Status: New and attackactive!


Falling Back on the Back-Up Plan

“That totally sucks that you have ISS. That means I won’t get to see you.”

We’d only been dating for a week and we’d barely kissed once, but Perry was becoming the epitome of someone with Overly Obsessed Girlfriend syndrome.

“Yeah.” I just absently agreed with her. I wasn’t in the mood to talk, but Perry had called me and I felt bad for not really ever giving me the time of day.

Perry went on and on forever.

“Perry,” I said, cutting her off almost mid-sentence.

“Yeah Ash?” She even used my nickname that only my mom and Shannon ever really used.

Another thing I missed about Shannon: she wasn’t too attached. In fact, half of the time she could care less where I was or what I was doing.

“I think maybe we should just be friends.”

It was an asshole thing to do after telling her that I wanted to date her and all, but it would be even more of an asshole thing to play with her feelings like I knew I was. I didn’t like her as anything more than a friend, and she really didn’t understand that.

“Oh. Ok.”

“It’s not you-.”

She cut me off. “It’s me. I know Ashley I’ve heard it before.”


“We’ll just talk in school then, okay?”

“Sounds good.”

“Good night.”



Kenya sat with me on the bus that Monday. He didn’t really say anything, but at least I think he didn’t want to kill me. He had his hood pulled up over his ears and he pulled his legs to his chest to kind of sleep. He looked a bit awkward because his legs were so long and he was so tall.

At school I dumped all my stuff of at my locker and tried to find my way to the maintenance office. We’d gotten an email over the weekend that gave us the more specific details of our ISS. In that email it told us specifically not to be late, or for every five minutes we’d have another day, and where to be as soon as the first bell rang.

I stood there with Kurt. Kenya hadn’t showed up yet, and something told me that he’d probably end up being late. He showed up before Mr. Michelson though, so no one would ever know that he wasn’t perfectly on time.

We spent at least 80% of the morning vacuuming and disinfecting the teachers’ lounges. They were already pretty clean, but I wasn’t complaining. It was better than bathrooms or kitchen duty. Kenya listened to music all the while and Kurt and I just tried not to say anything to each other. It wasn’t that hard. Trust me.

Finally, Mr. Michelson came in to tell us that it was lunch break. He led us out the back door to the teacher parking lot, where there was a small courtyard with a few benches. Two benches, actually, were in residence there.

Kenya and I sat on one bench, Kurt on the other. Kenya finally took the ear buds out of his ears. He lit up a cigarette.

Kurt stared at him for a moment. “How do you not get busted for bringing a lighter to school?”

I was wondering the same thing. At my old school they were scared enough to have metal detectors around the doors.

“I’m not dumb enough to tell anyone about it.”

“You think everyone doesn’t know you smoke?”

“Yeah, but I’ve never done any harm.”

“You beat the shit out of my face.”

Kurt did have a nice, yellowing bruise.

Kenya just shrugged. “Like I said, no harm.”

Kurt rolled his eyes and tore into his lunch. The boy ate enough for three people. Kenya seemed fascinated by watching him eat. “You should slow down. We wouldn’t want you to choke.”

I almost laughed, but the look that Kurt gave both of us was enough to silence me.

“Your little boyfriend is eating everything you say up.”

I swallowed wrong and started coughing.

“You disgust him so much he started choking.” Kurt took another jab at Kenya.

Kenya stayed calm. “Your girlfriend doesn’t think he’s that queer. And trust me when I say you’re not the only guy, Kurt Ferney.”

Kurt started to turn red. Just in case they started fighting again, I left to guy buy something from the vending machine. I got a bag of gummy candies and returned to the bench. Kurt was silent, but Kenya had a smug smile plastered on his lips.

A few long minutes passed where I swear that Kurt was going to kill someone, but Mr. Michelson came out to get us before he had the time.

This was the part of the day where we cleaned bathrooms. We were taken to the senior hallway bathroom first. This one was the grossest because it was common knowledge that the security cameras didn’t cover a large portion of this hallway, so a lot of people, not just seniors, went there to smoke or hook up.

The bathroom reeked of so many scents that I coughed. After a few minutes of cleaning, Kenya took his gloves off, sat on the counter and lit up a cigarette.

Kurt and I kept cleaning, but Kurt claimed that he was getting nauseous from the smell. He stepped outside for a few minutes.

“You don’t have to keep cleaning. Mr. Michelson is probably in his office enjoying the morning off. I doubt that he’ll come and check on us.”

I just shrugged and kept scrubbing. If I was in trouble and cleaning got me out of trouble, I was going to clean.

Then I changed my mind when I got to a toilet that hadn’t been flushed. I gagged and hurried out the stall and to a trashcan in case I threw up.

Kenya snubbed his cigarette in the sink and tossed it in the trash.

“We’ll wait a few minutes and then tell that oaf to get back in here and keep cleaning.”

“Why are you being so friendly?” I had to ask.

Kenya shrugged. “You’re not a bad guy. I can tell. I can’t help it if you’re not into me, I shouldn’t have taken that personally.”

I went outside and told Kurt to get his ass back in here and keep cleaning. He looked a lot less green, so I assumed he was better.

We, as in Kurt and I (Kenya claimed that he had an absolute aversion to anything unsanitary, but Kurt and I didn’t question) cleaned mostly everything, except we made sure to avoid the unflushed toilet. When the final bell finally rang, Mr. Michelson had already relieved us and Kurt had left while Kenya and I waited for the bus.

“Only one more day of this.”

I groaned.

Kenya shrugged.

“So what happened to you and that girl?”

“What girl?”

“The pretty blonde one.”


“Yeah, in our physics class.”

“We broke up I guess. We were never really together together though.”


“Yeah, we kind of went out once and I never… I don’t know.”

Kenya looked into the parking lot. He didn’t say anything.

We sat together on the bus again. Kenya didn’t listen to music this time. He just stared blankly ahead.

His stop came, and then mine. Like always, when I got home it was only my aunt and there was no edible food to be found anywhere. I didn’t have homework because I didn’t go to classes, so I just watched TV.

My mom didn’t get home until late. She didn’t say anything to me until after she’d eaten some dinner. Then she sat down on the couch with me.

“I understand that things are tough, honey. But don’t feel like you have to act out to get attention. If you ever need anything, or want to spend time together, just let me know. The hospital is pretty flexible with my scheduling.”

“I wasn’t trying to act out, just stand up for myself.”

“I’m proud of you sweetie.”


“Your dad sent you some cash, do you want it now or should I make you wait until your birthday?”

“I wouldn’t mind having it now.”

My mom pulled a folded envelope from the pocket of her scrubs and handed it over to me. The envelope was still sealed and it had my name written in it in my dad’s handwriting.

“All right hon, try and get to bed at a human hour. You’re got another day of ISS tomorrow.”


“What’d you do today?”

“Cleaned poopy toilets.”

“I guess you learned your lesson?”


“So I can unground you?”

“For sure.”

“All right. Go have fun with that girl, I bet she’s dying to see you. You get it from your father; he was such a lady-killer.”


“I’m done.”

“Goodnight mom,” I said. I went into my room and shut the door.

I wanted Shannon to be here. I wanted to fool around with her like we always did. I’d go over to her house some nights and she’d let me in through the back door.

Instead I sat on my bed and stared at the ceiling. I sort-of-unconsciously called Perry.

She picked up on the second ring.

“Hey,” she said.

“Hey, do you want to go see a movie or something?”

“Oh sure. There’s this really cool theater downtown, they’re actually more of plays instead of movies, but I know the manager, he’s my friends older brother, and I could probably get us in to see something.”

“Whatever you want to do.”

“Should I drive then? If you give me your address, I’ll pick you up.”

“Sounds good.”

Normally I would offer to drive, but I didn’t exactly have a car at the moment, and there wasn’t one in the foreseeable future either.
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