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a little less sixteen candles

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The first thing Sarah does after she wakes up is kick Tony Sawicki in the head.

It’s an accident, of course, but it definitely sets the tone for the day. The light is pouring in through the bare windows, bright, almost blinding. Not 8 AM sunlight or even 9 AM sunlight but 11 AM sunlight. At least. She squints and struggles into a sitting position on Vic’s scratchy couch, slides her legs over the side, and almost screams when her foot connects with something warm, soft and slightly fuzzy. The warm, soft, fuzzy thing turns out to be a part of Tony’s mullet. Specifically, the part that’s attached to his skull.

“Fuck,” she mutters, getting to her feet and stepping over the body on the floor (also Tony’s, also connected to the mullet). There’s a pounding behind her eyes, a shitty hangover-slash-stress headache, and she makes her way to the bathroom almost blind, kicking aside empty beer cans and a half-full ashtray.

In the bathroom, she rakes a hand through her hair and swishes some water around in her mouth and sizes herself up. Hair needs washing, but isn’t too terrible otherwise. The makeup smeared around her eyes is at least covering up the dark circles underneath them. Split lip, big surprise. She’ll tell S she bashed it on something.

When she exits the bathroom a minute later, she finds Tony sitting up and rubbing at one temple, eyes bleary with sleep and, she’s sure, an even bigger hangover than her own. “Did you just, like… kick me in the head a minute ago?” he asks, more confused than angry.

“Go back to sleep, Tony,” Sarah soothes. “You’re fine. I need to run.”

“Yeah, you better run, sister,” Tony says agreeably, going from rubbing his head to scratching his armpit. “You’re way late.”

“Fuck,” she groans again, while Tony laughs and buries his face back into the hoodie he’s been using as a pillow.

She grabs her bag from its spot near the front door and leaves at a brisk walk. The air is hot, muggy, and she’s already sweating less than a block from Vic’s place. Before long, despite her headache, she’s jogging, then running, her bag slapping against her leg with every step, her breath coming in ragged gasps.

“Fuck you, Vic,” she gasps out loud. Fuck Vic for convincing her one last night of partying was not only a good idea but a necessary one, even when she knew she had to be home in the morning. Fuck Vic for inviting a bunch of people over and letting them say even as the clock hit one AM, then two, then three, then four. Fuck Vic for getting up who-the-hell-knows-when and not bothering to wake her before he disappeared to who-the-hell-knows-where. Fuck Vic for—

Her boot snags on something as she rounds the corner. She makes a halfhearted attempt to stay upright, but knows it’s useless even before her center of gravity tilts too far forward and she hits the sidewalk, before she feels the air whoosh out of her lungs, before she hears her bag ripping open on the sidewalk like the cheap piece of crap it is.

“Fuck!” she says for the third time in twenty minutes. She almost doesn’t want to get back up, almost doesn’t want to look at the damage, but every second she stays down is another second Mrs. S gets to tally against her, hold over her head, use as blackmail later. At least she doesn’t have to make up some bullshit story about her bloody lip now.

She gets to her knees, looking back at what she tripped over. One of those moving truck ramps sticking out into the sidewalk. She glances to the left, at the nearest house, expecting to see movers tanned and sweaty in the sun, but the only person who seems to have witnessed her crash is a blond girl standing just inside the doorway of the house her family must now own. Her eyebrows are raised in mild surprise, but her lips are quirked in a disapproving frown.

“Oi,” Sarah growls. “What the hell are you lookin’ at?”

The girl doesn’t respond—not quickly enough, anyway, and Sarah is already on her feet and running again, leaving the contents of her bag lying on the sidewalk. Screw it. It’s just stolen makeup and old receipts, anyway.

Ten minutes later, she crashes, heaving, through the front door, already yelling, “Cosima’s parents woke up late, we didn’t get on the road ’til ten, I just ran from her house…”

Mrs. S doesn’t even look up from her tea.


 

london calling: oi oi guess whos back from vic’s

geek monkey: Everything work out okay? Mrs. S isn’t going to be calling my parents to verify your story?

london calling: yea i rolled in a few hours late and s was a bit suspicious but i reminded her that your familys always late for everything and she bought it. thanks for being my cover btw

geek monkey: Scuse me, late for everything? Rude.

london calling: just sayin it’s not exactly a lie

geek monkey: Except for the part where it totally is, because my family wasn’t late for anything, because you weren’t actually with my family this weekend…

london calling: alls well that ends well yeah?

geek monkey: If you say so. How’s Vic?

london calling: still a dick of course. he didnt even wake me this morning

geek monkey: Seriously Sarah, dump his ass. I could introduce you to so many guys who aren’t total utter douchebags. Or girls!

london calling: nice try cos

london calling: so speaking of girls hows scienceland, have you hooked up with anyone yet?

geek monkey: Dude, I told you that wasn’t happening this summer.

london calling: yea but you say that every summer

london calling: and every summer you hook up with someone anyway

geek monkey: Seriously, I’m focusing on academics this year. One last push before college.

london calling: yeah right

london calling: ah shit i gotta go fee’s calling me.

london calling is offline.


 

The doorbell rings just before nine that night. Felix bolts from the couch, shouting “I’ll get it!” as if either Sarah or Mrs. S have made any move to beat him to it. Sarah rolls her eyes and turns back to the TV, but just a few seconds later Felix is calling, “Sarah, it’s for you!”

Shite, she thinks, praying it’s not Vic. Not like she’s actually dumb enough to give him her home address, but who the hell knows? It’s not like he’s above following her.

She gets off the couch and walks to the front door, muscles tensing, already prepared to tell him off, but the person standing in the threshold isn’t Vic at all. It’s the blonde girl from earlier, standing straight as a pin, arms crossed in front of her chest. Somehow the sight of this girl freaks her out even more.

“Uh… yeah?” she asks, hoping her tone manages to convey both her extreme dislike of stalking and her extreme unwillingness to befriend some new girl just because they happened to see each other before the start of the school year.

The girl holds something out in one hand, a small plastic ID card. Sarah reaches out and takes it. Shit, her license. S would’ve killed her if she had to replace it.

“You left this behind,” the girl says in a sharp English accent, surprising Sarah so much she momentarily forgets to speak. “When you ripped your bag,” the girl clarifies, sounding mildly frustrated.

“Uh,” Sarah says, looking down at her driver’s license, then up at the girl’s face. “You walked all this way?”

“My father drove me. He’s waiting,” the girl says, and raises an eyebrow. “You’re English.”

“Yeah,” Sarah says, “we moved here when I—”

“That’s a surprise,” the girl says in a mildly bored tone that suggests she couldn’t care less. “Well, you’ve got your license back, so if that’s everything…” Like it was Sarah who forced the posh bitch into a car and made her drive across town, not something she’d decided to do on her own.

“Right, thanks,” Sarah says, doing her best to match the disinterested tone. “See you around.” Like hell.

“Who was that?” Felix asks from the top of the stairs as Sarah closes and locks the front door, as the blonde girl walks primly down the front walk to her father’s car. “She was English.”

“Hell if I know,” Sarah says, tossing her license onto the nearest table. “Just some bitch.”