The writing prompt: You are a teenager trying to rebel, but no matter what you do, your parents aren't getting upset.
I took a deep breath before turning the knob and pushing through the front door. There was going to be hell to pay, no doubt about it. But I really didn’t care. In fact, I welcomed it. I was as excited for the backlash as a starving man for a cheeseburger.
It’s not so much that I was looking forward to getting yelled at or punished, I was just eager for some sort of reaction. My whole childhood had been spent trying to get their attention by doing good things, positive things, and my efforts had always been met with disappointment or criticism. Nothing I did was ever right. No matter how hard I tried, I wasn’t trying hard enough. No matter how good I was, I wasn’t good enough. So screw it. I knew it was immature and totally predictable from a psychology standpoint, but I didn’t care. If they were going to treat me like a rotten kid, I might as well just be a rotten kid. Maybe then they’d wake up from their dream world and see that I’m actually a really good person.
Mother was in the kitchen, literally pulling a tray of chocolate chip cookies out of the oven. Put her in a poofy dress and a pair of heels, and she’d be a regular June Cleaver. Mrs. Mary Housewife, that was my mother. She was so perfect, it was borderline insane. People weren’t really supposed to be like her. Never a hair out of place or a smudge of lipstick on her teeth. Always gorgeous. Always smiling. Always pushing me to do and be better. God, I resented her.
“Hey, Susan!” Mother’s name sounded foreign in my mouth.
Mother set the cookies down on the cooling rack and turned to look at me, Barbie smile glued to her face. “Hello, dear. How was your sleepover?”
She didn’t even glance twice at my hair. What was going on?
“It was good. Leslie and I had a great time doing each other’s hair.” Maybe baiting her was immature, but how could she ignore the fact that my once long, strawberry blonde hair was now short and Smurf blue?
“I see. Well, perhaps Leslie can come over here next time. Maybe she can help you study for your biology final.” She put another tray of cookies into the oven busied herself removing the finished cookies from the pan. “Would you like a cookie, honey? They’re still hot and gooey.”
“I’m not hungry,” I mumbled as I left the kitchen and went to my room.
The next day at school, Leslie and I stood at our shared locker. Kids shouted and shoved each other around us and locker doors slammed shut in the symphony of high school.
“Hey, Regina, nice hair!” Greg was the hottest guy at school, and though his locker was just three down from ours, he’d never said a word to me.
“Thanks.” I felt heat rising to up my neck to my cheeks, and I brought my hand up to my head. I really did love it, even if it was totally different. Leslie smiled like a dope and busied herself pretending to look for something in the locker.
“Why the sudden change?” Greg slammed his locker and sauntered toward ours. He reached out his hand and stopped just short of touching my hair. Electric currents ran from his fingertips to my head. When he pulled his hand away, disappointment gnawed at my heart.
Be cool, Geena, be cool! I cautioned myself. But how the hell was I supposed to be cool when Greg Owens was talking to me?
“I just got tired of my usual look, thought it was time for a change.” I pulled books out of my locker and hugged them to my chest. “I also thought it’d tick my parents off, but it didn’t.”
“You’re kidding, right? Regina Cabot, honor student, yearbook editor, and student council president actually wanted to piss off her parents? How’d that work out for you.”
Shame swirled in my belly like an angry serpent. He listed my accomplishments as a matter of fact, but to hear them out loud like that made me realize how much energy I had always put into pleasing my parents instead of living my own life and finding my own path.
“I thought they’d flip their lid, but neither one of them mentioned it all weekend. Not one single word. Even when I left blue stains on the shower floor.” Oh, God! Did I really just talk about taking a shower in front of the most gorgeous guy in the world?
“Why were you trying to upset them?” He leaned on the locker next to mine and bent in toward me a little, as if he had been my best friend for years instead of a hot guy who completely ignored me. Is there a word for feeling flattered and uncomfortable at the same time? Unflattable maybe?
“It’s dumb,” I hesitated, but he waited patiently. “Nothing I ever do is good enough for them, and I’m just sick of it. It’s like they see me as some major screw-up, and if that’s what they think, then I might as well show them what that looks like. I mean, I’ll get in trouble either way, so what do I have to lose?” The words rushed out like a flood before I could moderate or weigh them.
“Maybe I can help. If you go out with me, you’re sure to piss them off.” A crooked smile raised one corner of his lips and his green eyes danced with mischief. It was true. Going out with Greg would definitely drive them up the wall. Greg with the attitude. Greg with the leather jacket and motorcycle. Greg with the 80’s rocker hair that was so retro but absolutely perfect on him.
“Yeah,” I tried to sound casual, “I think that might help.” The bell rang but neither of us moved.
“We’re going to be late, Geen.” Leslie slammed our locker.
“I’ll catch up,” I said without looking at her. She sighed and sprinted down the hall, leaving me and Greg almost alone in the nearly deserted hallway.
“So, I’ll pick you up at seven?” His hand came back up, and this time he ran his fingers through my short hair. I tried not to shiver when his finger brushed against my ear.
“Yeah. Seven is great.” The bell rang. For the first time in my life, I was late for class, and I didn’t care.
At ten after seven, Greg rumbled his motorcycle up my driveway. I had spent the last thirty minutes watching for him from my bedroom window. I hadn’t told Mother or Daddy that I was going out. I wasn’t allowed to date because they thought boys would distract me from my studies. If I had said I was going out with Greg, I’m sure I would have been met with the expected lecture about rules and responsibility, but the expected lecture was not what I was after. No, I wanted full-on World War III.
My reflection smiled at me. I looked fabulous! Since I knew I’d be riding on the back of Greg’s motorcycle, I decided against a skirt and went with a pair of black skinny jeans and a fitted hot pink tank top. The pink shirt contrasted sharply with my Smurf hair and the whole outfit made me feel powerful. My parents would hate it.
I ran down the hallway and past the living room where my parents sat reading the paper. No joke, my parents still subscribed to and actually read the town newspaper like it was 1965 or something.
“I’ll be back later!” I shouted as I neared the front door.
“Just a minute, young lady.” Daddy’s voice was stern. “Come in here.”
I rolled my eyes and went to the living room, ready for a fight.
“Where are you going?” Mother didn’t even bother to look up from her paper.
“Out.” I looked Daddy in the eyes and searched for some reaction, but there was nothing.
“With whom,” he asked.
“Greg. He’s outside waiting for me, can I please go now?”
He pressed his lips into a thin, white line and I braced myself for the incoming nuclear attack. Outside, Greg revved his engine and honked his horn. Oh, that was sure to get my parents. Anytime we watched a movie with a guy picking up a girl by just honking the horn, I was always lectured about how they would never allow such a disrespectful punk to take me out.
“It’s a school night, you know,” said Daddy.
“I know.” I put a hand on my hip and sighed deeply
“Okay then. Have fun.”
“You’re going to let me go?” As excited as I was about the idea of riding off into the sunset on the back of Greg’s bike, I never expected to actually get to go. I thought for sure this would freak them out enough to lock me in my room until I was twenty.
Mother turned the page of the newspaper and remained quiet.
“You look lovely. Have fun.” Daddy picked up his newspaper and continued reading.
“Okay. Good night, then. I don’t know when I’ll be back.” It was a last ditch effort to rile them up.
“Then you better take your key with you.” Mother laid the newspaper in her lap and smiled at me in a way I hadn’t seen in about a million years. “Your dad’s right. You look lovely, dear. Now, don’t keep your young biker friend waiting.”
Without another word, I turned and left the house. Tears burned my eyes and I blinked them back. What was I upset about anyway? Wasn’t this exactly what I had always wanted? Mousey Regina Cabot was going out, on a school night, with the most gorgeous guy in school. And my parents didn’t even give me a curfew. It was more than amazing. It was a miracle. And it was scary as hell. Did they not love me anymore? Had I done something to disappoint them so much that they decided the best thing they could do was write me off? I hated them for trying to ruin my night like this.
“Wow! You look amazing, Regina!” Greg held a helmet out to me. I considered turning it down, but I wasn’t stupid. I slipped it over my head and climbed on to the back of his bike. The vibrations rumbled up my belly and into my head.
Greg backed down the driveway and as we roared past my house, I took a final look to see if my parents were peeking from a window or the front door. They weren’t.
I held onto Greg’s waist more tightly than I needed to and rested my head against his back. I don’t know why my parents suddenly stopped caring about what I did or how I did it, but maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing. I was in charge of my own life. I could make my own decisions. And maybe, if I didn’t have to worry about getting yelled at for a bunch of stupid crap, I would have more energy to do the things I really enjoyed.
Greg pulled into a parking spot and helped me off the bike. I took off my helmet and handed it to him so I could try and fluff up my plastered down hair.
“Don’t worry about it. You look great.” He tilted my chin up and kissed me lightly on the lips. My first kiss.
My heart raced so hard I thought for sure it would break my ribcage.
“Yeah.” My reply came out a breathless whisper.
“This place has the best burgers. Let’s eat and figure out what to do with the rest of the night.” Greg pulled me to his side and wrapped his arm around my waist as though it was the most natural thing in the world.
I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to skip the burger, get back on his bike and leave everything behind. I wanted to see the world with him. I wanted to kiss under the stars. I wanted to be wild and reckless. But that’s not what I was going to do.
“I have a Lit. test tomorrow, and I really need to review. Could you take me home after this?” We were settled into a booth in the cafe.
“You serious? I thought you wanted to freak your parents out.”
“I do. Or I did. I don’t know anymore. But yeah, I’m serious. I want to make sure I do well on my test for me, not for them. So, even though it makes me sound like a hopeless nerd, I do want to go home after we eat.”
He smiled and took my hand from across the table. “If that’s what you want, that’s what we’ll do. But maybe we can eat slowly?”
“My parents always complain that I’m a terribly slow eater,” I replied.
“I figured this was too good to be true, anyway.”
“What do you mean?”
“Are you serious,” he asked. “Regina, you have to know you’re like the most beautiful girl in school. I’ve been wanting to find a way to talk to you since I moved here, but I figured you wouldn’t give me the time of day. I didn’t even think you knew my name.”
“Wait, what?” I bit my lower lip and stared at him, trying to find a crack in his lie. Only, he didn’t seem to be lying. He was sweet and nervous and sincere. “You didn’t think I’d go out with you? Why in the world not?”
“Because you’re so...you. So smart and busy and, well, sort of perfect. And look at me. You have to admit, I’m not the preppy kind of guy I figured you’d go for. But when you changed your hair, I realized that maybe there’s a side to you that I didn’t know before.”
“This is so weird.” I took a long drink of water and tried to think of the best way to say what I was thinking.
“What is? Me?”
“No. This whole situation. I’ve been crushing on you like a fan-girl for months now! But you never so much as looked at me and I figured you were just way out of my league.” I blushed. “I can’t believe I just told you that.”
“Scoot over.” He came around the table and slid into the booth next to me.
“This is a weirdly poetic situation, isn’t it? We could have been coming here, together, for months if either one of us had just gotten past our fear and said something to the other.” His arm was heavy and comforting around my shoulder. Heat radiated off his neck.
“It’s weird alright. But good.”
“So, even though your parents aren’t mad about you seeing me, you want to go out again?”
I looked into his green eyes and my heart soared. “Yes. Definitely.” This time, I lifted my face to his and kissed him. My second kiss.
Our food came and we ate slowly, nibbling and laughing our way through the night, until we both agreed it was time to go.
“You’re gonna rock your Lit test tomorrow,” Greg said, helping me off the bike. “Let me know how it goes.”
“Thank you for understanding.” I hugged him tightly.
“Nothing to understand. You have to do what you have to do. I’d be a jerk not to support you.” He hugged me tighter and I felt safe and warm encircled in his arms. I didn’t want him to let go. But eventually, I had to.
“I had fun. Thank you for dinner.”
“See you in the morning!” He swung his leg over the seat and the engine rumbled to life. “I’m not leaving until I see you’re safely in the house. I’m a gentleman like that.”
In the house, I leaned against the door and listened to him ride away until I couldn’t hear him anymore. The television was on in the living room. My mother was lying with her head in my father’s lap as they watched some crime drama.
“Did you have fun?” Mother asked.
“Yeah. A lot.” My lips still tingled from our parting kiss.
“You’re home earlier than I thought.”
“I have a test in the morning I need to study for.”
“Well, goodnight, dear.”
I never figured out what made my parents let go of the reins so suddenly, but I’m glad they did. I aced that Lit test, by the way, along with all the rest of my finals. And the best part is, I did it for myself, not to try and please them. Greg and I have been going strong for nearly a year now, and sometimes he still looks at me like he can’t believe I picked him. I know exactly how he feels.