Tell William I said hi.” Her mother looked at the clock. It was 7:45. “I need to run. Love you both.” She tried to wrench herself out of Simon's grip, but he held tightly. Lauren was used to their little games in the morning. It was nice to see her mother happy again, but did she have to be happy with Simon? Her eyes rolled again as Simon kissed her mother deeply.
“Nasty,” she said under her breath. Her mother walked over to the table, picked up her purse and kissed Lauren on the cheek.
“See you tonight.”
Lauren wiped her cheek off. Simon drool. Yuck. “Bye mom.”
Simon took the last piece of toast off the table and buttered it quickly. “I'll pick you up at 2:30 this afternoon. Usual place. Hey Zach! Hurry up buddy! You don't want to be late for school!”
Her little brother Zach ran down the stairs with his Transformers backpack firmly in place. His mongoloid angelic face beaming as he caught a glimpse of Simon. Zach worshipped the very ground that Simon walked on. Lauren smiled when she saw Zach and he ran up and hugged her tightly.
“Taking...topark. I LIKE THE PARK!” he shouted out. Lauren smiled. Despite being told he would never be able to speak very well with Down Syndrome, Zach had the determination to learn to speak and say what was on his mind. If he had to shout it out, he would.
“Well there little buddy,” Simon said, giving his worst John Wayne impersonation. “I'm taking you to the park after school. Not right now.”
“Af... af... af...erschool.”
“And Lauren's going to come with us.”
Lauren nodded her head. She liked spending time with Zach. She had to spend a lot of time with him; she was technically his babysitter as soon as she was old enough. She never begrudged her mother for forcing Zach onto her. After their dad died, her mom really needed to keep working to hold the family together. Lauren looked after Zach, walked the two miles to his school to pick him up and catch the bus back home. She loved her little brother. In some ways, he was her best friend.
“I'm going to school. The bus will be here in a few minutes.” She ruffled Zach's blonde hair and smiled down at him. “Simon's picking you up, okay? Have a good day in school. I'll see you at 2:30.”
The bus was slowing down just as she reached the end of the long driveway. Why did her mom and stepdad have to get a house out in the boonies? Fifteen acres and they did nothing with it. No corn, no sugar or crops, no vegetables, no horses or cows. Simon paid someone to mow the lawns every week and a lady to come in and clean up twice a week. She stepped onto the bus and plopped herself down in the seat behind the driver.
“Hi Mr Casserta.”
“Morning there Lauren,” he said, pulling the handle to close the door. “How's your mom?”
“Good. Big lecturing day today. Mr Mike's in Vietnam on some dig.” Mr Casserta was one of her mom's students. He was getting his Masters in history. Why he was driving a bus was beyond her. Lauren pulled out her math book and went over the material for her third period test. Angles and quadrilaterals and theorums and 3, 4, 5 triangles. None of it made a lot of sense.
The bus pulled to a stop a fifteen minutes later in front of the school and Lauren got off, waving to Mr Casserta and walking in the same direction that everyone else was. The common room at Greville High was jam packed with students, the noise level was tolerable. So many students chatting, eating, drinking and playing music that it all blurred into one semi-ambient noise. Jason and Marie were sitting at the furthest table away from the door, so Lauren moved between tables, around people and things blocking her path, through to the stage area.
“Morning guys,” she adi, heaving her backpack and trumpet case onto the table. “I need to tell Mrs Hennessey after band exam today that I can't make it to practice after school. I got a dentist appointment.”
“That sucks. Simon giving you any more grief over your math studying?”
“Of course,” she said, rolling her eyes. “You know Marie, I get so sick of him looking at me like I'm stupid every time I sit down and get him to explain the 3, 4, 5 triangle stuff to me. I don't get it now and I don't care if I ever get it. Geometry just sucks.”
“Yes it does. At least we don't have to do math after this year. Oh hey, my mom's out of town this weekend. Come over and we'll have a party. It'll be so cool. Just the three of us, with all the pizza, chips and coke we can stuff in our faces.”
“Mom also got the pool cleaned out,” Jason added. “Finally. The end of school for this year and we'll be seniors! I can't wait. We get to boss around the freshman, cut in front in the lunchline with senior privilege.”
“Yeah, I'll be over this weekend,” Lauren said, ignoring Jason's outbursts about being a senior. She'd have to start thinking about college. The careers advisor had come to her English class and said that they should start applying for schools at the beginning of their senior year and offered some advice for those who didn't want to bother with more school.
The bell for class rang, and the noise of the common room heightened as chairs scraped the floor, bottles and empty food wrappers were thrown and tossed into the garbage cans and the students collectively groaned at the thought of a final exam for their third period class.
She was pushed down the hall to the math and sciences wing of the school, listening to lockers slamming, other students chatting and the occassional person she knew said hi and good luck. Light poured in through the hallway windows and Lauren tried to remember what 3, 4, 5 triangles were, how to test theorums, and how to work the sine function of her calculator.
SOHCAHTOA. SOHCAHTOA. Sine is opposite over hypotenuse; cosine is adjacent over hypotenuse; tangent is opposite over adjacent. That'll be the only thing I remember. I hate math.
Lauren trudged on towards her math class. Mrs Fairfield standing outside the door acting like a nonthreatening bouncer in her pick sweater and black miniskirt. After she took her seat next to Mr Know It All Bryan Fischer, she rifled through her backpack and made sure that she brought a calculator, protractor and a pencil to class.
“Ready for the exam? My dad spent most of last night quizzing me. Got to bed at midnight and woke up at six to do more studying. After this, I can go home, because dad's going to pick me up since I don't have any more classes because I'm on a short day.”
“Great Bryan. I have band after this, so I know I'll do really well on one exam at least.”
He started yammering on again and Lauren didn't pay any attenttion to him. She was caught up in her own thoughts and how badly she was going to fail this exam. “Epic failure,” she told herself quietly.