The worst part about being grounded was not being able to spend time with Sky and Red, though I still saw Red in Church on Sunday’s. She’d make faces at me from her pew. I’d snicker and then turn, only to get the look of fire and brimstone from my mother. I heard her voice in my head as she stared at me. “What on God’s green earth is wrong with you, snickering in God’s house? IN GOD’S HOUSE NO LESS! We’ll just see about that when we get home, Miss Irreverent -if you even live that long! God might just throw a lightning bolt at you any minute now, and I wouldn’t blame him at all! Not one little bit!” I was pretty sure that wasn’t going to happen, since I wasn’t wearing jeans. I did say a quick prayer of apology though, just in case. Better safe than sorry was my motto! Red’s mom ended up re-seating her family in the back of the Church, after she exchanged exasperated looks with my mom. It was an enactment of the unspoken “Mom Handbook” pact, though Red and I weren’t privy to which rule it was. My mom as part of the “Mom Handbook” team, would’ve slammed the gavel and passed the act immediately. She believed in efficiency. I was pretty damn sure that Red’s mom had concocted and buried the rule deep within the “Mom handbook”. It would’ve taken a team of NASA scientists to find it, and it would’ve only come to light after years of research. I knew where Red got her “wicked genius” from. There was no further explanation necessary after that maneuver.
Sky and Red were both my lifeline to the outside world. They knew things that I didn’t, because my mom had decided that I was going to attend a Catholic High School. They both attended public school. I was none too keen on that idea! I loved All Saints, but the thought of leaving my friends behind to go to a Catholic High School was just too much! For me, it was a sentence worse than death.
The first couple of days were mind-numbing. I was forced to wear a deep navy blue skirt, and a blue, button down oxford shirt. Of course the uniform didn’t fit properly because I was so large. Every morning that I looked in the mirror I wondered if that day would be the day that I popped right out of it. It reminded me of those biscuits that would only open if you gave the package one hard whack on the kitchen counter, and then the gooey contents spilled out the sides. I could’ve shot Ralphy’s eye out with the top button of my shirt alone; no BB gun was needed! It wasn’t “A Christmas Story”, it was more like “A Nightmare Before Christmas”. Contents under pressure. POOOOF! Hmm mmm, poppin fresh fatty! The impossibly skinny, navy tie completed the hideous ensemble. It was utterly humiliating as well as unflattering.
The jean-wearing going to hell conspiracy was there too. The teachers all felt the same way about it. Jeans were invented by Satan plain and simple, and God help you if you openly admitted that you owned an acid-washed pair! That meant you had to pack a lunch for confession, as well as a light snack. I personally wanted to find the person who started that rumor and flick them in the forehead for being so foolish! I wouldn’t have though. You can’t be a good street fighter if you are uncoordinated. That was just reality.
I thought that it was more important what you did when you wore the jeans that mattered the most, and I said so in class. My rebellious and outrageous idea didn’t go over too well. Fellow heathen Bryce and I ended up on our hands and knees in the teacher’s lounge. Our punishment for such insubordination meant that we had to scrub the floor with a toothbrush. That sucked! What made it a little more bearable though, was Bryce started to hum songs from Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” album. The irony of it sent me into a fit of giggles. Bryce just looked over at me, grinned, and threw up his index and pinky fingers and banged his head. “ROCK AND ROLL!” He whispered to me. That sent me over the edge, and I let out a squeal of laughter that could be heard all the way down the hallway. We were promptly separated.
Mr. Carter, our Theology Teacher, changed my punishment and told me to memorize Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven”. He just sat there at his desk across from me with a smug look on his face. He thought that he had gotten to me, and he enjoyed every moment of it. He said in his most authoritative voice, “Perhaps this will open your mind to the possibility that genius can only be found in the words of the true literary masters, and not in that God awful music that I know you listen to!” I just rolled my eyes and said nothing. What he didn’t know was I had already memorized Poe’s poems by the time that I was eleven, and had read “To Kill a Mockingbird” by the time I was twelve. I played along, but I took tremendous satisfaction in knowing that the joke was in fact on him! Some “punishment”!
There was the one thing that I excelled at in my new school. I filled up my demerit card faster than anyone else. I was a pro! My mom didn’t think that was an achievement to be proud of at all, and she promptly told me so at the end of every month when she read my progress reports.
“Elizabeth Anne! Why can’t you just buckle down and focus?” she’d say to me, after she read about my latest heinous act of heathenism. “This is shameful!” Sometimes she would throw in “I know that I raised you better than this!” It depended on how horrible the atrocity was that was listed in the report. In her mind, not only was I headed straight to hell, but I was also driving the bus to get there. All aboard! Beep Beep! I did have the good sense at least not to make the beeping horn noises during her lectures. One had to draw the line somewhere, and I figured that was as good a place as any in which to do so. It also kept me out of trouble. I liked to write down all my sins in alphabetical order so they were easier to remember. My “B” slot had been filled earlier that week. I might not have been that accomplished a student, but I knew that blasphemy was worse than beeping! By keeping that beep to myself, it shortened my sin list for Saturday confession. It was a win win for all involved; me, my mom and the priest!
The only comfort that I had in my new school was the fact that Bryce was there. He had gone to All Saint’s too. He was just cool, and he knew how to play guitar. He also threw the best parties. It was at one of his cool parties that I learned a rather embarrassing science lesson. I had chosen to wear a beautiful teal knit sweater. As I walked down the stairs to his basement, I noticed that it was completely pitch black. The only light that was on glowed purple. You couldn’t see a damn thing! I heard someone yell “Well, Beth’s here”! How could anyone possibly know that it was me? As I stood there next to that purple light and pondered that, I happened to look down. I got my answer. My entire bra glowed through my sweater! I was a human walking bra with glowing white teeth. Social tragedy had struck once again. I wanted to run out of there, but I was frozen in that spot like a deer in headlights, only the headlights cruelly belonged to me! There was no escape. The last thing that I wanted people to remember was the image of the bra running up the stairs. I chose to stay and suck it up. I couldn’t decide whether that either was bravery, or foolishness. Perhaps it was both. The only relief that came out of it was that I did get to dance with a lot of people, although I couldn’t turn off the circus announcer voice in my head. “Step right on up folks! Step up and dance with the amazing, glowing walking bra! One night only! Here’s your chance to be a part of it!” My luck!
My mom didn’t mind me going to parties over at Bryce’s house because she knew that his parents would be there to supervise everyone. It got to be a little tricky when it came to going to parties at Sky’s house. It definitely took some creative, “outside the box” thinking on our part to convince my mom to allow me to go over there. My mom was not a fan of her mom to say the least. Sky’s parties were the best though! Her mom would buy us beer, and let us listen to loud music. Red and I could do things over there that we never in a million years could do at our houses; not if we wanted to live to see seventeen! Our mother’s would’ve killed us and buried our bodies in the back yard, and no one would even know. They would’ve driven right over to Church and attended prayer group afterwards. They would’ve gotten away with it too, because they were scary. Scary and smart. No one would even think to question either of them.
One Saturday night, Sky had a party planned. We told my mom that it was just a weekend sleep-over. Of course, my mom drilled us with a million “mom” questions. “Who exactly is going to be there?” she eyed us suspiciously when she asked the question. “Just me, Red and Sky mom” I answered. I should’ve let Sky or Red answer her. I would later come to regret that decision. Reluctantly mom agreed to allow me to go. We grabbed my stuff, and walked out the door before she could change her mind.
When we got to Sky’s house, the party was in full swing and there was booze everywhere. Red and I high-fived each other as we walked into the kitchen to grab a beer. We talked, and drank, and laughed, and drank some more until both of us were completely shit-faced. Hours passed. Sky was a little more sober than we were, but not by much. Suddenly the phone rang. I heard someone yell “turn down the damn music! I can’t hear” as I walked out of the bathroom. The room was suddenly very quiet. Sky came around the corner of the kitchen and held the phone, looking positively panicked. She put her hand over the mouthpiece. “Beth, it’s your mom!” she whispered, only it came out a lot louder than she intended. One thing that drunks are not good at is whispering. “Holy shit!” I yelled. I was completely incapable of being quiet sober, and being drunk amplified my voice to the equivalent of a drill sergeant. We had reached def-con four on the “up shit’s creek” scale. “What’d I’d say her” I slurred. Sky just looked at me and rolled her eyes. She whipped the phone cord around the wall, said “Damn it!” and walked back into the kitchen. I couldn’t hear the rest of the conversation, so I just slid down the wall. There were only two things that I needed in that moment; sobriety and a prayer. Since I was capable of neither of those, I just sat there like an idiot and waited for Sky to come back. When she did, she had Red with her. They pulled me up to my feet, and shoved me up the stairs to Sky’s bedroom. It was a labor of love. “Beth, your mom is on her way over here right now to pick you up” Sky shrieked. Red interjected with “But she’s drunk!”
“Yeah no shit! Tell me something that I don’t know!” Sky shot back, and she began to walk around her bedroom. Sky thought better when she walked. Some of her most brilliant ideas came to her when she paced, and she was definitely pacing now. I couldn’t watch her, because it was hard to stay focused. “What are we going to do?” Red asked. “She smells like a damn brewery! There’s no way in hell that her mom is not going to know that she’s completely hammered!” That’s when it happened, Sky had the moment of brilliance that she was known for. She reached up on top of her dresser and grabbed the bottle of perfume she had sitting there. She untwisted the top, and threw the contents of the bottle at me like she was a priest performing an exorcism.
“I can NOT believe that I am wasting a forty dollar bottle of perfume on your drunk ass!” she hissed as she splashed me. That was definitely a prayer that I had never heard of before. She was livid! Red just laughed. “Well, look on the bright side. At least she smells better!” Sky was not at all amused. I couldn’t help but laugh at that one myself. It did nothing to ease the tension. “You owe me a bottle of perfume” she breathed as she finished. On top of being drunk, I smelled like a walking perfume ad. I already had a headache, and that smell made it much worse. I wanted to yak, but I chose to swallow hard and think positive thoughts. It didn’t help, but it gave me something to focus on.
At that moment, we all heard the doorbell ring downstairs. Sky and Red balanced me as I tried my best to walk down the stairs. I saw people as they frantically jumped over furniture, and ran around trying to find a place to hide. One of our friends ran smack into the sliding glass door. He was too drunk to realize the door was closed. Damn that glass cleaner and beer goggles! I started to laugh hysterically until the front door opened, and I saw my mother standing there. It suddenly wasn’t so funny.
If looks could kill, I would’ve been dead right on the spot. I had never seen her so angry in my life, and that was saying something! The only thing that she said was “Elizabeth Anne, get in the car. NOW!” The def-con level on the “up shit’s creek” scale shot up to ten. We were at nuclear levels at that point. She was eerily calm. Frightfully calm. As drunk as I was, I knew that it was bad. I pictured the witch from the “Wizard of Oz” in my head. “I’ll get you my pretty! And your little dog too!” She didn’t say one word on the way home, and that truly scared the shit out of me. I tried not to think about it, because the motion of the car and the blur of the trees whizzing by made me nauseous. I was more focused on not puking in the car. No sense in fueling the fire! It took every ounce of consciousness that I had not to throw up. The only thing she said to me when we got home was “Get upstairs, get undressed, and get into bed.” I was too drunk to argue.
I crawled on my hands and knees up the stairs, and into my room. The perfume smell was so strong that I made a half assed attempt to get undressed, just to get away from it. It was completely overpowering. With my abandoned clothes on the floor, I crawled into bed and prayed that the room would stop spinning. It was hell on earth! Maybe there was a connection between wearing jeans and going to hell after all. I made a mental note to debate that further as I drifted off to sleep. Sometime during the night, my mother brought in a large trash can and placed it next to my bed. I didn’t notice that until the next morning.
Very early around 7 am, I smelled bacon frying. I rolled over, looked at the clock and cursed its existence. Why was anyone up at this ungodly hour, and why were they making breakfast? The smell was so powerful that my mouth started to fill with saliva. Nausea didn’t even begin to cover it. I slowly sat up, rubbed my eyes, and tried to adjust to the obnoxious morning light that poured into the room from my window. At that moment, my bedroom door flew open. There stood my mom with a huge grin on her face. “Wakey, wakey! Eggs and Bakey!” she said, as she walked towards me. In her hand was a plateful of bacon, and runny eggs. She held it under my nose. “Look what I made for you” she said, as she took the fork and cracked open one of the yolks. It oozed across the plate. She knew that I hated eggs over easy. Wicked genius! That was all it took. I started to dry heave immediately. She slammed the plate down on my nightstand, grabbed the trashcan, and put it under my mouth right as the first wave of vomit came out. She always had perfect timing. When I was done, she said “That plate is part of your punishment. You had better eat every damn morsel, and be grateful for it. There are poor, starving children everywhere in the world who don’t go around getting drunk. They have more important things to think about, and drinking isn’t one of them! I hope that you feel like hell! Maybe next time you’ll think about that!” Needless to say, I was grounded yet again.