22 November 2006

Story: The Circus

Misc Story.  Fiona will do anything to go to the circus.  And she has quiet an adventure on the way there, but it lands her across the lap of her Brazilian "brother."

The Circus
by Breanna Carter

The only thing I ever wanted was to go to the circus. Of course, my family made that nearly impossible, always busy with their lives, taking their cars halfway across the country while I begged and pleaded to come along so I could be dropped off in the next town over, at the circus. As a ten year-old, little things like that would make me happy. But no one listened, so I decided to go myself.

I woke up early that morning, before the sun rose. The house was eerily empty, but I paid no attention as I dressed myself in my jeans and T-shirt that said "Answers are what we have for other peoples problems." I knew I'd get at least a comment or two on it. I always did.

I crept silently downstairs althogh I wouldn't be able to wake anyone up anyway because nobody was home. Feeling the cool air hit my face when I got outside, I knew I was free, and I was going to the circus.

I walked a couple of blocks to the busstop and caught the first that was going to the city I wanted. The bus driver opened the door for me and I noticed he was an old balding man, stooped over the wheel with a sad pathetic look on his face. A younger man stood behind him, messing with his hair and checking himself out in the mirror. I stepped on, dumped my coins in the machine and sat in the seat behind the driver because the rest were occupied. Of course, when I sat I realized why this seat was available: someone had evidently left the window open during a rainstorm and both seats were soaked. Great.

"... all this dandruff," the younger man was saying. "Damn Head & Shoulders... doesn't help at all."

The bus driver glanced at him in the mirror. "To a bald man, dandruff is a thrill," he replied.

"Well you can have mine," the guy said, then nearly fell over when the bus driver made a sharp turn.

I let out a slight giggle, picturing how amusing it would have been if he fell. Then the two most popular girls in school got on the bus in their short skirts and tiny shirts. Alyssa and Kathryn... my worst nightmares. While my hair was frizzy and I ore worn T-shirts that had been my brother's at some point in time, their hair was perfectly straight and clothes brand new and expensive. And they made sure that I didn't forget.

"Ew it's frizzy Fiona," Alyssa said when she caught my eye.

"Ohmigod!" Kathryn shrieked. "Ew!! What's she doing here?"

I didn't say anything, just adverted my attention to the dandruff guy who was still messing with his hair. Lucky for me, the only seat that'd emptied was the one directly behind me. So now not only as my butt wet from the water in my seat, but my two least favorite people were behind me, giggling and talking about me... and I could hear it all.

"I heard she doesn't wash her hair."

"Or brush it."

"I bet we could stick a pencil in it and it'd stay."

"Look at her gross clothes. I bet she has to shop at Goodwill."

"Because her mom's poor." Giggles. "I heard they had to eat at the Salvation Army for Christmas."

From the bus driver's mirror I could see the old lady behind them move inbetween their heads. Great, was she going to make fun of me, too? "A little gossip goes a long way," I heard her say and smiled.

Neither understood so Alyssa said, "whatever." But at least they spared me from anthing else until they got off the bus each saying "bye, Loser."

The old woman gave me a sympathetic look and I shrugged to let her know I was used to it. The dandruff guy was still messing with his hair. The bus driver looked bored out of his mind.

I looked out my window and noticed that we weren't even close to the city yet. Clouds were forming in the sky. And of course I'd forgotten my umbrella. I sighed and leaned my head against the window. The trees whipped by quickly. When oh when would we get to Marfil?

Sometime later, I felt myself being shaken. "Hey.... hey!" someone was yelling in my ear.

I popped open my eyes to see dandruff guy towering over me. "Are we in Marfil?" I mumbled, wiping the drool from my cheek.

"Marfil? This bus doesn't go to Marfil..."

"It doesn't? But I thought it said..."

He chuckled. "That's 'Arfila.' Completely different place."

I groaned leaning my head back against the window. The sun was high in the air so I must've slept for an hour or so. I turned around and noticed that I was also the only person aboard.

"Where are we?" I asked.

"Lomas... the closest you're going to get to Marfil," the bus driver said. "Unless you want to go back downtown and catch another bus that actually goes there..."

"No, no... I think I'll be okay walking, but thanks. For waking me up, too."

"No problem," they both said as I got out of my seat and stalked out of the door. The sky was overcast on one side, but on the other the sun was beating down on me. I stood there for a moment trying to figure out where I was.

"That way," the dandruff guy said, pointing towards a mountain where the sky was overcast. I thanked him then started my hike. In the city, mountains are rare, so I wasn't used to climbing them. Not to mention there was no sidewalk so I was walking in the ditch and just barely missed getting plummetted by a couple of cars. Within minutes I was dripping with sweat and panting like a dog on a hot summer day. I also felt my face beginning to sun burn. But I kept hiking, praying that a bus to Marfil or even a car with a non-crazy driver would pick me up and take me the rest of the way.

The mountain was huge, and since I wasn't used to climbing, it took me about thirty minutes to get halfway up. No cars or buses had offered to pick me up yet which was really sucking and I wished for a place to sit. Even though the clouds had moved over the sun, it was still really hot. My hair was matted to my face... where's a rubber band when you need one?

As if things couldn't get any worse, when I was almost to the top it started raining. And I don't mean sprinkling or even light rain... but pouring!! The cars weren't expecting there to be a person on the side of the road anyway, but in the rain it was worse because they couldn't see me! So I plopped down in the grass under a tree, hoping it didn't start lightning, and stayed there a while, watching rain drip down my face. By the time the rain finally slacked up I was soaked and muddy. The clouds were gone and now the sun was shining full blast. But it was humid so I stayed soaked and sweating.

When I got to the top of the mountain I looked over the edge at my city. Everything was so beautiful from up there... I almost forgot about my aching legs and soaked socks. I sighed and turned around, seeing a sign gleaming underneath the sun: "30 minutes of exercise a day could save your life." And I laughed. I'd done enough exercise in one day to last me for weeks!

I walked farther, easier this time because it was downhill, and soon found a convenience store with an eating area. I had ten soggy dollars in my pocket with my ticket to the circus, so I stopped to rest and have a hot dog.

And of course the person behind the counter was my brother's friend, Hunter, the hottest guy in the world. Just my luck.

"Wow, Fiona... you look like you've had quite a day," he said when I walked in.

I took a hotdog and handed him the $10, taking a seat at a booth and explaining my sad story. Since we were out in the boonies and he had no customers, he sad across from me and listened to my pathetic tale, patting my arm gently.

"You've had such a rough day. I'm so sorry for all that's happened. Is there anything I can do?"

My mouth was stuffed full of my second hotdog, but I tried to speak anyway. "You could take me to Marfil."

I don't think he understood me because he just smiled, not saying anything.

I finished my food, washed it down with a coke, then just relaxed a few minutes.

"So how much farther do I have anyway?" I asked.

"To Marfil? A couple of miles at least."

I looked outside to see the sun getting lower. That'd be just dandy to get to walk in the dark... no streetlights or anything. It was pure luck that I hadn't already gotten hit by a car, but I suspected it wouldn't be too long before that did happen.

As if God were listening to my thoughts, a man with a cowboy hat walked in the store. He wanted a pack of Camel's then decided to sit down and have a hot dog. Hunter and I were still talking about my horrible day.

Then the man said, "I'm going right through Marfil. I'd be happy to drop you off."

My day was suddenly looking up, except the sun was setting so it wasn't exactly daytime anymore. "Only if you don't mind," I said.

He stuffed the last bit of food in his mouth and motioned for me to follow him. I waved goodbye to Hunter, thanking him for his company, then hurried outside.

The man's name was Garth and he drove a pickup truck and listened to twangy country music. The song on the radio was terrible with whiney violins and the guy complaining about his life. "Take my wife, please," he belted. "She never gives me cheese. And although she weakens my knees... she loves you so take her please." It was horrible.

Things were going okay, except my bleeding ears, until I saw flashing lights behind us. Garth didn't slow down... if anything, he went faster.

I cleared my throat. "Aren't you going to pull over?"

"Shut your mouth, kid."

I did as ordered, shifting uncomfortably. I'd thought things couldn't get any worse...

... Then the police yelled over the loud-speaker "pull over!" And Garth just kept going. And going. And going... just like the Energizer bunny. Then I heard a loud BOOM! and we slowed to a stop, the truck bobbing from side to side. He swore under his breath, grabbed a rifle, then pushed the door open and jumped outside. There was shooting for a few minutes then I saw Garth disappear into the woods and the gunfire stopped. By now it was pitch black outside.

I almost wet my pants when an officer popped up beside me.

He yelled something to the other officer then opened the door. "Step out of the vehicle, please, ma'am," he said in an offical tone.

"What did I do?"

"No questions, just step out of the car."

I gulped and hopped down, narrowly missing the ditch. The officer ordered my hands on the hood then searched my pockets to find only the change and circus ticket. Then he pulled out a tiny bag with white powdery stuff in it.

He showed it to the other cop then asked me how old I was.

"Ten," I answered.

"Where did you get this?"

"I don't know, honest! It wasn't there when I was at the convenience store... you can ask Hunter!" I had no idea what it was but the way they were looking at me, I knew it was bad.

They put me in the back of the cop car anyway and one talked on the radio while I relayed my story to the other. Then he lectured me about hitch hiking and the dangers of running away even though I assured him that I only wanted to go to the circus.

The two policemen discussed me as if I wasn't there, then decided to take me home.

"But what about the circus?" I shrieked. I hadn't hiked up a mountain in the pouring rain for nothing!

"Maybe some other time. Tonight the only place you're going is home. Unless you want to come to the station."

I pouted, but they didn't care. The driver made an illegal U-turn and sped back towards home.

"So what was so bad about Garth anyway?" I asked, leaning forward.

"Garth...?"

I waited for an explanation but they didn't seem to know who I was talking about. "You know... the guy who ran off into the woods?"

"Kid, that was Robert Lyons. He's wanted on ten counts of auto-theft and drug trafficking."

"Oh," I said, not quite sure what that meant, but it still sounded pretty bad. I slumped back in my seat while the two officers ate donuts and listened to their radio. What a crappy day it'd been. But everytime I'd thought it couldn't get worse, it had, so now I was just hoping it didn't get worse.

There were no cars in my driveway when they pulled up, but one of the officers insisted on walking me to the door and knocking.

I was shocked when I heard footsteps from inside. I actually thought I was hearing things until the door opened and I saw Daniel standing there. Daniel was the 16 year old exchange student from Brazil who'd been living in our house for about four months and was like a second older brother to me. Upon seeing him I welled up in excitement and would have attacked him except the officer was talking. Explaining the story of Garth, or Robert... whomever he was. Daniel nodded and listened carefully, keeping his eyes fixed on the officer until he finished. Daniel explained that the family was out of town, but he could take care of it from here, then thanked him and helped me inside.

"I'm so happy to see you!" I yelped, hugging him tightly.

He patted my back. "Fiona... you're a mess! Why don't you go shower up, then we'll talk."

Talk? What was there to talk about? Oh, who cares... I was home at last and nasty and wet and sore and just wanted to be clean and rest. So I took a long bath, soaking myself in the hot water. When my fingers turned pruny, I decided to get out. I dried off, pulled my hair into a ponytail, then changed into my pjs. Daniel was waiting downstairs in the living room watching tv. I skipped happily towards him.

He turned the tv off. "So what happened to you today?" he asked.

"I wanted to go to the circus," I said, then relayed the story to him exactly as it'd happened from beginning to end.

"You had me worried to death, Fiona. I didn't know where you were and when your parents called and said you weren't with them all I could think was the worst. They convinced me that you were with some friends, but as hours passed and you didn't call or come home... then it got dark... I was almost panicking."

"I'm sorry," I said. "I didn't even think to leave you a note."

"And not only that, it's dangerous going all the way over there by yourself! If nobody here would take you, you could've taken a friend or even asked me. And I know you know that getting into a car with a stranger isn't smart."

"But I didn't think about all of that."

He shook his head at me. "You worried me so much, Fiona."

"I'm sorry," I pleaded, wanting nothing more than his forgiveness.

He opened his mouth to say something, then closed it. He paused, rethought the words, then began to speak but stopped.

"What is it?" I asked, not eager to hear more lectures but bothered and curious as to what he wanted to asy.

"It's just that I consider you a sister and if my sister at home did something so stupid, well, I'd spank her. But you're not my real sister and I don't know that it's my place to do that to you."

I gulped. It wasn't uncommon for me to get whallopped every once in a while, and sometimes he just happened to be around. And it would be uber-embarrassing for him to spank me, but it was only fair since it was he that I worried and the alternative would be him telling my father which would only be worse. "I'm close enough to being a real sister, and I do kind of deserve it," I said, trying to be brave.

"Kind of? You *really* deserve it."

I blushed.

He didn't wait for me to say more, just grabbed my arm and pulled me over his lap. I tried not to struggle but it was hard seeing as I didn't like being in this position at all.

Daniel wasn't a big guy, and he was only sixteen, which was nothing compared to my father. So while my dad's hand covered my entire bottom in one swat and had me crying by two, I expected Daniel to be more gentle. He just seemed that type of person. Then again, I didn't take into consideration all of the working out he does and the fact that he was pretty upset with me. The first smack took me by surprise and he didn't give me time to breathe for the next few. And I was wearing pj shorts, which is more than I had on for my dad's spankings, but they proved to be no help at all. Within seconds I was squirming and bawling like a baby, begging him to stop.

"What you did was so dangerous," he reminded me with some really hard spanks. "And I never want you to do something so irresponsible and stupid again, understand?"

"Yesssss!" I wailed, trying to cover the smacks but failing miserably. I hadn't realized how hard he could spank until that moment.

And he kept it up, tugging down my shorts halfway through to spank me only on my panties. I howled like crazy, begging for mercy inbetween sniffles and cries. But he continued, determined to make an impression.

"Are you ever going to do something like this again?" he asked.

"No!" I promised, still trying to dodge smacks.

"Good beacuse you will be spanked again if you do it, got it?"

I nodded as he finished up with two extra-hard smacks. He pulled my shorts back up as I lay there, sweating and crying, tired from all the squirming and still fatigued from all the walking I'd done.

I could feel him breathing heavily, as if he were nervous. He rubbed my back softly to ease my cries, then helped me up when I'd calmed down a little. I hugged him tightly then eased down next to him, lying my head on his shoulder.

"Are you okay?" he asked.

I nodded. "A little hungry."

"Come on, I'll fix you something to eat."

We walked to the kitchen together and he popped a pizza in the oven then sat down next to me listening to me tell my misfortunes in a brighter light -- like talking about the dandruff guy, or the exercize sign, or running into Hunter.

"What do you say we try again tomorrow?" Daniel said. "And hopefully take the right bus."

I smiled. "That'd be great!"

12 October 2006

Story: Too Drunk

Misc Story.  Melissa and Emmy are college students who can't help but party it up while they're studying abroad in Mexico.  After a few drinks, both girls are intoxicated beyond belief and Melissa ends up telling her cute waiter friend that she, um, kinda likes spanking.  Imagine how she felt the next day when she didn't even remember telling him that, and he was more than happy to oblige.

Too Drunk
by Breanna Carter

The night started at my friend, Emmy's, favorite club. As young college students unable to drink in the states, we took every chance to intoxicate ourselves while studying abroad in Mexico. Of course, the abundance of gorgeous Mexican guys offering to buy us drinks didn't help any. This is why Emmy liked La Cucaracha -- loads of American-hungry guys just waiting to buy us alcohol. I, on the other hand, preferred the Grill -- another pulsating techno club -- and not because of the hott waiter, Caesar, that worked there and I'd befriended on a drunken night when he offered to walk me home. I just preferred it over La Cucaracha because... okay so maybe it was Caesar. And besides, who wants to go to a club called the Cockroach?

"Hola bonitas," the bouncers said as we pushed through the doors, smiling at them. We'd almost gained the status as regulars going there at least once, sometimes twice, a week. And since I had bright red hair and her's was streaked with blue, it's not like we blended in very well.

"Emmy, I really wanna go to the Grill," I whined.

"We won't stay here too long," she assured me, but she was checking her jacket and umbrella which meant she was planning this to be our primary club for the night.

The club was fairly small, at least a lot smaller than the Grill. There was a dance floor in the middle with a stage set up near some tables so all of the drunks could try to dance without falling off. Along the walls of the club were table that were separated by being elevated, almost as high as the stage. There were two bars, one in the back near the main dance floor and the other was hidden -- you had to go through about two "chill" rooms before you arrived there. And that's where Emmy and I headed, carrying our "free shot!" coupons. The music was so loud and there were so many people there I almost forgot that I would have preferred to be somewhere else.

"Besides, at the Grill they don't have free shots. And Caesar will be there all night, we can chill here and drink a while," Emmy yelled over the music.

Not that I had a choice in the matter -- we always did what she wanted.

We arrived to the bar and gave the bartender our coupons. He smiled and poured the shot glasses half-full of tequila then finished it off with something red... no idea what it was.

Emmy and I lifted the shots. "Salud!" she said, clinging her glass against mine.

"Salud!" I repeated, then tilted my head back pouring the oh-so-smooth tequila down my throat. In Mexico do as the Mexicans do -- party!

After our shots we made our way back to the dance floor. The music was great and I was in the mood for dancing, but I can't dance and watching everyone else made me self-couscious. Emmy, on the other hand, was going at it, like always. I desperately wished for a drink, anything to save me from standing there like a bump on a long in the mass of dancing drunkies. Which is worse? Looking like an idiot while dancing or being the only one not dancing?

"Dance!" my friend ordered.

"I need a drink."

She looked around the room, checking for guys who were scoping us out. Of course, there wer etons -- Emmy just has that effect on people. She's got the looks, the personality, the dance moves. She's just the type of girl who walks into a place and you just have to look. That's why she gets what she wants... she's too beautiful and fascinating. No one could say no. Which is why I liked Caesar... he chose me instead of her.

Emmy spotted some guys in the corner of the room with a bottle of tequila and the Mexican version of Sprite... I forget its name. They were definitely watching as Emmy made eye contact and kept dancing, now more provocatively. Within a matter of moments the guys would be coming over to dance with her,then they'd ask her where she's from and her name. Then they'd recognize me, ask me a couple of questions, and offer us drinks. I'd played this game before.

I inched up near my friend, almost able to feel the shot I'd taken. I swayed a little, still too self-conscious to get too crazy. Just as I'd known, the guys stalked over towards us. Two began dancing with Emmy while the other settled for me. I jus thoped he was too drunk to notice my lack of rhythm.

"Where you from?" the guy asked me in English and I figured it was about all that he knew.

"Louisiana," I answered, wishing for the drink already.

I peeked over at Emmy who was sandwiched between the other two guys and carrying on a conversation -- probably informing them that her mom is from Cuba.

After soberly enduring two songs, they finally asked her if she wanted a drink and out of politeness asked me, too.

"What do you want to drink?" Emmy asked me.

"Same as always," I mumbled.

She turned to the guys to translate that I wanted vodka and orange juice although I was practically a pro at saying that in Spanish by now. One of the guys stopped a waiter and ordered the drinks for us. I practically chugged it when the waiter put it in my hands.

"You like?" the guy I was dancing with asked.

I nodded. "My favorite," I shouted, now loosened enough to dance a little more. This made my dancing partner happy and before too much longer he ordered me another. Emmy and I were sufficiently tipsy which meant it was about time to ditch the guys. It was always easier in the Grill... it's darker and bigger. But judging by the alcohol they'd drank, I doubt they'd have noticed we were gone.

"Come on, chica," Emily called in the middle of a rap song that neither of us liked. "We're going to get another free shot." And she dragged me away, both of us waving goodbye to our drink-buyers (yes, their status had changed from dancing-buddies to drink-buyers).

We stumbled out of the club letting our bouncer friend know we'd be back. We knew where the guy passing out the free coupons was and although we'd already gotten one, he'd give us another pleading ignorance.

"Your guy was too cute! I'm jealous."

Wow... I'd managed to make her jealous. Kickass. "Yeah, and he was fun to dance with."

We picked up our coupons from the guy whose job is to stand in the streets shoving them in everyone's hands. He seemed bored so we struck up a conversation about the rain and some techno song he liked. He was cute and kept eyeing me. My self-esteem was getting higher by the minute.

On our way back to La Cucaracha I said "hola!" to about four different passerbys, Emmy and I talked about when we'd go to the Grill, and then we passed by a bar where a couple of Americans from our school stood on the balcony, bottles of beer in their hands.

"Jacob! Paul! Hey!" I yelled.

"Heya! What are y'all doing?" Jacob asked. His Tennessee accent was much worse than my Louisiana one, but he was super sweet and I loved hanging out with him, even though I rarely saw him outside of class.

"We're going to La Cucaracha. Getting our dance on!" Emmy replied.

"Come on up and have a drink before you go," he insisted.

"No money," I said. "Gotta take a cab home." It was partly true... I was low on cash, but probably wouldn't spend it on a cab.

"Don't worry about it," Jacob answered. "We gotcha."

I smiled and glanced at Emmy who shrugged.

"Oh come on, Emmy... yo ucan do a few minutes without dancing with all those guys. I'll buy you a drink, too," he coaxed.

"Fine, fine, you convinced me." We giggled and climbed up the stairs to the bar. They met us in the entrance way, giving us a half-hug and kiss on the cheek -- the Mexican way of greeting.

By the time we got back to La Cucaracha, we were barely walking straight and giggling abuot everything. We told almost everyone we passed in the streets "hola!" and even stopped a few taxi drivers just to carry on a conversation. They didn't mind... we were too cute.

Back in the club we took our shots and danced for about thirty minutes before I finally convinced her to go to the Grill. And I think the only reason she agreed was because the guys were paying me more attention and one was sharing his drink with me. I was pretty toasted.

The walk to the Grill was amusing, considering my drunken state and hers. I was more drunk than she with having drank heavier stuff and having a lower tolerance. We still talked to random people but didn't stop any cabs this time.

"Ooooh! Drunk call time!" I yelped when we passed a cluster of payphones. Each of us took our own. I tried to dial my calling card number but couldn't press the right buttons. It took me three tries before I finally got through, then another four tries to get both my account and pin number right, and two to get my friend's number. Cell phones are so much easier.

"Hello?"

"Katie! I miss you!" I yelled.

"Holyshit! Melissa! I miss you, too! What're you doin'?"

"I'm drunk as fuck. I'm about to go find Caesar and tell him how sexy he is."

She laughed.

"Dude, you should so be here. I'm so drunk," I repeated.

"Drink one for me!"

"You got it!" Emmy was off the phone and waiting impatiently. "I'm gone. Call ya tomorrow!" I hung up the phone and danced (yes, the same girl who hours earlier wouldn't dance to music was now dancing in the middle of an alleyway, alone, with no music). "Vamonos!"

The Grill was definitely hopping and the bouncers didn't give us a second look when we went inside, I almost tripping over the carpet.

"I've gotta find Caesar," I told her. "And drink one for a friend. You want anything?"

"I think I'll find someone to buy me one," she giggled.

I giggled, too, opening the door to meet loud techno, smoke, and flashing lights. I skipped to the bar and ordered my screwdriver, thinking of my friend stuck alone in Louisiana. I gulped on my drink then found Emmy already dancing with some guys. I tried not to dance, but I was too drunk. I wanted to look for Caesar, although I was so drunk I probbaly wouldn't recognize him.

I'd met him at the club one Saturday while I stood drunkenly near the wall watching Emmy make out with some guy. I'd told her I was going home then he approached me. We'd talked off and on all night, so it didn't surprise me when he wanted to know if I was walking alone. It did, however, surprise me when he asked me to wait for a little while and he'd walk me home. Totally hadn't been expecting that one. It turned out that he went to the university as a philosophy major and I just happened to go to that department to sit in on smoe classes. So we saw each other almost everyday and quickly became friends. And I had a super major crush on him, but he didn't know it... yet.

During the middle of my dancing, I spotted him dancing alone near the stairs. I told Emmy where I was going, grabbed my drink, then shoved through the mass of people towards him.

He smiled when I finally got over there and kissed my cheek. I was so drunk that I couldn't think or see straight.

"How are you?"

"I think you're very handsome," i replied. Of course, we were both talking in Spanish.

"I think you don't need that drink," he said, still smiling.

"I'm drinking this one for a friend. Then I'm finished."

We danced together for a few minutes then he had to go clean off some tables or something. i was out of drink and decided to get another while he was gone. He was there when I came back, still adorable, even though he wasn't smiling.

"I thought you were finished drinking?"

"Just this one," I slurred.

"You don't need anymore."

"I have a secret to tell you."

"A secret? What is it?" he replied, somehow managing to get the drink out of my hands.

"I like spanking," I whispered, giggling.

"Want to know one of my secrets?"

I nodded eagerly. He bent down to my ear and whispered gently, "I do, too, and you're definitely getting it because I'm not happy with you right now."

I looked into his eyes after he said that, not quite sure what was happening. Had I said that? Had he said that? He patted me on the shoulder then guided me to a chair and exchanged my drink for a bottle of water. The loud music stopped and I realized they were closing. By this time the room was majorily spinning and I lay my head on the table. I wasn't quite sure what was going on and couldn't comprehend the voices around me. Eventually, Caesar helped me up and out of the club.

"Emmy?" I stammered.

"I told her I'd take you home."

"No taxi money," I replied, not even sure myself what I was saying.

I leaned onto Caesar for dear life. "Come on, let's sit for a few minutes."

I nodded and plopped down on a bench next to him. "I'm a little drunk," I admitted.

"I'd say you're a little more than 'a little' drunk."

I shrugged. This wasn't the time to get technical... and my Spanish wasn't that great, so I just let him talk for a while. Don't ask me what he said... if he'd been speaking in English, I still wouldn't have known.

"Come on, here's a cab," he finally said, realizing there was no way I could walk all the way home.

"No money."

"I got it. Don't worry," he said, helping me into the car.

I was glad he was there because I couldn't even remember my address. He just rattled it off the top of his head, then instructed the driver on which turns to take and stuff.

The rest is kind of hazy. He helped me out, unlocked the house door for me and practically carried me upstairs. I idly wondered what my host parents would say if they happened to wake up, but luckily they didn't. He put me into bed and took my shoes off.

"I'll call you tomorrow," he whispered.

I wanted to tell him that he didn't have my number, but all that came out was a groan. next thing I knew an obnoxious noise was waking me up and it was daylight.

I moaned in an attempt to make whatever it was shut up. It didn't work. I tried swatting at things on the nightstand next to me. Still, to no avail. I almost peeled my eyes open to see where the noise was coming from, but it finally stopped. Finally. Now for some peace and quiet... until the noise sounded again. I agitatedly opened my eyes and noticed a cell phone on my nightstand about to vibrate itself to the floor. Who had left their cell phone at my bedside? And couldn't they wait until a reasonable hour to call me? And what kind of crappy taste in ringtones did they have...?

"Hello?" I grunted irritably.

"About time you answered. I've tried to call you three times already." He was talking to me in Spanish and fast. It took me a second to realize it was Caesar.

"Your ringtone bothers me," I replied. "What time is it?"

"It's after two. I'd like my phone back."

"Then why'd you leave it here?"

He paused. "Do you remember what we talked about last night?" he asked.

"Honestly? No. I don't remember much of anything. Why?"

"Because I owe you something. I left enough money for a taxi and my address next to the phone. Do you see it?"

"Caesar, I'm still sleeping. My eyes are closed!"

"Well open them and look," he ordered.

"I don't wanna..."

"Trust me, you really don't want me to come over there. It'll be much easier on you if you come over here. I'm giving you an hour to get here. If I haven't heard from yo uby then, you can be expecting a visit, got it?"

"Yeah, okay," I murmured. "See you soon." I lazily turned off the phone and glanced over to see the money money and his address scribbled down. I knew I had to go to his house because my host family wouldn't be delighted if he came to the house. But I was so tired...

Finally I pushed myself out of bed, fresh clothes and a towel under my arm as I made my way to the shower. It was a very short shower because someone else happened to be showering elsewhere in the house and got more hot water than me. At least it woke me up.

All fresh and clean, I stumbled out of the house and made my way downtown. Taxis usually don't congregate where I live, but luckily I found one not too far away. The driver knew the exact location in which the address was, which is comforting because I had not a clue. We made small talk about the usual stuff as he drove me down the narrow streets and around mountains. I was relieved when he finally stopped in front of a blue two story house and announced our arrival. I paid him in hopes that Caesar would give me a little more money so I could take another cab home: I had no idea where I was.

He met me outside. "There you are."

"Here I am."

He smiled, motioning for me to follow him inside. "My roommates are out of town for the day."

"Yay?"

He pushed open his front door. "You got pretty drunk last night."

"Just a little," I said, though the pain in my head proved otherwise.

He sat down on the couch. "You remember what happened last time you got really drunk?"

I plopped down beside him. "I met you," I giggled.

"Exactly. And remember what I told you about drinking?"

I pondered that for a moment, coming up with nothing.

"That it's dangerous to drink so much because anyone could find you wandering around alone and take you home with them."

"That's why I have you."

"You were drunk before we even met up. Someone could've come after you and Emmy on your way to the Grill."

"But they didn't. That's the important thing."

He shook his head. "A couple of drinks is fine. A little tipsy is okay. Completely wasted is not. It's dangerous. And I'm going to give you a spanking."

I froze. So that wasn't a dream? I'd actually told him that I liked that? "Uh... um..." I stammered. "Caesar, really, you don't have to do that."

"I know I don't *have* to, but I'm going to. So get rid of your pants and panties and get over my lap."

I shivered.

"Now, Melissa," he ordered sternly.

My stomach twisted into a thousand knots. I reluctantly pushed myself off the couch. No matter how much I was into this, it didn't help me become any less nervous. "Are you sure you want to do this?"

"Yes," he answered plainly, waiting.

I fidgeted and nervously tugged at the button of my jeans, finally getting them loose and pushing them to the floor. Shortly after, my panties followed and I uncomfortably fell across his lap wondering if he'd ever done this before.

He lightly rested his palm on my bottom causing me to quiver ever so slightly. I half-expected him to continue lecturing me, but instead he started spanking. I'd never actually been spanked like this before -- never as a punishment. So the first spank was much harder than I'd imagined and by the fifth I was squirming and yelping like you can't even imagine. He was spanking really hard!

"For someone who likes spanking, you could've fooled me."

"It hurts!" I replied.

"Good. Maybe you'll remember this next time you go out drinking," he said, still steadily spanking, concentrating on my sit spots mainly, because that's what go tthe most reaction out of me.

"I'm sorry for drinking so much," I whined.

"Only because you're getting spanked."

This was true. "I'll be more careful next time," I promised.

"Good, because if I catch you drinking that much again, you will not enjoy the spanking that follows. This will seem like nothing."

I wiggled and squirmed, whining at each smack that was inflicted upon my aching backside.

"And next time I tell you that you've drank too much, don't buy another drink, okay?"

"Okay, okay!" I howled. "I'll be good, I promise! Please stop... it hurts..."

He didn't stop, though. He kept it up until I was kicking and crying like a two year old. Then he picked me up and scooped me into his arms, kissing the top of my head.

"I'm sorry," I murmured.

He held me tightly. "Don't worry about it. Just don't ever drink that much again, okay?"

I sniffled, nodding. As if my headache hadn't been bad enough, now I had to deal with the pain in my backside, too!

20 September 2006

Story: Fed Up

Misc Story.  Juliana is irritated with her best friend, who seems to have fallen in love with the stupid, bible-thumping, air-headed Claire-Elizabeth.  She's also irritated with Christianity in general.  Eventually she unleashes all of her rage and anger, and her older brother steps in to see if he can remind her to chill out before she takes it too far.  (Very plotsy.)

Disclaimer - The following story represents the views on Christianity and religion which may be offensive to some.  If you are sensitive to this subject matter, please skip over this story (even though you'll be missing one of my fav stories!).

Fed-up
by Breanna Carter

"Band practice is actually kind of fun without Claire-Elizabeth," I told my best friend, Cameron, as I slid into the front seat of his car next to him.

"You should be nice to her," he admonished. "She's a good person and doesn't mean to come off as..." he paused, looking for the right word.

"Bitchy?" I completed.

"I was going to be nicer than that, but yeah... she's a bit bitchy. You can't blame her though, she just wants everything to be perfect."

I shook my head. It was a touchy subject with Cameron and me. He had been the one who wanted us to play as a band for his church. I mean, we needed the money, and a gig, but I really didn't want to be known as the Christian band, because we were far from it. Half of us were atheist, the half being me and the drummer, Dylan. Cameron was uber-Christian, but not so much that he annoyed us, and our other guitarist, Jade, was sort of Christian, but never went to church. Then we had Claire-Elizabeth who had practically begged to be in the band, and it annoyed me to no end... for a number of reasons.

First and foremost: she was a bible-thumper. She tried to shove religion down everyone's throats and figured I was an atheist from day one. She always brought her bible and insisted on praying aloud before band practice. It wouldn't bother me as much if she didn't always glare at me every Sunday when the preacher asked for everyone who hadn't accepted Christ into their hearts to come to the front. Another reason I didn't like her was because she practically drooled all over Cameron. He's *my* territory, thankyouverymuch. And lastly, she just barged into the band. I was the youngest and the only female. Now I had competition. And I had to get rid of it. But Cameron definitely wasn't helping.

"So we're going to practice for the tournament?" I asked Cameron, after a few minutes of him driving in silence.

"Yeah, we can do that. Claire-Elizabeth said she might stop by for a little while. She wants to see what all the DDR craze is about."

I scowled. What the hell... is it not enough that she ruined my band, now she has to ruin my arcade? Ohh, I would so get her back for this. "Sounds great," I mumbled. "Maybe those kids will be there so we can show off?"

"Sure thing."

"And Shaun said I could stay until midnight tonight, since the tournament is close."

Cameron nodded again, focused on driving.

I slumped down in my seat, trying to take my mind away from the fact that I was totally crushing on my best friend who had no interest in me other than just a friend. Dammit. I guess I could deal with it if it was anyone other than stupid Claire-Elizabeth that he wanted. Who could want her? All she did was twirl her hair on her finger and talk about Jesus and she really couldn't even sing that well.

It was dark when we pulled into the arcade. I could see the middle school kids through the glass: they were already on the machine. Hell, I'd even rather one of those brats win away Cameron's heart than Claire-Elizabeth.

"The kids are here," Cameron said, smiling.

I smiled back as he put on his beanie, stumbling out of the car in his baggy jeans. I pulled my hair back into a ponytail and stalked inside behind my friend, waving at the arcade workers because we knew them so well. They at least liked us, which is more than I could say for most of the people that went there. And it wasn't because of our age: They hated most of the kids our age. That's because they're obnoxious, though. Like a specific person I'll call "Holic Boy" because that's the only song he can play in heavy mode. And he thinks he's so cool.

When we got to the machine, the middle school girls were playing away, laughing at each other and playing in one of the easy modes. I gave a fake yawn and looked towards Cameron who was still smiling, then we put a quarter on the machine to reserve our next spot. These girls were trying to show off and it was mildly entertaining, since we were two levels better than them.

The most amusing part was when they were in the middle of a song and this pissed-off guy walks up and practically drags one of the girls off the machine. Ohhh I love drama. About halfway through the screaming match (though she was the only one who was actually yelling) I realized that this must be the girl's older brother and he was livid. Then, as if the fact that she was being a total brat wasn't enough, she turned to her friend and asked her to pick another song.

I glanced at Cameron, "I'd so slap the shit out of that girl if she was mouthing off to me like that.."

Cameron nodded.

I missed what exactly happened next, just that in a matter of seconds, he was carrying her under his arm out of the arcade. She was kicking and screaming to no end. It was great...

The girl's friend blushed and looked back at the crowd around the machine and asked if anyone wanted to play her friend's last song.

Definitely, yo.

I hopped up in my baggy jeans, smiled at the girl and let her pick the song, while I put myself on a harder level. She noticed me doing this and decided to pick a super hard song, but have no fear, I could pass it. Because I'm that awesome. And I impressed Cameron like you wouldn't believe. See, he's half-Asian, so when most people look at him they automatically think he's spectacular at DDR (because the game originated in Japan... and that should make a difference as to who's the best at it). And he really is that great, and the one who got me hooked for that matter... but sometimes I still manage to impress him, and everyone else, because they don't expect a girl, especially an American girl in baggy jeans, to play that well.

I played a few games before Claire-Elizabeth came trotting in with her Jesus shirt and conservative jeans on. I couldn't help but roll my eyes at her. The middle schooler gave a slight giggle at my annoyance.

"Hey, Juliana!" she yelped, and gave me a slight hug as if I wanted to touch her or something.

"Hey, Claire-Elizabeth!" I imitated, hoping she noted my sarcasm.

This was the beginning to a dramatic night.

I think it was bad enough that Claire-Elizabeth was there. That's what started off the crappy part of my night. Then Cameron had to go and pay so much attention to her, showing her how to play and congratulating her and all this lubby dubby crap that made me sick. THEN, to make matters worse, annoying "Holic boy" came in and decided he wanted to try and show everyone up, though he failed miserably. I don't just hate him because he thinks he's cool and he's not. It's the fact that he's completely cocky and doesn't give anyone a chance at anything. And he and his friends hog the machine and get all bitchy when someone else wants to play. Then he tries to pick everyone's songs and if they can't play it, he keeps bugging them to let him play. So when I actually did get the chance to play, without Cameron of course (because Claire-Elizabeth was hogging him), I was stuck playing with the middle school girl and Holic boy at my side trying to pick my songs for me. I'm completely capable of doing that myself.

So everything was going semi-okay until I was in the middle of a really super hard song... one that I'd played a few times before and only passed once. I was doing great when Holic boy walked up, straight in front of me (even if he's younger than me, he's still taller) to put a quarter on the machine. He blocked my line of vision and distracted me so much that I lost it... not only lost it with the game, but my temper, too.

"Excuse me, but do you have to fucking walk up in front of someone while they're playing?" I yelled, stopping in the middle of the game to turn and look at him.

"Huh?" he said, mouth dropped open.

"Huh?" I imitated, dropping my mouth like I was an idiot or something. "Did you not hear me? I said... DO--YOU--HAVE--TO--FUCKING--WALK--UP--IN--FRONT--OF--SOMEONE--WHILE--THEY'RE--PLAYING?"

"No need to yell. Chill out. It was a mistake."

"A mistake my ass, motherfucker. You wanna start something with me?"

"I'm not starting anything."

"Bull-fucking-shit. You've been prancing around here thinking you're all cool because you can play three songs on heavy mode. Woooooooow, you're sooooo awesome. Give me a fucking break. You're not awesome and you don't even play those songs that well. Just 'cause you can play Holic doesn't make you a god. Holic doesn't have anything but beat in it and I guarantee even these middle school kids can play it with enough practice." My pulse was racing and I hopped off the machine, clenching my fists. I was oblivious to the world around me. It was just me and this kid.

"Juliana..." I heard Cameron say in a calm voice, trying to talk me down. He seemed far off, though. I was going to finish what I'd started.

"What? You don't have anything to say?" I demanded to know.

"I don't owe you an explanation for anything," he said, folding his arms.

In that moment, seeing him standing there in his preppy polo shirt and khaki shorts, mouth full of braces, I hated him. Utterly hated him. I didn't do what I should've done... I didn't back away, didn't ignore it. Didn't try sweet payback by walking in front of him while he was in the middle of a game. That would've actually probably pissed him off more than anything else. But I didn't do it. I just got this burst of energy and shoved him as hard as I could, which was pretty damn hard. He actually somewhat lost balance and stumbled a bit. Hell yeah. I just shoved Holic boy.

Of course, before he could shove me back, or I could shove him again, the manager was already over there and Cameron was holding me back. It was kind of weird because I hadn't really noticed anyone being there until that particular moment. I realized that Cameron was talking to me... begging is more like it.

"Juliana, stop, please stop. Don't do this, don't do this. It isn't worth it," he was saying.

Then I realized I was fighting him because I wanted to pounce on this kid. And then the manager, Dave, began helping him hold me back until somehow I was pushed outside of the building.

"Hey, calm down," Dave told me.

I blinked, noticing that I was outside. I was so confused at what was happening and my pulse was still racing.

"Breathe," he demanded. I did as told, glancing from him to Cameron, then back to him.

"Sorry," I muttered.

"It's okay," he told me. They finally let go of me. I wasn't going to pounce. For now anyway. "But you should go home and cool off. Only because I know you're upset.."

I started to interject, but he held up his hand to stop me.

"I know you didn't mean anything by it, and honestly, I would've kicked the crap out of him myself. I'm only asking you to leave 'cause I like you guys and I want you to hang around here. If this kid gets pissed, he could take it up with my boss or even the police and you could get in even more trouble. Ya know?"

I nodded. "Fine, it's cool. Whatever," I said.

He patted me on the shoulder. "Hey, don't be mad. You can come back tomorrow and everything's cool, okay?"

"Yeah, okay." I glanced at Cameron. "You can stay here with Bible-Thumper. I'll find a ride home."

"Hey hey, don't be that way," Cameron said. "I'll take you home."

"I don't feel like riding in a car with her."

"She has her own ride."

Boys can be so confusing. "Whatever you want to do," I muttered and he went back inside to talk to annoying girl.

"You are so fucking awesome," Dave admitted.

I gave him a questioning look.

"I've wanted to see someone kick that kid's ass since I first saw him in here. And you did a fine job of it, and if anyone mentions it to me, I saw nothing and he is known to lie for attention."

I smiled. "Thanks, Dave."

"No problem. But settle down a bit. Go home, get some rest, and come back tomorrow. Maybe everything'll be all chill tomorrow."

"I doubt it, but whatever, it's cool."

Just then, Cameron came back outside without Bible-Thumper and I noticed her inside flirting with Holic boy. Ahh, good... flirt with someone as annoying as yourself. "Ready?" he asked.

"As ready as I'll ever be," I replied, smiling, then waved goodbye to Dave and stalked off.

"You're so lucky that Dave didn't ban us from there," Cameron lectured on the way home.

"Dude, Dave loves us. He'd never ban us. Besides, we make him so much money 'cause we play that game so much."

"Yeah, but if it gets up to his boss that he's letting random girls pick fight with guys in the arcade, he could lose his job."

"Okay, Dad," I said, looking at Cameron and rolling my eyes.

"I'm sorry! I'm just having a Dad moment. What would we do on Friday nights if we didn't go to the arcade?"

"Um, go out and get drunk like normal 15 and 17 year-olds?"

"Hey.. I don't..."

"I'm *kidding* Cameron. Geeze. You need to stop hanging out with Bible-thumper. She's got you brainwashed."

"Her name is Claire-Elizabeth," he told me, pulling into my driveway.

I shook my head at him. "Excuse me, sir. See ya tomorrow." I pushed the door open and ran to my house without bothering to say anything else to Cameron. What a crappy, over-dramatic night. Couldn't I just keep the drama under control?

Shaun was actually home when I got in, lying on the couch watching the Spanish channel.

"Why do you watch that? You don't speak Spanish.." I asked him.

"You're home early."

"You only watch the Spanish channel when I get home early?"

He rolled his eyes. "I watch the Spanish channel because it helps me become cultured, unlike some of us."

"I think you watch it because you have a thing for Latinas." I moved his feet out of the way and sat down beside him.

"That probably has something to do with it," he replied, putting his feet on top of me. "So what's up? Why ya home so early?"

"What is this? Twenty questions?"

"You started it with the Spanish channel question."

I shook my head and leaned against the couch, staring at the ceiling for a moment. I was drained from so much DDR and not numb enough from the pain I felt inside. Didn't have enough exercise. Dammit. Since my mom's wreck, the only thing that kept me going was playing at the arcade everyday. That's how I managed to become so good in such a short period of time. Instead of doing something semi-normal, like cigarettes or drugs or self-injury, I played DDR. I could get so soaked into the game. So numb. And it was like nothing else mattered... it was like my mom wasn't in a coma, like she was back at home waiting for me to get in. It was like everything was going my way for once. And the harder I worked myself, the more tired I would get and I could sleep better at night. And that's always a blessing.

"What's wrong?" Shaun asked me.

I looked at him. Oops, guess I'd been staring at that ceiling for a long time. "Nothing."

"You're a bad liar."

"Whatever."

"What? You are."

I shrugged. "I kind of picked a fight tonight."

"Kind of?"

"Okay, so I picked a fight with this annoying kid at the arcade and ended up getting kicked out." I sighed, looking back at the ceiling. "And Cameron lectured me, so you can skip it."

"Glad Cameron's ready to take on the parenting role," he teased.

"Yeah, with the dumb Bible-thumper girl," I scowled.

"Hey, be nice."

"Okay, Cameron."

He playfully punched me. "My name is not Cameron, Ma'am."

"Glad you clarified that, Sir."

"But hey... the thing that'll piss her off the most is if you're nice to her. They like people they can convert to their religion. So just leave her alone and she'll leave you alone. And take it easy with picking the fights, okay?"

"Who's ready to take on the parenting role now?" I asked.

"Your mouth's going to get you in a lot of trouble one day, Missy."

"Ugh, I'm going to bed," I announced, pushing his feet off of me. I stretched out and he got up and tackled me in a hug.

"Hey, I know things are rough, but they'll get better. And fighting or being mouthy isn't going to help, okay?"

I rolled my eyes. "I was going to bed so I wouldn't have to listen to your lecturessssss," I whined.

"You can't escape them," he answered, smiling.

I smiled back, still in his hug. I knew Shaun was right, though. I mean, yes, he was right about not being able to escape his lectures, but that's not what I meant. He was right about fighting and being mouthy not helping. After all, it was Shaun's mom, too, that was lying in the hospital, motionless. And he even had to deal with putting up with me in the midst of my hormonal stage. What could be worse than that? I guess being the one in the hormonal stage? Who knows.

*****

The next morning, or afternoon rather, I woke to the sound of Shaun pounding on my door.

“What?” I moaned, rolling over and putting a pillow over my head to block the sunlight.

“Cameron’s on the phone.”

“Tell him I’m SLEEPING!” I groaned wondering why the hell my brother woke me up just to say someone was on the phone.

“He wants to know if you want to go play DDR.”

I pushed the pillow off my head and glanced at the clock. “It’s only noon! It’s too early to play!”

Shaun opened the door. “I’m not a messenger, tell him yourself,” he said and threw the phone at me.

I scowled, wanting to throw it back at him but he’d already disappeared. “Hello?” I groaned irritably into the phone. Why would someone call my house if my cell phone is off? Isn’t that a good enough indication that I don’t want to talk?

“Hey, Juliana. Sorry to wake you up...”

“Yeah, okay. Why do you want to play at noon? We always go at night...”

“Well, see... Claire-Elizabeth figured we should have band practice this evening then afterwards there’s a Christian rock band she wanted to see.”

“And? What’s that got to do with DDR?”

He paused. “I’m going to the concert with her.”

I felt a pang upon hearing this and I’m not sure if I was more angry or hurt. “So you’re ditching me to go with Bible-Thumper?”

“I’m not ditching you.”

“Whatever. We *always* go at night.”

“Exactly, and I want to do something different tonight.”

I breathed heavily, on the verge of tears. “Okay, fine. Go with her... have fun,” I told him. “Forget about DDR. Who cares that the tournament is next weekend?”

“Juliana, don’t be like that.”

“Like what?” I questioned, now wide awake and sitting up.

He racked his brain, trying to think of a nice way to describe my attitude. “Look, you can always go to the concert with us.”

“I don’t want to go to the fucking concert, and I don’t want to go do DDR with you. Just forget about it. I’ll see you at band practice.”

“Juliana...” he began, then stopped.

“What?” I said irritably.

“Nothing. I’ll see you at five,” he said.

“Okay, bye,” I responded, turned off the phone, then threw it. I lay back down and put the pillow back over my head. At this time the thoughts wouldn’t leave my head. Cameron and I were supposed to be best friends. We ALWAYS went to play on Saturday nights. It was like an obligation! And I knew I was being selfish but it didn’t matter. I’d never ditch my best friend for some guy... especially if he was as annoying as Bible-Thumper!

From those frustrated thoughts came thoughts of my mom. She’d been a college philosophy professor. The day my dad died she proclaimed her atheism and set out for her PhD. She basically raised Shaun and me as freethinkers... she let us know that she didn’t believe in a Christian god, but we were free to have whatever religion felt right. Of course, what felt right, for both of us, was a mix of atheism and agnosticism. I leaned more towards the former while my older brother preferred the latter. My mom had just decided she was going to write a book a week before her accident. A week before a semi plowed into her tiny car... A week before Shaun and I visited her battered body in ICU only to find out that she was in a coma.

I pushed myself out of bed. No, I couldn’t think about her... it would just make me cry and I didn’t need to do that.

“Shaun, will you take me to the arcade?” I asked, interrupting his television program.

He glanced up. “Cameron’s not going to pick you up?”

“Fuck Cameron,” I said.

“Language, Juliana.”

I glared – as if he ad any right to say anything about my choice of words.

“Fine, I’ll take you after my show is over,” he gave in.

“Thanks,” I grumbled, stumbling to the shower. I tried to think about different things... tried to focus on new songs to pass, on which song I’d want to ply in the tournament, on what homework I still hadn’t finished. Of course, everything always went back to Cameron, and then I got sad again. Damn boys. I hate them.

*****

After playing DDR, and pretty damn well at that, Shaun took me to band practice, never questioning what went on between Cameron and me. I was still in a crappy mood, only more hating guys than previously, and brought my portable cd player with me to practice. I conveniently brought a loud, screaming, fuck-everyone band, because that’s the mood I was in.

“Hey, Juliana!” Bible-Thumper yelped when I came inside.

I grunted in response and Cameron gave me a “be nice” look that I ignored.

“You really should come see this band with us tonight,” she continued, same chirpy voice, “they are sooooo awesome and uber-spiritual.” Ew, she just said uber... remind me to never use that word again... “I bet the Lord speaks to everyone tonight! Great things will happen.”

I almost gagged. “Sorry, I have prior obligations and I don’t back out on friends,” I told her glancing at Cameron who was tuning his guitar.

She almost continued talking but Dylan walked in and saved me. “Heya!” he said, smiling and twirling a drumstick. “Sorry I’m late.”

Dylan was always late... and apologized every time.

“Oh it’s okay!” Bible-Thumper howled. “But Dylan, there’s an awesome concert tonight that you should come to with Cameron, Jade, and me.”

He eyed me and I shook my head slightly, to which he looked back at her and said, “sorry chica... I’ve got plans. But maybe take a rain check?”

Dylan also always had plans – which revolved around drinking tequila and seeing how many phone numbers he could get by the end of the night.

“Sure, a rain check would be great!” she responded, clearly oblivious to what his plans were. “Since everyone’s here, let’s go ahead and pray.”

I rolled my eyes and rudely began to tune my bass. I could see her waiting for me to stop out of the corner of my eye, then she gave Cameron a pathetic look so he would make me stop.

“Hey... Juliana... we’re going to pray,” he told me.

“So go ahead,” I answered.

They didn’t, though, but were going to wait until I finished. I tuned longer than necessary, just to be a brat, then stopped, much to their liking. I took this time to take out my cd player and plug my ears with Slipknot rather than her voice. They’d already started preying... I mean praying... and I saw Dylan glance up at me and grin. When I started the music, Claire-Elizabeth stopped talking for a moment, Cameron glanced up, and Jade gave me an admonishing look. But she kept going, all the way to the end.

I suffered through practice with Claire-Elizabeth trying to tell me how to play as if she knew anything about the bass. It reminded me of how great the previous evening was with her having not been there. This was torture.

When I was finally freed from the only form of Hell that exists, I approached Dylan. “So what’s up with you tonight?”

He shrugged. “Drink a few, smoke a few. The usual. You going to DDR?”

“No, I’m being ditched for Claire-Elizabeth.”

Dylan sighed and looked towards them. “Well, hopefully it’s a phase he’ll grow out of.”

“Hopefully,” I muttered.

“Well, you’re free to come with me tonight, if ya want.”

I grinned. “It’d be fun.”

“Yeah. I’ll give you a ride and everything.”

“Kickass, I’ll call Shaun and let him know.” I stuffed my bass into its case and called my brother – leaving out the details of smoking and drinking.

“You’re going with Dylan?” Cameron asked when I got off the phone.

“You have good ears,” I pointed out.

“Why don’t you go with us to the concert? It’ll be fun, safer...”

“In case you’ve forgotten, I’m an atheist. I think I’m doing well enough to put up with the music we play without having to go out and listen to someone else play it.”

“I really wish you’d give God a chance.”

“I really wish you’d get off my back about it.”

“Why do you want to hang out with Dylan tonight?”

“Why do you want to hang out with Bible-Thumper ever?”

“You know how Dylan’s weekends are. He always comes to church hung over. He smokes all the time. Do you really want to become like that?”

“What the hell. You had no problem with his lifestyle until she came into the picture.”

“I didn’t have any problem until my best friend decided she wanted the same lifestyle.”

“Best friends don’t ditch each other,” I said, throwing the strap over my shoulder to leave.

“Juliana... don’t do this. I care about you. I don’t want you to drink away your sadness.”

I glared. What right did he have to tell me I was drinking away sadness. “Stay out of it, Cameron.” And then I walked off.

Dylan was waiting for me in his car, smoking a cigarette and talking to Jade when I got outside. I threw my bass in the back and slipped inside next to my friend.

“You guys sure you don’t want to come tonight?” Jade asked.

“Positive,” I murmured.

“What’s the deal with you and Claire-Elizabeth anyway?”

“Nothing. Can we go?” I asked Dylan.

“Sure thing. See ya, Jade. Stop by if you want after the concert.”

“Definitely. See you guys later. Be careful.”

Dylan turned up the radio and backed out of the church parking lot (that’s where we practiced – not the parking lot, but the church).

“So you’re having a party at your place?” I asked. Dylan was 18 and rented a one-bedroom duplex in a not so great part of town.

“I wouldn’t call it a party – just the same people coming over to drink. Probably be about five or six of us.”

I nodded wondering who all would be there. His best friend, Bryan, probably... and more than likely the rest would be girls. I liked Bryan okay... he was a lot like Dylan in so many ways. They both wore baggy jeans and listened to the same music. And were both super fun... liked to do crazy things. Bryan’s hair was sort of long, and his eyes deep dark brown (like my brother’s) while Dylan had short hair, usually wearing a cap slightly tilted to the side, and had ice blue eyes.

We pulled into his driveway and Bryan was outside smoking a cigarette while talking on the phone. As we got out of the care, he turned the phone off and yelled, "took ya fucking long enough."

Dylan flipped him off and they laughed like a bunch of idiots. I rolled my eyes.

"Hey Juliana," Bryan said upon noticing me and gave me a hug. Yay! How much cooler was this than playing DDR with backstabber Cameron?

"Who all is here?" Dylan asked.

"Travis and his girlfriend, and Colton."

"There's people already here?" I asked.

"Yeah, Bryan has a key and sometimes I leave it unlocked if I know someone's coming over."

I blinked.

"I don't have shit anyone wants anyway," he added.

"Oooookay..."

Bryan stepped out his cigarette then motioned for us to follow him inside. I'd only been to Dylan's house a couple of times before, but it looked exactly as I'd remembered. It wasn't dirty, but not exactly clean either. The sofa was big and comfy, definitely worn in. The kitchen was small, littered with dirty dishes and empty beer cans... and I was sure if I glanced in the fridge I'd find two-week-old leftover pizza.

One guy was sitting in the biggest recliner with a girl in his lap -- who I assumed to be Travis and his girlfriend. The other guy was sitting on the couch, flipping through channels and looked up when we came inside. Dylan threw his keys on the coffee table, grabbed a can of beer and plopped down next to the guy on the couch.

"Guys, this is Juliana... she's in the band with me." He looked at me, "That's Travis and Marissa and this is Colton who lives next door."

I nodded and shyly said hi.

"Sit," Dylan told me, scooting over so I could squeeze between he and Colton. "Bryan, make her a margarita, would ya?"

Bryan shot his best friend a look and in return, I put on a puppy face. "Okay," he gave in, "but only 'cause she's adorable and not an ass like you."

I grinned as Bryan made his way to the kitchen. I was as giddy as any sober-and-never-been-drunk fifteen year old could be. Yaay for margaritas!

Everyone made small talk with me as we drank. The usual: my school, age, favorite music. The margarita Bryan made me was spectacular and I think I'd downed the whole thing in a matter of two minutes. Have no fear, though, because soon he was making another.

I was feeling really goofy after about thirty minutes and wondered if anyone else was drunk like me. Obviously not since Dylan had barely finished his second beer and Marissa was sipping on her first margarita. This was when Bryan dug something out of his pocket and sat it on the table.

"Shouldn't we drink more first? Let it get later?" Dylan asked.

"Would you like a margarita?" he asked.

"Of course! And bring the bottle of tequila. We can take shots."

"I wanna nother margarita!" I shrieked.

Within a matter of seconds, the next margarita was shoved in my hands. I giddily drank up while the guys took shots (they wouldn't let me take any which was probably for the better). It was finally time to reveal what was in the bag.

Bryan sat down on the floor in front of the coffee table. He dumped everything out of the bag.

"Oooo! What's this?" I giggled.

"Hands off," Dylan said, smacking my hands away. "You'll see."

I pouted and watched Bryan pick through the stuff. Things were out of focus so I wasn't sure what was going on until he started rolling it up into a join.

"Oh! It's weed!" I yelped, only to be shushed by both Bryan and Dylan, both of whom were giggling like me.

"Have you ever smoked before?" Bryan asked.

"She's only fifteen," Dylan answered for me.

"Kids nowadays start young."

"I'm almost sixteen!" I said, delayed response.

"If you've never smoked before, this probably won't do anything for you."

It's not like it mattered... I was so drunk that if it had done anything to me, I wouldn't have noticed.

"Bryan, you're wrong for corrupting that kid," Travis said.

Bryan put the joint in his mouth, lit it, then sucked in. Dylan answered for him: "she's going to do it anyway and I'd rather her be with me than some fucker who's going to take advantage of her."

Bryan nodded in agreement, then passed the joint to me. I wasn't quite sure what to do so I just breathed in, swallowed, then blew out, but no smoke left my mouth. Everyone laughed.

"You have to inhale," Dylan instructed.

"I did?" At least, I thought I had.

"Suck in just like you're breathing."

I obeyed his orders and felt like I was coughing up a lung afterwards. He patted my back and took the joint from me.

I suddenly remembered "That 70s Show" and how they always got high. I scanned the group of people around the coffee table. Bryan was definitely Kelso, only much cooler. And Dylan would be Eric (wasn't that his name?) only not as innocent. Colton was the only one who could pass as Fez and that's only because he rarely talked. That left Travis as Hyde which made me giggle aloud. Donna was the cooler of the two girls, so I'd have to be her.

That's when I realized something. "Hey! The walls really are moving! Just like on the show!" I began laughing hysterically like it was the funniest thing in the world and didn't notice if anyone was laughing with me.

Finally Dylan said, "come on, Juliana, let's get some fresh air," then basically dragged me outside.

We walked (well, he did, and I stumbled) through the neighborhood and I rambled about different things, trying to be philosophical. Dylan just listened, arm looped through mine to make sure I didn't fall.

"What time is it anyway?" I asked.

He glanced at his watch. "Almost 12:15."

"Shit! I was supposed to be home at midnight!" I said, then giggled again.

"Come on. I'll take you home. Think Shaun'll be asleep?"

"No, but I can fake sober."

He gave me a doubtful look. "Oh, and hey, it's better if nobody knows about the weed, okay?"

"Sure thing," I answered. "I wanna try it again when I'm not drunk, is that okay?"

"As long as you keep it within the group of people who do it with you."

I nodded. "You're so awesome, Dylan. I love hanging out with you."

"Thanks," he said, ruffling my hair.

"Fuck Cameron."

We arrived back to the house and Dylan announced my departure.

"Awww, ya gotta go?" Bryan asked.

"Yup, sorry. But I'll hang out more," I promised, hugging him then everyone else and drunkenly waving goodbye. We stalked outside and to Dylan's car. Neither of us spoke for a while.. I was absorbed in the music and I'd like to hope that he was concentrating on driving.

When he pulled into my driveway, I said, "hey, thanks for letting me hang out with you tonight."

He smiled. "You can come over anytime. You have my number... just let me know and I'll pick ya up."

I smiled back and hugged him tightly. "See you tomorrow."

"Bye," he said when I opened the car door and nearly fell out.

It was a chore walking up the driveway to my front door. It was even harder trying to get the key in the lock (took me at least three tries). Finally, I successfully unlocked the door and pushed it open. I tried to act as sober as possible and it lasted for a good two seconds.

"Shaun! I'm home!" I squealed and slammed the door shut.

He was sitting on the couch looking at me and jumped at the loud noise. "So I noticed. You're late, you know that?"

"Just a teeny tiny bit late," I said, showing him with my fingers as I ran into the wall and attempted to sit my bass carefully on the loveseat.

He glared at me, but I didn't take the hint.

"Shaun, did anyone ever tell you how beautiful you are?" I asked, going towards him and squeezing his cheeks. Then I started singing.

"You're drunk," he stated.

"No I'm not!" I replied, happier than ever. "I'm just happy! And I love everyone! Except Cameron and Claire-Elizabeth. They're not beautiful."

"You're drunk and late and I'm not thrilled right now."

"Don't get mad, get glad!"

He just looked at me.

"Lighten up, big bro! It's Saturday night and everything's great! And I love you!"

I think he might have let out a slight grin to that, then said, "Juliana, just go to bed."

"But I don't wanna!"

"Well you need to before I get irritated and turn you from a happy drunk into a crying drunk."

"I'm not drunk," I insisted trying to keep a straight face and failing miserably.

"Come on," he said. He practically dragged me to my room then helped my shoes and socks off and tucked me into bed.

"Goodnight!"

"Night," he said back. I watched him turn off the light and leave. I tried to stay awake a little longer and gather my thoughts, but I passed out cold and didn't wake up until the next morning when I noticed Shaun was shaking me.

"Come on, get up," he was saying. "Church is in an hour. You gotta get ready. Cameron will be here soon."

"Fuck Cameron," I mumbled.

"Juliana... get up."

I groaned and pried my eyes open. There was my brother sitting on the side of my bed, hair all messed up. I smiled. "Wanna go to church with me?"

He shook his head. "No thanks. And hey, I know you're upset with Cameron and all, but try to stay out of trouble, okay? Sometimes you can get mouthy..."

"Oh god... not the lectures! Fine, I'm out of bed!"

He smiled. "Sometimes it's so easy."

I rolled my eyes. "My head hurts."

"That's because you drank too much last night. And you can't deny it."

Hmm... was it really that obvious? I decided to change the subject anyway. "I hope Bible-Thumper doesn't bug me today. She's always trying to convert me and even has Cameron trying, too! I might have to punch her in the face..."

"You know, you are the one going to her church..."

"Not 'cause I want to."

"Then don't go?"

"I have to."

"No you don't. But anyway, the point is that sometimes you have to respect stuff even if you don't agree with it... religion, laws, opinions. You're at their church and don't need to go if you're going to start arguments."

"Yeah, okay... I'm going to shower," I said, rolling out of bed and wishing my headache would go away.

I guess my brother is just a little psychic and maybe I should've listened to him. Or maybe I just thought that I'd prove him wrong. Either way, by the time I got to church my headache had faded (thanks to some Tylenol) and I was feeling more atheistic than ever.

Everyone greeted me as usual, except for Dylan who wasn't there yet. Obviously, he was the only one I wanted to see anyway, but I could wait.

Bible-thumper was rambling about how amazing the concert was and it was driving me crazy. "So many people were saved last night. God works in so many ways."

I kept my eye-rolling to a minimum.

"So what'd you do last night?"

"Oh, nothing much. Practiced for the tournament with some middle schoolers because a friend ditched me..."

"Juliana..." Cameron began.

Claire-Elizabeth interrupted, "Sometimes the Lord calls us to do things besides DDR. You know one of the ten commandments is to not put any gods before Him... that includes DDR."

Shaun would've been proud... I walked away instead of arguing. Besides, Dylan had arrived, apologizing like always, so I went to talk to him.

"Was your brother mad last night?" he asked.

"I don't think so... I was a little gone when I got home... I think I sang to him..."

He laughed. "You're one funny drunk. Did you have fun?"

"Hell yeah!"

"Hey, careful, we're in the house of the Lord. You better apologize."

This time I rolled my eyes.

"Let's get warmed up before everyone gets here," Cameron said, clapping his hands like we were puppies or something. We hadn't spoken hardly at all on the way to church -- just the usual hi how are you -- then I stared out of the window watching the trees. He'd definitely gotten the hint that I was pissed off at him... finally.

We practiced for a little while then had a little break before the service began. I sensed Jade and Cameron talking about me, so I went with Dylan outside while he smoked a cigarette. We didn't talk much, he just reminded me of a few crazy things I did while drunk and told me what went on after I left (the girl threw up so she and Travis went home and the rest of them just pondered the meaning of life). Church was about to start when he stomped out his cigarette, so we went back inside.

See, we played at a really big church... so big that they had an early service, then Sunday school, then another service. We always played all of the songs in the first and usually played a few in the second. Most days Dylan and I went to McDonald's during Sunday school to talk about what things annoyed us about the service. This proved to be a great stress reliever for the two of us so we did it as often as possible, even if we didn't have to stay for the final service.

I don't know what came over me this particular day. The service pissed me off double because it was talking about all other religious being wrong and how it's our duty as Christians to set them straight. So don't ask me why I agreed when Claire-Elizabeth asked me to go with her to Sunday school. I guess I wanted to prove Shaun that I could do whatever and not get in trouble. Even Dylan gave me a doubtful look when I followed her down the hallway.

And I guess it wasn't so bad. The people were nice and idolized me for being such a great bass player. The teacher basically reiterated what the preacher had said and I resorted to doodling on a handout she'd given us. Of course, I've had a lot of practice with listening and doodling at the same time (thanks to boring classes where I didn't have friends to copy notes or homework from) so I half-listened to what was being said getting more pissed by the moment. She was talking about different religions and how stupid they were but still had faith. And it was annoying me greatly. But I was dealing okay... until Claire-Elizabeth raised her hand.

"What about people who don't believe in God? How do we get them to know Him? How do we convince them that there's more to life than the sin they're living in?"

"What about you just leave everyone alone and let them believe what they want to believe?" Oops... did I really say that?

Everyone was shocked, but Claire-Elizabeth came back anyway. "Because we care about you and God is the light! You'll be so much happier once you find him."

"I'm plenty happy right now..."

"No you're not."

"... and God isn't the fucking light."

"God loves you, Juliana."

"God only loves himself and that's why if you don't worship Him you go to Hell." By this time we were both standing up and everyone was watching and probably talking, too, but neither of us noticed. We didn't even breathe for the argument.

"God created you to fellowship..."

"There is no fucking God!" I yelled.

"Yes there is and I know him and love him!"

"You're living in a fairytale."

"God gives me hope, someday I'll be in Heaven..."

"There is no Heaven."

"... and you'll be suffering..."

"Yeah? If God loves us so much why would he make us suffer?..."

"It's his will."

"And why would he fucking make a good man like my father die, huh?..."

"We can never know his reasons."

"My dad was out doing God's work... he loved God and loved everyone and was a great man. And God pushed him off of a roof, paralyzed him, then fucking killed him."

"God didn't do that."

"So you know what? Fuck God. Fuck him and fuck Christianity and fuck you and everyone else because there is no God and if there is, he's an asshole and I fucking hate him..." As I was saying that, I was also being dragged out of the room and I looked at everyone's shocked faces. At the time I had no idea who was dragging me out, but when I was finally in the hallway I recognized him as the youth director.

"You need to leave," he ordered.

"Don't worry," I replied then pushed past him. I walked first, but my mind was racing and I felt the tears coming so I began to run. I ran down the stairs, through another hallway, out the doors, down the sidewalk a bit and finally collapsed in the grass. I buried my head in my hands and cried. Cried because my dad had passed away and I never really knew him. Because my mom was wasting away in a hospital bed and the doctors didn't expect her to ever wake up. Because my best friend was brainwashed by stupid religion and hanging out with someone I couldn't tolerate. Because everything hurt so much and it wouldn't go away and I just wanted things to get back to normal.

"Hey, what's wrong?" It was Dylan... I could recognize his voice from anywhere... always carefree, positive, and comforting.

"Nothing," I gasped through tears. He was kneeling beside me and stayed like that for a moment, then plopped down next to me and threw his arms around my body. We didn't speak for a long time, he just held me close, stroking my hair.

I don't know how long I cried, but eventually I lifted my head to wipe the tears away.

"You okay?" he whispered, still holding me.

I shook my head, hiccupping, and relayed the story to him exactly as it'd happened.

All he said was, "come on, let's go to McDonald's." And it made me smile. Because Dylan was so completely capable of either bitching me out or telling me they deserved it, but he remained neutral and knew food would make me feel better than almost anything else.

"So you think about your dad a lot?" Dylan asked after we received our food and sat down in the corner of the restaurant.

"Yeah. I mean, he's a lot of the reason that I am who I am today. And I don't mean physically... I mean with the atheism and stuff."

"How so?"

"He always did missionary work and stuff. Always helped people. And he was helping build a house and fell off the roof... he damaged his spine so badly that he wasn't able to move at all, and eventually just died. And that's why my mom is an atheist. And me, too, I guess."

"Do you remember him at all?"

I shrugged. "I remember visiting him in the nursing home before he died. I remember telling him stories and watching as he tried not to cry." My throat was swelling and I myself was about to cry.

Dylan patted me on the arm and caressed it gently. "It really sucks how things happen sometimes."

I nodded. "I always wonder how I'd be today if my dad was still around."

There was silence for a little while as I finished my sausage biscuit.

"Hey Dylan?"

"Hmmm?"

"I want to smoke with you this afternoon."

"If you promise me one thing."

"Okay."

"You won't turn to drugs every time you feel bad."

The way he looked at me made my stomach church and I don't know why. Rarely was Dylan serious, but at that moment he was -- more so than I'd ever seen him.

"No problem. I promise."

After eating, we walked back to his car. He went to retrieve my bass and equipment for me while I sat in the car jamming to satanic music and wondering what it'd be like to be high.

"Hey, Juliana..." Dylan said, coming back empty-handed. "Cameron or Jade must've gotten your bass and stuff."

I scowled. "Fuck Cameron."

Dylan grinned and scooted in next to me. "Ah well, at least we never have to come back to this place again."

"Good," I murmured, assuming that Dylan had decided to quit the band since I was gone.

I watched trees passing by, enjoying the music and the moment. I might've just gone crazy, but I didn't have to see Claire-Elizabeth again. And I was probably no longer a member of the band, but I didn't like it that much anyway and maybe Dylan and I could get our own group of people together to make a better band. And I was going to get high. So even though things were crappy, they really weren't all so bad.

Bryan was dead asleep on the couch when we arrived.

"He's got the right idea," I whispered.

Dylan nodded, taking off his jacket and throwing it and the keys on the kitchen table. "Let's watch a movie before we smoke. Let Bryan wake up so he can join us. Is that okay?"

"Sure," I answered, smiling giddily.

I have no idea what we watched but within a matter of minutes I'd fallen asleep right there in Dylan's bed and didn't wake up until about three. I could hear he and Bryan talking and laughing in the living room so I stumbled out of bed and stretched out then greeted them.

"Well hello, Sleepyhead," Bryan said.

"Look who's talking... you were so dead asleep when we got here." I squeezed in-between them.

"So you're going to smoke with us, huh?"

I nodded, "if that's okay with you, sir."

"Sure, but you probably won’t get high."

"I'll just smoke until I am high, then."

He shrugged, then continued watching tv.

"... so are we going to do it?" I asked.

"Oh, right..." Bryan said, grinning to Dylan. Dylan passed him the bag and Bryan sorted through the stuff as he had the previous night, then stuffed it in a pipe.

"Hey, I don't know how to smoke out of that," I whined.

"You don't know how to smoke a joint either, so what difference does it make?" Dylan asked.

Good point... "True," I said.

Bryan handed me the pipe. "Remember: inhale... just like you're breathing."

I nodded and put the pipe to my mouth. Bryan lit it and I inhaled then coughed and handed the pipe to him, still coughing. They laughed at me, each took a hit, I was still coughing, so they took another then passed it to me. I did better the second time, finally getting the hang of it. We kept passing it around and I idly remembered That 70s Show again and let out a slight giggle. The guys were telling a story about sometime they were stoned and I just listened, distracted by the tv every so often until everything got distorted all of a sudden.

"Whoa..." I said, interrupting the story.

"What?" Dylan asked, handing the pipe to Bryan.

"Everything is... weird."

"Oh," Bryan said, "you're just stoned."

"I wanna listen to music," I said calmly, then closed my eyes and reopened them, hoping things would be in focus. Nope.

Dylan pushed himself up and turned on a cd. Bryan continued telling the story. I stared at the curtains and listened to the music wondering if Bryan realized I didn't hear a word of what he was saying. Dylan went to the kitchen and peered into the fridge. I observed.

"Dude, I'm so fucked up," I said.

"There's no food... let's order a pizza," Dylan said.

Bryan continued with the story.

"I want stuffed crust pepperoni," I said.

"Oooo... stuffed crust pepperoni with extra cheese," Bryan said, distracted from the story.

"Yes!" Dylan shrieked and dialed the number.

Bryan began telling a different story. Someone knocked on the door -- it was Colton. He sat on the recliner and watched, laughing.

"Your friend is toasted," he told Dylan.

Dylan came over to me and looked in my eyes. "Are you okay?"

I giggled. "Yes, just feel confused."

He smiled and ruffled my hair. Everything felt like it was going in slow motion. I leaned my head back and felt like the music was singing to me. It was the only thing I could hear. The pizza guy came and Colton had to answer because Bryan was telling a story and Dylan's head was in my lap and I was petting his hair.

"I'm thirsty," I said, randomly, and leaned my head back again.

Dylan got up to get some pizza. Bryan kept telling stories. Colton brought me a coke and a couple of slices of pizza. That was the best pizza ever.

Things were jumbled and confused for a long time. We were all lying around (by this time Colton had decided to join our stoned party) being lazy and eating every so often. I felt way drunk and it was quite nice, actually.

It was getting dark when there was another knock at the door.

"Who is it?" Dylan yelled.

"Jade," was the reply.

He shot up and cleaned up the weed then opened the door. I was so out of it and the guys were just talking.

"Hey, what's up?" Dylan asked Jade.

"Not much... I was going to see if Juliana was here."

"Yeah, she wasn't feeling well and took some Benadryl so she's a little out of it."

How will I be able to hide the fact that I'm stoned from him! I wondered.

"Her bro's worried. He's been trying to call all day but her phone is off."

Dylan glanced in my direction.

"He called Cam and Cam called me and we figured she was here."

"Yeah... right day today. But she's fine."

"I'll take her home if ya want."

He looked at me again. I lazily shook my head. "Nah it's cool, I can take her. But you can hang out if ya want."

"No, I'm on my way to the church and just wanted to check in. Will you tell her Shaun's looking for her?"

"Sure thing, Man."

"Thanks, see ya."

"Later."

Phew. That was a close one.

"I should take you home," Dylan said plopping down next to me. "If you stay here too much longer, Shaun'll find out and come get you himself."

Yes, and Dylan taking me home sounds much more pleasant. I had a better chance at not getting caught if Shaun didn't go to Dylan's house.

"You're right, but I really don't wanna go home," I pouted.

We stared at the tv for a few minutes until he patted my leg and stood up. "Come on, kiddo."

I gave him a puppy face and he held out a hand to help me up. I reluctantly took it and Dylan told the guys we were leaving. I hugged them both, waved goodbye, and followed my friend to his car.

Cue that philosophical conversation.

"Do you think there could be a god?" Dylan asked me.

I shrugged. "I think there's a possibility, but not a Christian God... because there's so much bad stuff in the world."

He nodded. "I want to believe in a god but every time I turn on the news, every time I drive downtown, every time I think about my past, I think it can't be possible. All of the poverty, all of the hatred. Why would such a loving god create so much evil?"

"I figure that it's impossible for God to be all-good, all-knowing, and all-powerful. Maybe he just can't change the bad stuff or he doesn't know about it. And if he knows and can change it but doesn't, then he's a jerk and I don't want to go to Heaven with Him anyway."

"I sometimes wonder how someone can be faithful through all the shit they go through. Sometimes I idolize them -- not people like Claire-Elizabeth who don't have a clue what it's like to live on the streets -- but like a homeless man who plays his guitar and praises god when the churches won't even open their doors to him, or someone who's been in a terrible accident and on their deathbed talking about hog good God's been to them..."

"It's the only hope they have left. I know I'd feel better about my parents if I believed in God, but in my heart I know it's all false. I need someone to lean on, to cry to, to have faith in that He'll take care of everything, but I've been let down so much... first with my dad, now my mom... how can I trust Him to make everything all right?"

We stopped at a red-light and Dylan looked at me. "Juliana, I mean this, okay? If you ever nee anything -- a ride, a friend, something to punch -- just call me. I'll be here for you, I'll let you cry on my shoulder, I'll listen to you." Okay, so we went from philosophical to sentimental. Nice. "I won't let you down, I promise. And I worry about you, not because I think you're stupid or irresponsible, but because I know how you feel." He began driving again and kept talking. "I know what it's like to hurt so much that you think anything to free you from the pain is worth it. But it's not. And I know drugs and alcohol seem great -- I love both -- but if you use it as your outlet it becomes an addiction. I know -- I've been there, done that. Not with drugs or alcohol, but other stuff. And I've seen friends fuck up everything with a stupid addiction. I don't want you to end up like that. Just talk to me or hang out or find something better. Please..."

By this time I was looking at him intently. I didn't know he'd had his own addiction, didn't know half of what he'd gone through in his life. But I wanted to cry because he was being all sweet and girly and I never really saw that side of him and I was still a little stoned.

"I won't let you down," I told him. "But we're going to have to keep these sentimental conversations to a minimum because you're going to make me cry."

He laughed. "If I think you're going overboard with the drugs I'm going to tell you, straight up. I'm not going to talk about it behind your back and I'm not going to ignore it. So we won't have the sentimental talk again -- if we ever have this conversation about drugs I'll probably be bitching and parental."

"Ugh, just like Shaun."

"Don't give me a reason to be like that."

We looked at each other and smiled. "Don't worry, one Shaun is enough."

Speaking of Shaun, we had just pulled into my driveway and I could see his silhouette from the car. Blah, time for lectures again.

"Good luck with your bro. Call me whenever you want to hang out."

"Okies. See ya," I said and hugged him tightly.

I wasn't so much high when I arrived at my front door. I was still a little confused but at least most things were in-focus once again. I braced myself for Shaun's lectures and wished I could ignore him like I had Bryan earlier in the day. Oh well, here goes nothing.

I opened the door to find him watching tv. My bass was on the loveseat so obviously Cameron or Jade had been by to return it. Shaun turned towards me and shot me a look that twisted my stomach into knots.

"Have a seat," he ordered calmly.

I closed the door behind me and hoped the benadryl excuse would work.

"Why didn't you call me?" was his first question after I nervously slid onto the couch next to him.

"Because I didn't think about it."

"What did you and Dylan do?"

"Hung out with friends, watched movies, nothing spectacular."

"Cameron brought your bass by," he said nodding towards my instrument, "and told me what happened."

"Fuck Cameron. He wasn't there and it's none of his business."

"Cameron cares about you, Juliana. And it might not be his business but he came over to check on you because he was worried."

"He wasn't too worried whenever he was ditching me for Bible-Thumper," I said, getting irritated so my voice was rising.

"He also doesn't care for Dylan's lifestyle..."

I stood up, successfully enraged. "It's my fucking life and he needs to stay out of it! He doesn't have the right to make you dislike Dylan. Ugh! I HATE him!"

"I don't dislike Dylan, Juliana. Calm down."

"I'm sick of him."

"I think you need to slow down on the attitude," he began.

"God, you're just like him!" I shouted to which he stood up, towering over me.

"What is your deal?" he asked. "First you get kicked out of the arcade for picking a fight, you stumbled in late last night drunk off your ass, got kicked out of church today then disappeared for hours, no phone call, nothing. I think I'm trying to handle all of this fairly well considering how pissed off I am right now."

"I wish everyone would fucking get off my back about it. Don't you have other things to worry about?" I thought weed was supposed to make you calm, but I think it did the opposite for me. I was feeling bitchier than normal. "What about Mom? Can't you worry about her? Or your girlfriend... or your school? And leave me the fuck alone? Damn..."

"Stop cussing, Juliana," he told me, just letting me have my rampage.

"Oh, now you're worried about my language?" I shrieked.

He put his hands on my shoulders. "Would you chill out?"

"Fuck you," I yelled pushing his hands away. "I'm so sick of being treated like a kid. Can't I just drink like normal people? Can't I cuss like normal people? Nothing else is fucking normal."

I think I successfully pushed his buttons enough to feel his wrath. He leaned in towards me, looking straight into my eyes. "You're only fifteen years old... drinking is far from legal and I'm willing to bed Dylan drank before he drove you home. And I'm really fed up with your mouthyness. Didn't I tell you about respect? I'm sorry there are things you don't want to do, sometimes you have to. And if you don't stop with this attitude, I'm tempted to take you over my knee..."

"You wouldn't do that," I mumbled, rolling my eyes.

"...My mom is in the hospital, too. My dad is dead, too. Yeah, it hurts, I know. But that doesn't give either of us the right to jump all over everyone else when they do something we don't like. And you don't think I'll spank you? Test me, Juliana. Just test me," he warned.

"Why does everyone blame the way I'm acting on my parents? I am FINE and you can just stay the fuck out of it!" Well, he told me to test him...

He instantly grabbed my upper arm and dragged me to the couch and pushed me over his lap. It all happened so quickly, I didn't even have time to fight. Unfortunately for me, I was wearing the khakis I'd worn to church and they were uber-thin, so the second he started spanking, I felt it loud and clear.

"Ow!" I howled, reaching back to keep the smacks from coming. "Stop!"

"I warned you," he replied and moved my hand away, "but you didn't listen and if this is the only thing to get through to you, I'm going to do it."

I kicked and squirmed, still too bitchy to even think about apologizing. But hell, Shaun definitely knew how to lay it down on me and my ass was killing me!

"Shaun! Stoppp! I'm too old for this!"

"After all the attitude you've pulled with me, all of the yelling and fighting you've done, all of the worry you put me through by not calling or coming in late, you expect me to stop? Just like that?" he asked, obviously not stopping. "I tried to talk to you, I tried to be reasonable, but obviously that didn't work. So guess what? We're doing this the hard way."

I wiggled around, trying to get off of his lap, trying to free my restrained hands -- anything! It so totally and completely didn't work.

"This isn't fair!" I shouted. "It's all fucking Cameron's fault and I hate him!"

"What did I tell you about your language?" he asked.

I ignored the question, more concerned and embarrassed that I was being spanked like a kid. "Would you stop already?"

"I asked you a question."

"And I think it's a stupid that you don't want me to cuss because I'm fifteen and it's not like you've never done it!"

He paused the spanking. "Are you still being mouthy?" he asked rhetorically.

And of course, I answered: "obviously so."

He lifted me up, squeezing my left arm very tightly while taking his belt off.

"Wait... w-what are you doing?"

"Since that wasn't working, maybe this will." He slid the belt through the loops, folded it over, then leaned me over the couch.

"Wait, isn't this child abuse?" I asked.

He swung the belt through the air and it landed on my bottom with a loud cracking noise. I yelped and tried to stand back up or move my hand back, but he was holding onto me too tightly. "No, it's called a punishment and hopefully it'll help you listen better."

He gave me another smack and I suddenly wished that I was back over his knee getting spanked with only his hand again. "Owww... that really hurts," I gasped. He responded with a few more blows and I felt myself becoming more and more remorseful. "Please... stop," I begged after I'd been hit about fifteen times.

"And why should I stop?" he asked.

"Because I'm too old to be spanked," I began, receiving an extra-hard blow, "and I'm sorry!" I finally spat out.

"Sorry for what?"

"For being mouthy!"

I guess this wasn't good enough for him because he kept spanking and spanking for what felt like hours!

"For being mouthy and worrying you and cussing. I'm sorry for everything!" I cried, then broke into tears. I don't think I was sobbing to get him to stop, or because the spanking hurt so much. I was crying because everything else hurt -- I was upset with my best friend and hurt because I felt betrayed... and pissed off at myself for getting kicked out of the arcade or arguing with Claire-Elizabeth when I knew it wouldn't do any good. I was sad because I missed my parents and smoking or drinking with Dylan filled that emptiness and it scared me. And Shaun was going through the same thing as me and hadn't fucked everything up like I had and here he was, finally fed up enough to use physical punishment as a last resort to get me to listen, but I wasn't so sure I was ready to listen. But when he's holding the belt and it's my ass on the line, I guess I have to.

He stopped the spanking. "Are you ready to talk to me now?" he asked.

"Yes," I choked out.

He let go of my body then helped me up. I wiped my tears away and he sat down on the couch and pulled me down next to him. I sniffled and lay my head on his shoulder, felling really crappy.

"Now, I don't mind if you hang out with Dylan," he told me. "But you have to call me. Cameron came by here and scared me half to death, talking about you running out and he didn't know where you were and how he didn't want you to become an alcoholic."

"I didn't even drink today," I sniffled, "and I already promised Dylan that I wouldn't use drinking as an outlet."

Shaun put his arm around me. "Good, I'm glad to hear that." He paused. "Now what happened at church today?"

I groaned. That was one of the last things I wanted to talk about, but I figured Cameron had made it out to be worse than it was, so I might as well try to defend myself.

"Everyone was irritating me by talking about how all other religious are wrong then stupid Bible-Thumper made a snide comment about atheists in reference to me and I, um, sort of got upset."

"Why'd you even go to Sunday School with her? You knew it'd upset you. Were you looking for a fight?"

My first thought was to say no, but instead of answering on impulse, like usual, I gave it some thought. I had known that she would upset me. And I could've just gone with Dylan to McDonald's like always. So maybe I was trying to cause trouble. "I'm only admitting this 'cause you're my brother -- but yeah, I guess I did want to fight. I'm just so sick of Claire-Elizabeth always trying to convert me and being so ignorant and everyone not respecting other religious -- and to top it off, she's taking Cameron away from me. And I wanted to give her a piece of my mind but didn't think I'd really do it."

"With regards to respecting other religious, do you think you do that whenever you're talking bad about Christianity, or when you're fighting Claire-Elizabeth like you did today?"

"But that's different. Atheists are a minority and we don't take pleasure in trying to get the whole world to disbelieve in God."

He sighed. "Sometimes, Kid Sis, we bend the rules so it's okay for us to do something that we don't like others doing. And in this case, I think you're doing just that."

"But..." I began.

He cut me off. "You know you shouldn't have argued with her -- we'd just talked about it this morning. Christians don't generally go to church to be criticized for their beliefs, even if Claire-Elizabeth seems like she does. What I'm saying is that even if they're being disrespectful to other religions, there's better ways to let them know rather than getting in someone's face and yelling and cussing. Next time try talking rationally... or avoiding the situation entirely. Okay?"

I guess I was argued out because I just nodded.

He patted my back and stretched out. "You hungry?"

"No, we ate pizza."

"Well I'm starving. How 'bout some ice cream?"

Even a normal unstoned person wouldn't turn down that offer, but I guess I just felt bad and my ass hurt. "No thanks. I think I'm going to read for a little while."

Shaun and I both got up. "Well, okay. But if you need anything, let me know, okay?"

"'Kay," I answered, accepting his hug before stalking off to my room. I searched through the stack of books on my dresser to find something interesting enough to kill an hour or two. And as if I hadn't had enough controversy for one day, I pulled out the one that was a debate between an atheist and a Christian. I'd read it once before, it was where I got most of my ideas from, but I needed to brush up on the arguments. I underlined everything important and took some notes which is way more than anything I'd ever do for school. When I finished, it was 11:09 and I was ready for a debate. That got me thinking of if they have atheist groups and I promised myself that I'd look it up on the internet as I drifted to sleep.

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