Something in the Way

By: Jessica Hawkins
Something in the Way, 1


1





Lake – 1993





It seemed unfair, spending three hours a day in a classroom during summer, only to wait another thirty minutes in the parking lot. There were things I could do about that, like walk home, or tell my parents my older sister was always late to pick me up—but either of those would inevitably lead to an argument or two. Dad would yell at Tiffany. She’d take her punishment out on me.

It wouldn’t do much good now anyway, with only two days of summer school left. I hadn’t gotten my license yet, so what right did I have to complain? Instead, I did what I had every other afternoon and took out one of the books I needed to read before summer ended.

Some pages later, Tiffany came around the corner, screeching to a stop at the curb. “Get in,” she said, as if I were making her late for something—even though I’d done nothing but wait in that same spot for forty-five minutes. “Come on. Hurry up.”

Gainfully unemployed, my nineteen-year-old sister lived at home, ate Mom and Dad’s food, and had an allowance my dad constantly threatened to cut off. She had one job only—take me to and from school.

Rolling through stop signs on the drive home, she explained the rush. “If Brad calls, I don’t want to miss it. I’ve been waiting ages for him to ask me out.”

It would’ve been easy not to care that she was driving fifteen miles over the speed limit—the windows were down, the breeze warm, and there were still six weeks left of summer. But Tiffany knew better. “You’re going to get pulled over, and Dad’ll take your car away,” I said.

“Maybe for a day, but I’d get it back.”

“Can’t you just call Brad and ask him out?”

“Not unless I want to look desperate,” she said with an air of knowing, as if she were imparting wisdom. In a way, she was. I had no idea about these things. “You want to watch music videos later?”

“I have reading to do.”

“You’ve been reading or doing homework all summer,” she said. “Your class is practically over. Relax.”

University of Southern California wasn’t looking for ‘relaxed’ students. According to Dad, summers were for “weeding out the lazy kids”—like my friends, who were probably at the beach. “I will, in two days.”

“Then we should do something this weekend. Something cheesy, like the Fun Zone at Balboa. Get ice cream bars, like we used to when we were kids.”

One thing about Tiffany, I could never predict what she’d say next. Most days, she didn’t want me anywhere near her. Others, she’d burst into my room, hop on my bed, and ramble on about her day. She had only two speeds—annoyed older sister or best friend. I preferred the latter . . . unless I was in the middle of studying for something important. “Maybe,” I said.

With an eye-roll, she turned up the radio for “Runaway Train” and sang all the way home. She parked along the curb of our cul-de-sac, close to the next-door lot where they were doing construction.

One of the hard-hatted men whistled at us. “Hey. Blondie.”

Tiffany looked through her window. “What?”

“Come here a sec.”

Why should it surprise me that Tiffany responded? If a man had eyes and they were aimed in her direction, she noticed. That might not have meant much if it only happened once in a while, but Tiffany was a California beauty through and through.

There’d been a lot of arguments about the construction since it’d started earlier that summer. My father didn’t like the noise, the dust, or the men he was sure were looking at my mom and sister. It hadn’t involved me, so I hadn’t paid much attention. But if he’d been that upset about the men looking at Tiffany, he definitely wouldn’t want her talking to them.

Tiffany slanted the rearview mirror, brushing her bangs side to side and forward again. She puckered her lips. “You have any lipstick?”

I carried tins of Candy Kisses lip balm in my backpack, flavors like cherry vanilla, bubblegum, and my favorite—watermelon. Here I was, entering junior year of high school, and I was still “too young” for makeup. Even though my friends wore it. Even though Tiffany had been granted that privilege the summer before her freshman year. I didn’t care too much about stuff like that, but I was still a little protective of my lip balm. My allowance was finite.

I rummaged through my pencil pouch until I found cherry vanilla and handed it over. It was nothing to Tiffany, who dug her finger into it, spread a ton over her lips, smacked them together, and tossed it into my lap. “Thanks.”

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