The dining room in the Hale household is always a place of forced pleasantries. Everyone talked to each other yet still managed to say nothing at all. It’s actually quite fascinating. It’s like they are putting on a show of perfection, yet they are the only ones who are there to witness it. Who were they doing it for? Themselves? The world? Or was it just their way of life. Pretend everything is perfect and normal until eventually it is; Fake it till you make it. (To put it in the simplest term.)
The sweet tang of her mother’s spaghetti filled the air in the dining room. Spencer’s favourite. Tonight however, she didn’t have an appetite. Even looking at food made her queasy. She didn’t want to raise suspicion as to why she wasn’t eating, so she just twirled noodles with her fork. Clockwise then counterclockwise around the plate. It turned into a rhythm. She started moving it around in shapes. Eventually she started pushing the pasta into artistic patterns, as if she was painting. Using the sound of her parents mundane conversation as white noise. She wasn’t listening to the words, just the sound of their voices. Using their thoughts as a distraction from her own.
“Spencer?” Her mother chimed, breaking Spencer’s rhythm.
“Huh?” Spencer replied, trying to direct her attention to the conversation.
“Did you hear a word your father just said?” Her mother asked. She looked slightly irritated. Probably because of Spencer’s lack of focus.
“Oh, no, I didn’t…sorry.” Spencer replied quietly. She dropped her head down slightly. Just enough to avoid reciprocating her mother’s intense eye contact.
“Jake?” Her mother said as she directed her stare to her husband. “Tell her again.”
“Uh sure.” He replied clearing his throat. He didn’t return her stare either. He seemed to be just as uncomfortable with his wife’s intensity. Odd. Does he also feel inadequate? I don’t see why he should. He’s a tall, strong looking man. His hair is dirty blond like Spencer’s, except his is short and gelled. His eyes are also like Spencer’s. Actually, he and Spencer share many features. They resemble each other completely. She’s like the female version of him. He likes to brag that he has the stronger genetics in the family. Spencer sometimes thinks of it as her mother’s genetics just rejected her. Like her DNA didn’t think Spencer was good enough to carry her mother’s features. Even when she was a cluster of cells. She was rejected by the person who is supposed to love her the most. That thought never helped her connection with her mother.
“Bill Morris -my buddy from work- invited us to use his cabin this weekend. I think we should go.” He said joyfully
“Oh…” Spencer sank. “A cabin…like with a lake…and nature…and an abundance of quiet?” Quiet and Spencer should never mix. Especially with her parents.
“Yes exactly! It’s a chance to get away from the city for a bit.” He beamed. She can tell he really wants to go. Spencer has to let him down gently.
“Um…do I have to go?” Spencer asked hesitantly.
“Oh, I thought you might want to go, you know, nice scenery to paint.” He replied quietly.
“But you don’t have to go if it’s not something you want to do.” His face dropped with the words. Not a lot. Just enough for Spencer to notice. She got a shot of guilt.
“Jake?” Spencer’s mother interjected.
“Why don’t we go? Just the two of us? Yes! Yes, it’s settled. You and I will go on a little romantic getaway.”
“Sure, that sounds good.” He replied.
“Great I’ll start planning. Oh, Spencer sweetie?”
The word “sweetie” sent a chill down Spencer’s spine. Why does her mom have to use that fake sweet voice? Isn’t it obvious to anyone else that she’s just pretending? She’s basically lying to everyone. She’s probably lying to herself.
“What?” Spencer asked.
“Don’t say what, say yes mom.” Her mother scolded. She’d said it so many times in her life, the line was like an uncontrollable, judgemental reflex.
Every time. She says it every time someone responds with “what”. It’s not as though people say it in a mean way. It’s an involuntary response. A habit. When you think about it, it’s more impolite to bring the conversation to a halt, just to correct someone on the way they answer. The more she tries to correct Spencer, the more Spencer unknowingly rebels.
“Yes, mom.” Spencer says flatly. Flatly is a nice word for defeated.
“That’s better.” She accepted. “You’d think after all these years you’d just know what to say.”
“Yes, mom. Please continue.” Spencer urged. Spencer sounded annoyed. She was, but she didn’t want her mom to know that. An argument was the last thing she needed.
“Are you going to be okay on your own for the weekend?” She asked with a hint of doubt.
“I don’t know, I might throw a huge party while you’re gone.” Spencer replied sarcastically.
“Ha,ha” Spencer’s mother mocked dryly. “You know Spencer, if you want to have some friends over, you can.” An instruction thinly veiled as a suggestion.
“Oh no.” Spencer thought. She could clearly see her mother was worried about her lack of a social life. She needs to give her mother something to be happy about. Think. Anything will do. “Oh!” She remembered that there is a social thing she’s invited to.
“Sure, by the way mom, I’m going bowling with some friends tonight.”
“Honey that’s wonderful!” Spencer’s mother acclaimed.
“Jeez mom, don’t sound too surprised.” Spencer thought.
“Yeah, Lucy invited me, but other people are going too, I think.” Spencer explained.
This is good. The more people there is, the better it will appear.
“That’s great sweetie.” Her mom seemed absolutely delighted with this information. If only it were real. If only it was actual happiness for her daughter, and not happiness for her own societal appearance.
“I’ll drive you.”
“No!” Spencer said abruptly. “I mean, no thank you.” She reassured softly. “Lucy will be picking me up soon. Actually, may I be excused?”
“Of course, here-” Spencer’s mother got up and went into the kitchen. She came back with her wallet. “Take 20 dollars.” She handed Spencer the bill. “In case of emergency, or just for fun.”
“Uh, thanks mom.”Spencer smiled nicely at her mother. “I’ll be home around 11, I think.”
“Well it is a school night, so no later than 12.” Her father interjected with a false stern voice. Truth be told, I don’t think they would care if she came home later. They just wanted her to be around people. No matter the time.
“Okay.” Spencer said quietly. She stood up and went to leave the room. She stopped before the door and turned to face her parents. “I’ll see you later I guess.” She pushed through the the door and closed it behind her.
“Have fun!” She heard her father’s muffled voice call through the thick wall. She didn’t respond, knowing full well, she wouldn’t.
Time to text Lucy.
* * *
Lucy’s SUV was pushing its limits through the busy city streets; bobbing and weaving its way through the stream of moving vehicles. Lucy made a sharp right turn, nearly crashing into a trash can in the process. Spencer’s hand shot up and coiled around the safety bar. Gripping the rubber handle for dear life.
“Are you trying to kill us?!” Spencer shouted.
“What?” Lucy protested. She looked slightly offended. “I do this all the time.”
Spencer rolled her eyes.
“Oh, that makes it perfectly safe then.” Spencer sarcastically retorted.
“What? Aren’t you ride-or-die?” Lucy joked playfully.
“No. Definitely not.” Spencer clutched her armrest with her free hand.
“I’m more of the ride-and-hope-I-don’t-die type.”
“Alright, have it your way.”
Lucy was visibly disappointed. She loves bending the rules. Most of the time she bends them till they break. Still, Lucy’s managed to talk her way out of every ticket she’s ever gotten so far. She just had a loveable charm that radiated from her. If only she used her powers for good.
Lucy’s car decreased its speed to under the limit and actually remained in one lane the rest of the trip.
“SAFE!” “NOT SAFE!” “SAFE ENOUGH!” Spencer’s fragmented voices screamed silently at her. Spencer wanted to put an end to them. An end to the conflicted feelings. An end to the conflict. Soon. It wouldn’t take much. Just one quick swipe of a blade across her wri-
“Here!”Lucy said, breaking Spencer’s thought in its downward spiral.
“Oh, already?” Spencer whispered.
“Yeah, we would have been here 10 minutes ago, but you wouldn’t let me go my speed.” Lucy replied casually with a bite in her tone.
“10 minutes?” “Time flies when you hate yourself.” The voices mocked Spencer.
“Sorry.” Spencer whispered practically inaudible.
“Ooh, look there’s Izzie’s car.” Lucy squeaked cheerfully. “People are here!”
Spencer was dragging her feet with dread as she exited the parking lot. The bright neon blue bowling sign blinded her as she entered the small concrete stairwell. Her thoughts were drowned out by the sound of Lucy’s wedges on the rusted metal stairs, and the buzz of the fluorescent lights.
To say this bowling alley was a fixer upper would be putting it nicely. Sadly, this was part of the appeal. It gave the ally a grungy, edgy atmosphere, which of course gave Spencer’s prep school classmates an empty taste of rebellion.
Lucy had already rushed through the huge dark blue double doors. How could someone wearing heels be so fast? Who are we kidding, Lucy was born wearing Prada. She could run a marathon in 5 inch heels. Spencer had a tendency to envy Lucy’s balance. If Spencer ever attempted to wear heels, she would probably fall and break her neck. However, She would never be able to prove that theory. Spencer has never been the kind of person who could wear heels. She’ll just stick to her flat, sturdy shoes for the time being.
The big blue doors were heavier than Spencer had expected. She had to use quite a bit of strength just to open them wide enough for her to slip through.
The smell of the ally hits Spencer immediately. The smell of oil soaked fries, and rental shoe disinfectant. The odd combination will definitely take some getting used to. Spencer stood awkwardly in the entrance trying to see which lane belonged to her “group”.
She scanned the crowd of teens for familiar faces. She caught a glimpse of curly black hair towering over the sea of people. Michael. Thank God for people over 6 feet. Now what lane is he at…7. Okay. She can do this. Spencer started walking toward the group. She recognize some people but it appears Lucy may have undersold the amount of teens attending. There was about a dozen people occupying the small waiting area. There are so many people, Spencer felt a wave of panic. She can’t do this. She started figuring out ways to escape the evening.
Spencer had decided on faking a stomach illness. She would order the nasty looking onion rings that have probably been sitting under a heat lamp for who knows how long. Then, subtly tell Lucy she wasn’t feeling well, and catch the 72 bus back to her neighborhood. If all goes according to plan, she should be back in the comfort of her own room before 9:30.This will work. It will just take a lot of convincing.
Spencer was just about to reach lane 7’s seating area when she saw something that yanked the breath straight out of her lungs.
She saw her.