Fall 2010: Anna Sutton is 15, Sunny Sutton is 52 (Eric Lloyd is 53, Madison Craig is 15)
Anna Sutton sighs as she sits down on the edge of her bed. She forces herself to not look at the photograph on her nightstand. Why hasn’t she hidden it away in a drawer yet? Why does she leave it sitting there, tormenting her each day?
But every time Anna thinks about putting the picture away, she can’t do it. Something stops her.
Anna hates that she’s fighting with Madison. She regrets telling Madison that they’re ex-best friends. But either Madison kissed Connor or else she lied about the entire thing. Because Connor wouldn’t do that. Connor loves her.
It had happened just before the end of ninth grade. They were alone at her house, her mom wasn’t home from work yet. They had just been watching TV. Then cuddling. Kissing. Exploring.
“Let’s go to your mom’s room,” Connor had whispered in her ear.
His breath was hot on her skin and it made her shiver. “Why?” she asked.
“Because she has a bigger bed,” he answered, as if it were obvious.
He disappeared into the bathroom for a moment, then emerged wrapped in only a towel. He had smiled at her surprise and whispered that he loved her and that everything would be okay.
Anna was nervous as she sat down on the bed, stripped down to her underwear. She thought about telling him no, that she wasn’t ready. But he loved her and she loved him, so why was she scared? Why wait when she already knew that they’d be together forever?
It was over quickly. A bit of fumbling, his hands squeezing various parts of her body, sloppy kisses across her lips and cheeks to quiet her cries when it hurt, and then…it was done. Connor had rolled over, pulling her into the crook of his arm and smiling up at the ceiling.
“See?” he whispered. “I told you it would be great because we love each other.”
Anna had tried to smile as she cuddled close to him. That was it? That was what people made such a big deal about? She had wondered if maybe Connor didn’t know what he was doing or maybe it was just because it hurt her so much. Whatever it was, this couldn’t really be what all those romantic scenes in movies and books was all about.
They’ve had sex a few more times since then. It’s become less painful, but not any more pleasurable–at least, not on Anna’s end. Connor always seems satisfied. Maybe it’s different for boys, Anna thinks.
Anna never told Madison what she and Connor did. She wanted to, but for some reason, she feels a bit ashamed about it.
She can’t believe Madison’s claims that Connor came onto her. Connor loves her, he’s told her a hundred times he loves her. He would never cheat on her, not after what they’ve done together. He’s her first everything. They’re going to go to college together, then get married and have a nice house with a couple of kids.
Madison is jealous, that’s what’s wrong with her. She’s mad that Anna goes out with Connor instead of hanging out in graveyards hunting ghosts.
Anna tries to avoid Madison in school, but sometimes their paths cross.
“Anna,” Madison says, “please just listen to me–”
But Anna knows what Madison is going to say and she doesn’t want to listen.
Anna looks away from Mr. Smith’s lecture at the front of the room to the boy sitting beside her. Dewey Richard is new in town and Anna is a bit intimidated at all the leather and metal studs he wears, but he’s been pretty quiet in class. He’s never actually spoken to her until now.
“Yeah?” she whispers.
“Do you have a pen I can borrow?” Dewey asks.
“Um, sure.” Anna fishes around in her backpack, then hands him a pen. “Here you go.”
“Thanks,” Dewey says, smiling at her in a way that makes Anna’s stomach flutter. “I’m always forgetting things.”
“That’s okay,” Anna tells him. “I always have extras.”
The ongoing conversation at the back of the room doesn’t escape Madison’s notice. She smiles to herself before turning back to focus on what Mr. Smith is saying.
Anna walks right past Madison’s table, keeping her eyes focused straight ahead. She won’t give Madison the satisfaction of acknowledging her existence.
“So I’m thinking of switching from a backpack to a briefcase,” Madison’s lunch companion tells her. “What do you think?…Madison? Did you hear me?”
Connor has a different lunch period this year. If they weren’t fighting, Anna would have sat with Madison. But that’s out of the question, even though Madison looks at her and says, “Anna? There’s room over here…”
Anna scowls and turns away from Madison.
“Do you mind if I sit here?” she asks, plopping her bowl down on the table.
Dewey looks up, startled for a moment. Then he smiles. “Not at all.”
They sit in silence for a moment while Anna tries to think of something to say. She needs to show Madison that she’s capable of enjoying herself without her.
“So,” Anna finally says, “why do you wear all those spikes?”
Dewey grins. “My parents named me Dewey. I have to look scary or else I’ll get my ass kicked by all the other kids in school.”
Anna giggles. “What’s wrong with Dewey? I like it. At least it’s not boring like Anna.”
“Anna is a beautiful name,” Dewey tells her.
“It sounds like a baby’s name.” Anna makes a face.
He shrugs. “Dewey sounds like a nerd’s name.”
“Hey,” Anna says, giving him a playful scowl. “I’m a nerd. Don’t mock us.”
“But you don’t look like a nerd,” Dewey says. “The name Dewey sounds like it should belong to someone who carries a briefcase to school.”
Anna laughs, but her eyes dart over Dewey’s shoulder to where Madison is sitting behind him. She wonders what Madison is talking about? Probably the upcoming Halloween Masquerade, which is all that most kids in school are talking about. It would have been fun getting ready for the dance with Madison, picking out dresses with Madison. Anna doesn’t even feel like she really wants to go.
“Something wrong?” Dewey asks.
Anna looks down at her bowl, blinking away tears. “No, it’s nothing important.”
Dewey looks unconvinced, but he nods. “Okay.” He looks at her a moment, then says, “Why are you sitting here with me?”
Hurt flashes through her. “You don’t want me to sit with you?”
“I didn’t mean it like that,” Dewey says. “I meant, I’m the new kid and therefore I have no one to sit with. Don’t you have friends you could eat with instead?”
“No,” she says. “Not anymore.”
“Well,” Dewey says, “for what it’s worth, thanks for sitting with me.”
Anna smiles. “Thanks for letting me.”
Anna wishes she could think of a way to get off the phone. Her mom is home tonight, so that at least has kept Connor from coming over. Because if he came over, he would want to have sex and Anna doesn’t feel in the mood for that at all these days.
She thinks that something must be wrong with her, if she’s actually thankful that she can’t have sex with her boyfriend tonight. Other girls her age want to do that stuff, right? Guys certainly do, judging from how Connor is constantly all over her whenever they’re alone.
“So what do you think?” Connor asks.
Anna realizes she hasn’t heard a word he’s said. “Oh,” she stammers, “um, yeah. That’s fine.”
“Great,” Connor says. “Then I’ll pick you up at seven.”
“Tomorrow night. For the dance?” Connor says. “The dance we’ve been talking about for the last fifteen minutes.”
“Oh.” She bites her lip, then says, “Do you think maybe we could stay home instead?”
“Anna,” Connor says. He sounds annoyed. Why does she have to say things that make him annoyed with her? “My brother already got us a motel room. We can’t just sit at your house with your mom all night.”
A motel room? Anna gulps.
“We’ll go to the Halloween Masquerade, dance to a few songs, and then sneak out when the chaperones aren’t looking and spend the rest of the time at the motel. We’ll be home by curfew and your mom won’t suspect a thing. It’s perfect.”
Anna’s stomach churns as she absorbs his words. “Yeah,” she says in a small voice.
Sunny has noticed that Anna isn’t acting like her usual self lately. She tries to get Anna to talk to her, but it usually just ends with Anna complaining that Sunny is always getting into her business.
Sunny does have other things to keep her occupied. Such as Eric Lloyd.
Sunny has tried to forget him. They slept together just once, when she was still deeply mourning Cecil’s death and was lonely and just needed someone close to her for a little while. And when he said he wanted to go back to being just friends, Sunny had agreed, although she hadn’t meant it. He still makes her stomach do flip-flops whenever she looks at him.
He’s getting an early start on Christmas shopping. Of course. He isn’t here to see her, just shopping.
“I think Madison may be a little too old for doll houses,” Sunny tells him.
Eric taps his chin. “Oh, yeah. I guess you’re right.” He grins sheepishly at her, making her heart beat faster against her ribs. “I’m not a very good dad sometimes, huh?”
Sunny pats his shoulder. “You’re a great dad, Eric, you just don’t know teenage girls. Lucky for you, I’ve had a lot of experience with them and can give you a few tips.”
They stand there a moment, just smiling at each other, until Sunny realizes that she has a customer waiting at the register.
“I’ll see you around,” Sunny tells him. “And you may want to try H&M for Madison’s gift. They have some really cute earrings and necklaces.”
“Thanks, Sunny,” Eric says, still looking at her.
Anna stops suddenly just inside the entrance to the Pine Hollow Performance Hall. The school has rented the hall for the night and the seats that usually line the floor have been moved out to make room for dancing. The place is the perfect romantic spot for a dance.
But Anna doesn’t feel anything romantic about tonight. “She’s wearing my dress,” she says.
“What?” Connor glances to where Madison is dancing, taking a long look at her, Anna notices. “Her dress is green.”
“But it’s the same style as mine,” Anna says.
Maybe if they were still friends, Anna and Madison would have laughed about this, showing up in the same dress in different colors. But all Anna can think is, First she tries to steal my boyfriend, now she’s stealing my style too?
“Don’t worry about it,” Connor says. “How does my mask look?”
“Um, good,” Anna answers.
“I wasn’t sure whether to go with blue or red,” Connor says. “I finally decided red popped more.”
“Uh-huh,” Anna mumbles, already zoning out.
Anna tries to push aside her thoughts about Madison and focus on having a good time with Connor. She can’t let Madison ruin everything. Connor is here tonight with her, not Madison. Connor loves her. Connor loves her so much he got a motel room just so they can have some time alone together.
Her stomach churns again at the thought of the motel room and she dances harder to try to force the thoughts of her mind. She barely notices Dewey Richard standing nearby, but she gives him a quick wave before turning her focus back to Connor.
Maybe if she keeps dancing, Connor will forget all about the motel room and they can stay here all night. Just dance, she repeats over and over in her head.
Just keep dancing.
“I’ll be right back,” Connor says. “I, um, need some fresh air.”
“I’ll go with you,” Anna offers.
He shakes his head. “No, you stay here and dance. No need for you to stop having fun just because I’m getting a bit stuffy.”
He hurries away before she can protest, leaving her alone on the dance floor.
Suddenly, Madison is standing in front of her. “Anna, please listen to me for just five seconds. I’m sorry that I made you mad, but you have to believe me. Connor isn’t the nice guy you think he is–”
“Please don’t do this,” Anna says. “Not tonight. I’m here to have fun with Connor and I don’t want to deal with this right now.”
Anna turns and almost runs toward the door. She has to find Connor. Maybe they can go ahead and leave now. Suddenly, staying at the dance seems like a worse option than not staying.
Madison’s voice breaks off suddenly when she catches up to Anna at the door.
Anna feels numb. Then she feels a stinging pain shoot through her chest. Is this what a heart attack feels like?
But the numbness and the pain are quickly replaced by pure anger.
Connor and his little tart have broken apart–she ran away when she spotted Anna–and now Anna pounces on Connor. She stabs a finger into his chest.
“You lying bastard!” Anna shouts.
“Ow.” Connor rubs his chest. “Anna, it’s not what it looks like–”
“I can’t believe I trusted you!” Anna shouts. “I can’t believe I let myself be so stupid!”
“No! You don’t get to talk right now!” Tears blur her vision, but she lets loose everything she’s been holding back. “I lost my best friend because of you! I did things I didn’t want to do FOR YOU. And this is what you do to me? This is how little you think of me?”
Madison grins from the doorway. “All right, Anna,” she whispers.
“Don’t ever call me again,” Anna says.
Then she turns and runs down the sidewalk in the direction of her house.
“Anna!” Madison calls, starting after her.
But Anna doesn’t stop. Not even when she hears the sounds of two boys arguing behind her. She keeps running, losing her shoes somewhere along the way, until she gets home and is safe in her bed.
Anna spends all weekend in bed, not answering any calls. Madison calls several times, but Anna isn’t ready to talk to her yet.
Monday morning, she feels a little like a zombie as she moves between classes, so she’s a bit startled when she literally bumps into Dewey in the hall.
“Oh, sorry,” Anna says.
Dewey smiles. “That’s okay.” He gives her a concerned look. “You okay? You look like you haven’t slept in days.”
“Not yet,” Anna admits. “But I will be. I didn’t get a chance to say hey to you at the dance on Friday. Did you have a good time?”
Dewey tilts his head to the side, as if thinking this over. “Well, it was eventful. But yeah, I guess I had a good time.”
Anna notices that his right hand looks a bit swollen and has bruises and cuts on it. “What happened to your hand?” she asks.
Dewey looks at the back of his hand. “Oh, um, I kind of hit it on something. It’s fine.”
“You should let the school nurse take a look at it,” Anna says. “It might get infected.”
“Okay,” he agrees. “I guess it wouldn’t hurt to get some ointment on it.”
The warning bell rings and Anna jumps. “Oh! Sorry, Dewey, but I need to go. I have gym this period and there’s someone I really need to talk to. See you later!”
Anna gulps. What if Madison doesn’t want to talk to her anymore? Anna knows it would serve her right, for not wanting to talk to Madison whenever she tried. And Anna had called her a liar. Madison has every right to tell Anna to get lost, but Anna hopes she won’t.
Anna kicks at the grass under her feet. “I, um, I’m sorry for not believing you.”
“I’m sorry for not telling you right away,” Madison says.
They’re quiet for a moment, both feeling a bit nervous and unsure.
Finally Madison says, “Let’s promise to not keep any secrets from each other ever again. We’ll be totally honest. And if either of us ever thinks that the guy the other is dating is a total douche we’ll just say it and talk it over and figure things out from there. Okay?”
Anna nods. “Okay.” She makes a face. “Connor really was a douche, wasn’t he?”
“The biggest douche ever,” Madison agrees.
They look at each other a moment, then giggle.
“Okay, since we’re not keeping secrets, I’ve got a juicy one to tell you,” Madison says. She leans toward Anna and whispers, “I heard that Dewey Richard likes you.”
Anna blushes as she thinks about this. “No, he doesn’t. We’re just friends.”
Madison shrugs. “That’s not what I heard.”
Anna suddenly hugs Madison. It’s so nice having her best friend back. “I really missed you,” she says.
“I missed you too,” Madison tells her. “I’ve had to make George watch Days of Our Lives with me just so I’ll have someone to talk to about it. And all he does is complain the entire time.”
Anna giggles. “How about if you come over this afternoon and we’ll watch it together?”
“Deal,” Madison says.
“So now that you’re not dating Connor anymore, do you mind if I beat him up for you?”
Anna shakes her head. “No, you can’t beat him up. I don’t want you getting into trouble.”
Madison pouts. “You’re no fun. I guess it’s just as well, I heard someone else already beat him up.”
“What?” Anna exclaims.
“Yeah, haven’t you seen him today? He’s got this huge black eye and his lip is all swollen. I heard it happened at the dance, after we left, but no one knows who did it and Connor isn’t saying anything.”
Anna rolls her eyes. “What did he do to piss someone else off?”
“Who cares?” Madison asks, grinning. “Karmic retribution at work.”
Things are back to normal by the next weekend. Madison is staying over at Anna’s like she’s done a hundred times before and they’re ready for a night of gossiping and staying up way too late and eating tons of junk food. Even Allegra has joined them for the fun.
But still…no secrets, they promised. And there’s one last secret Anna has to tell Madison.
“I slept with Connor,” she says.
Madison’s eyes grow huge. “Wait. What? When did that happen?”
“The first time was right before the summer,” Anna says quietly. She looks down at her hands. “That’s why I didn’t want to believe you about him. Because he said he loved me and we’d be together forever.”
“Oh, Anna,” Madison says. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Anna shrugs. “It just sort of happened. And then once it did, Connor always expected it. I didn’t really want to, but…” She shrugs.
Madison looks stunned. “I can’t believe you had sex with him. Do you know what could happen? Do you want to have a baby before you go to prom?”
“We were careful,” Anna says. “I’m not pregnant.”
They sit quietly for a moment while Madison thinks about how weird it is that Anna has had sex. Madison is used to being the leader–she was the first one to take an interest in boys, the first one to get her first kiss. Although she’s not at all ready to have sex with anyone, she always kind of assumed that she would be first in that aspect of life too. Now quiet little Anna has done something that Madison hasn’t and it just feels strange.
“So…” Madison says, smiling slowly and leaning forward, “what was it like?”
“Well,” Anna says, “it didn’t last very long.”
The girls erupt into giggles.
Anna and Connor really did woohoo on their own, but they actually did it on their very first date, the one that Madison set up. I hadn’t been paying attention to them and then I suddenly heard woohoo sounds coming from the photobooth. When I looked to see who was coming out, I was shocked to see it was Anna and Connor! I didn’t put it into the story then, because woohooing with a guy she just met is so not Anna. So for the storyline, I incorporated the woohoo later and recreated it at her house afterschool, using it as the reason why Anna didn’t want to believe Madison–because she had given her virginity to Connor and he had assured her that he loved and wanted only her.