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I stuck my head under the steady stream of water coming from the edge of the rock overhang. My hair felt like it had a life of its own, trying to crawl off of my head. Goosebumps popped up all over my body. The water ran down my face, my back, my arms. But the water did not go down my legs or waist; below there was submerged in the pool that the water was falling into. I shivered. I would not have been doing this on my own; believe me.

I was under this huge cascade because of a dare and a bet. The dare because of the things I would do to the guys that did this to me. The bet potion was them betting on me to see if I could actually do it

As I stood there the water began to not feel as bad, not good by any means, just not as bad. It didn’t seem as cold either, but that could just be my imagination setting in. A smile quirked my lips. Those silly guys, this wasn’t going to do anything to me. Maybe if I had been younger it wouldn’t have worked. Since I was a little kid, a very little kid, until just recently, maybe a year or two ago, I had been terrified of this waterfall.

I’m not sure why I’d been so scared but I was. I’ve learned to accept things I don’t get. They don’t bother me until I really think hard about it but I try not to do that. I avoid thinking about things that I don’t understand unless I have to. That’s just the way I am. If you don’t like it then go away. All of this is beside the point.

I was submerged from the waist down under a waterfall for at least forty minutes. Yeah, forty whole minutes. I have to stand right here for forty or more minutes to get twenty dollars.

A huge shiver ran down my spine, the only thing that stopped me from walking away right then and there was sheer stubbornness. Mainly because I would not- under any circumstances- admit that I had chickened out.

I gasped. Suddenly the water had lessened. If someone had walked down past me right then they would have seen how huge my eyes were from shock. Now I realized why this place had instilled fear in me for such a long time, it reminded me of death. I’m not sure why the falls reminded me of death so much or so strongly but they did.

I had stood under the falls for five minutes. Maybe less but I was hoping it had been ten, key word: hope. This was going to take forever! Once again I stayed where I was through force of will. They were going to regret this!

Even though I was major freaked out because of where I was it wasn’t that bad. My friends said they would check back on me after an hour. Just in case I liked it or at least that was the reason they gave me anyway. As if I was really going to stand under the waterfall for an extra twenty minutes!

Without my notice I had moved to be standing under the cascade entirely. I rolled my shoulders under the stinging impact of the sharp droplets. It was starting to feel good, or at least not as bad. That was another thing my friends would never know. If they did I would never hear the end of things. Another smile tried to quirk my lips, my mom didn’t know I was here, or even where I was. It was more fun that it should have been to keep her in the dark.

I do lots of stuff without noticing , like untwining my hands and arms from in front of my body and feeling how wet my hair was. It was soaked.

I shook my head in disbelief. Maybe I was starting to enjoy this. The thought scared me.

Suddenly the water got cold and came down faster. I got the feeling of doom that was both unavoidable and just beyond reach. Like I said before, the falls reminded me of death, just this one, though.

I heard my friends laughing at some apparently hilarious joke that I was missing. I thought for a minute on how the increased noise from water made it possible for me to hear my friends being obnoxious. A small, unwilling giggle escaped from between my lips. My friends didn’t hear me or they would have checked on me early.

I don’t know why I decided to think on the things that had been filed away as “happenings”. Like not telling my mom where I was and why my brain had “waterfall” and “death” under the same tab. It all made me uneasy. Maybe someone had died here, eons ago. I was told I’d be a psychic, maybe it was related, yeah right.

I knew it had nothing to do with my past. My so-called family rarely went this far into the forest. I wasn’t one for hiking but I didn’t mind it much, my mother hates it with a passion, my father, on the other hand, loves to be outside.

I’d been off in my imaginary world ten minutes had passed. Now I had, as I counted in my head, twenty five minutes left.

I’m not sure what I thought would happen that would make this so hard. It’s not particularly hard to stand under a bit of water.

A chuckle got passed my tightly clamped lips again. Why where they clamped? Like I said earlier, I do things without thinking or even noticing.

I wonder what I will do to all my friends now. All I need is the physically most embarrassing thing in the universe! My mind seemed frozen as I tried to think of what I could do.

Frozen. Involuntarily shivers ran down my spine and wracked my arms and legs. The water did the strange warm up thing that had happened earlier. With the exception of this time I shivered harder. It was almost too hot now. My heart didn’t skip a beat; it skipped four, at least.

“Hey, Kara! You done yet? How long you planning on staying in there?” It was one of my friends.

“Hold on, let me get out,” I yelled, then added as an afterthought: “Don’t even think about coming here. Ya here me, don’t come here!”

I pulled myself out of my thoughts and water. I walked away from the cascade. My clothes were laid out on a warm, sunlit rock. I got the towel from next to the rock and dried my short ugly hair quickly. Glancing around I wiggled into my jeans and pulled my shirt over my head. As soon as I was dressed I walked the few yards to the trail where my friends were waiting for me.

“Hey, I’m done. Ha! I did it! What’d I miss?” I leaned up against a tree and began to listen as the conversation picked up again.

“So, Kara, how do we know that you really stood under the cascade?” It was my friend Michal, we’ve nicknamed him Mac.

“Why, Mac, don’t you believe me?” I tried for an innocent look but a smirk morphed into a smile and ruined it. Oh well, I wasn’t planning on going into acting anytime soon.

“He has a point Kara; you were there for forty-five minutes.” That was my other friend, Jake.

I hung out with four guys. That’s one more thing that my mom has wrong. My friends are Mac, Jake, Kevin and Alex. Mac is my closest friend. It’s hard to choose one ‘cause these are the only people I even bother to chill with. Jake is the one who’s almost always laughing. Kevin started the whole ‘dare’ thing so blame him for all this madness. Alex is the silent one. I swear he can’t talk half the time.

“Oh come on! Do you really not believe me?” I rolled my eyes. “I don’t lie, much.”

Everyone laughed, just like I’d hoped. Things were going good and just got even better because high school just let out. Probably close to a week ago. I don’t keep track of the days when I’m not in school. Alex brought up part of my thoughts, assuming you looked at it in the right light.

“So Kara, are you going to pick one of us before school starts or after?”

Instead of answering I leaned my head into the middle of the group and shook it hard. Water sprayed all over everyone. I had aimed for Alex. They all shouted at each other, and me, and started laughing. This just plain didn’t happen at my house.

“We just got out of school; give me a minute to think of something!” I paused, trying unsuccessfully to come up with an idea. I caught something in the wording. “Hey, wait a tick, you said ‘pick one of us’ so I can’t dare you all?”

“Well, it was Kevin who dared you, not me or Jake or Alex so why would you be able to dare us all?” Mac was asking me.

“Now you’re all ganging up on me?” I pretended to pout. “But aren’t you all in on the dare? Oh yeah, who one the bet?” I changed the subject before I made a stupid dare. Most of them looked a bit surprised.

Jake reached over and playfully punched Mac. “See, I told you she’d remember,” he was wearing a huge smile. Everyone looked at Kevin.

So, Kevin, how much did you win?” I asked conversationally.

He looked surprised. “Uh…about…”

Jake pretended to cough. “Fifteen.” He feigned coughing again. Kevin looked at the ground then me.

“Truth.”

We seemed to have run out of things to say. The silence began to get awkward.

“So…” I asked, trying to break the silence, “do you…um…have any plans for summer?” What a stupid question! It seemed to shatter the silence or at least make it less oppressive.

“Naw, were all hanging around the house this year.” This was Mac, he fiddled with a leaf.

“Me either. Dad wants to have a summer at home for once.” Jake’s parents always stayed home. This announcement surprised me because they usually had big plans that never got done. “Watch this be the one summer we actually go somewhere.” He shook his head in mock sadness.

“That’ll happen, you watch. Is there somewhere you wanna go?” Alex was all about traveling.

“No, I’m afraid of flying.” Jake was probably lying, that was my opinion anyway. It was just a guess but I feel like I know him pretty well. No one brought up my thought this time. It slipped our minds. ”What about you, Kara?” he asked to stop the silence, or maybe he was genuinely interested. Who could tell?

“Nope, well, nothing my mom has told me about anyway. That leaves a ton of room for something new to happen.” I said. My friends knew that I didn’t get along well with my mother. They didn’t know the extent of our relationship, I’m not sure I even know how bad this is. “I hope we don’t go anywhere anytime soon. Alex?”

Alex shook his head in response, “I wouldn’t know, my parents tend to plan things at the last available second,” A murmur of agreement rose up. That’d happened to all of us at least once, if not more. When it was me I would not know until we were at least halfway there. My parents don’t tell me much. They will pack for me on occasion. It’s as if they were afraid of what I’d bring if left unsupervised for twelve seconds. It was nothing that they didn’t know about. Anything important was hidden with layers of dust covering it. No where they would look, they hadn’t found it yet anyways.

“That’s happened to every person on the planet at least once,” I said. Jake laughed a small chuckle and Kevin nodded sagely.

“Can you believe that book we need to read for junior year?” Alex. He was astonished, very plainly astonished. That was pretty unusual but not unheard of.

“What is it?” Jake asked. He had, apparently, been paying as much attention as I had.

“Yeah, what is it? I wasn’t paying attention when they announced it,” I responded, echoing Jake’s words unintentionally.

Sense and Sensibility,” he declared, he sighed at our empty looks but then Mac continued his line of thought.

“It’s huge and not too interesting but a classic none the less,” Mac put in, “There’s going to be at least one person who reads it and likes it.”

“For sure!” Kevin called out into the surrounding trees, “Any guesses on who it’ll be?”

“Maybe Judy, the shy, quiet girl from English class, she likes to read. Especially if it’s a big book,” Jake said happily.

“Any other ideas?” I asked.

“Well, no chance you’ll read it, huh Kara?” Mac replied, answering my question with a question.

I shook my head. “What is this reading of which you speak?” I said smiling. I was glad that it was only my friends who were here today. I’d severely wounded a freshman once because I had said something along those lines. I had refused to apologize for it too. It was something that made my reputation for a loner/freak bigger. Who cares? That’s what I tell myself anyway. At the least I felt sorry for hurting her but I’d still refused to say anything as far as admittance went.

We hung out on the trail for about an hour or so before deciding to head back towards civilization for pizza, one of the best foods ever. I was really hungry by the time we got to the pizzeria. It was close to half a mile away from where we were now. We’d had to walk because nobody had gotten around to getting a car. Mac vowed he would soon but I had my doubts. Jake was probably closest because he was at least saving up the money to buy his own car. I hadn’t even considered saving up or getting a car.

At the restaurant we got a seat outside and a pepperoni pizza. Outside it was hot but we could be a little bit louder, less echo so it would annoy less people.

By the time the pizza got here we were tired of waiting. Even covered with grease it was a delicious meal. We ate happily. Not even a single slice was left when we got done, but then again, teens are known for eating.

“Now what?” I asked as Alex finished his last slice of pizza. It probably had the most pepperoni on it. Vaguely I wondered how we’d missed it previously.

“Let’s hang at the mall,” Jake suggested.

“I’m down with that,” Kevin agreed. That was one of our favorite hangouts of all time.

“It’s a bit of a walk,” Alex complained before taking a bite of his pizza piece. A drop of grease fell off onto his plate.

“It’s fun there but that’s got to be at least four miles. Don’t forget about coming back, too,” I complained. Alex nodded and Jake took a drink of his Coke.

“My mom could pick us up. She’s off work today,” Kevin offered.

“In that case…mall!” Jake shouted, then looked around guiltily to make sure we weren’t about to be kicked out.

“The four mile part really makes me not wanna go,” I complained.

“Come on Kara, it’s not really four miles. Besides, we’ve probably walked that far just around the mall itself,” Mac argued.

“Kara, you are way outvoted,” Alex informed me kindly, “let’s pay and get out of here.”

Everyone looked at Jake. “Gimmie a minute,” Jake sighed. He drew some numbers in the air. “About five bucks each. Maybe more.” He put a five on the table.

I managed to dig up four ones, three quarters, a nickel and two dimes from the depths of my pockets. Mac and Alex had similar collections. Kevin and Jake were the only ones to put out a normal collection of money. Our waiter came out.

“Bill please,” Mac asked politely.

“Yes just a moment,” the man replied. He seemed a little bit flustered.

It took more than a minute for him to come back. He gave us the bill then promptly left again, before anyone had the opportunity to keep him any longer.

“Jake, how much is tip?” Alex asked.

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“Jake, how much is tip?” Alex asked.

“Fifteen percent is normal service. I’d give him less than that. I didn’t like him,” he shrugged casually, “personally.”

“You didn’t like him either?” Mac said.

“Ten percent of twenty is…” I took a second to do the math, “ten.” Kevin got most of the tip but Mac slipped in a few bills.

The waiter came. We paid. We left. The walk to the mall was not something I was looking forward to.

It was a long walk to the mall but totally worth it. We had a ball and went into nearly every shop, some of them twice.

“Hey Judy!” Alex called abruptly. She granted us a small wave and a nervous half-smile.

“What’s she doing here?” I whispered in Mac’s ear.

“Chilling I guess,” Mac whispered back.

“She has every right to be here,” Jake said, “The same as we do.” He seemed rather annoyed.

Judy was almost halfway down the hall outside of some of the stores. Jake caught up to her. He talked for a minute but she shook her head.

“I wonder what he’s doing” I said to no one in particular.

“Talking,” Alex replied.

“No duh. What’s he talking about and why to Judy?” I said, rephrasing the statement.

“Go ask him”

“I will when he gets back” I resolved. Jake pleaded, or so it looked, for a bit more before shrugging his shoulders, waving a mini-wave, and walking back. Judy looked sad but shook her head to his back and walked the opposite way.

“What was that about?” I asked him. His usual jaunty persona was back.

“If you must know I was asking Judy if she wanted to hang with us.”

“What’d she say?” I couldn’t help asking.

“That she couldn’t because her mom was waiting outside.”

“Whatever,” I muttered quietly to myself.

“Ready to head home? I’m bored,” Kevin complained. I would never want to go home so I didn’t bother to answer.

“I’m cool with that,” Mac conceded.

“Def’nly,” Alex said.

“Might as well,” Jake complied.

Everyone looked at me. “Well Kara?” Kevin asked.

“I don’t want to keep you guys….”

“You just don’t want to go home,” Mac finished for me.

“Alright,” Kevin said, pulling out his phone, “give me a minute.”

He walked away and began talking to his mother. I could already feel the expression leaching away from my face. Mac looked over at me and became concerned.

“You ok?” he asked.

“Course,” I answered.

“Hey, I’m just saying you looked rather upset.”

“You’d be depressed if you had to see my mom. Not saying I’m depressed or anything like that.”

“You still have, like, fifteen minutes before Symba gets here. Then fifteen minutes back,” Mac said, trying to perk my spirits.

“Kara, don’t let people get under your skin, even if it is your parents. Sorry I can’t sympathize better,” Jake said.

“S’ok. Really guys, I’m fine,” I practically pleaded. Kevin returned. Several minutes later I noticed the car.

“Hey, is that her?” I asked. Mac and Alex had been having a stare-down over something, I’d missed the details. An off-green van was pulling up outside. A dark woman was at the wheel; her hair was almost as short as mine.

“Yeah,” Kevin affirmed. Everyone followed him outside. The heat hit me like a solid wall. We piled into the van. It reminded me of good times into the 70’s. I think Symba was a hippie, if a little late.

“Hey Kevin,” she said as we tumbled in. “Hey guys.”

“What’s up?” Jake asked happily, pulling the door shut. It made a muffled thud.

“Nothing much, I was just enjoying my day off before somebody had to call,” she replied sweetly. The teasing words and forgiving smile revealed what I wished I could have but never would. It would be a cold day in July before I let my mother get that close.

The ride back to our respective houses was rather boisterous; especially considering this was an adult’s car. Jake was the first to be dropped off, followed by Alex not too many streets away. The noise did little in the way of receding after the two boys left. Over half of us were still left.

Mac moved over to the seat that Alex had vacated, he was now directly next to me. It was almost ten minutes before we arrived at Mac’s house. I was next, only Kevin and I remained.

“So, how ya doing?” I asked Symba, leaning forward in my seat until my head was in between Kevin and his mother. I was quite fond of Symba.

“Fine, nothing major to complain about,” she replied, fiddling with the radio dials, “Do you mind if I play music?”

“Nah, I wouldn’t know what’s playing anyway,” I said with a shrug. “I’m not very into music. I couldn’t even clap on beat, and believe me, I’ve tried.”

Symba giggled and I tensed. Just because I liked her did not mean I would stand for being mocked. Kevin joined in and I let out a small laugh.

“My husband and I,” Symba explained, “are blessed with rhythm. I’m not sure if this one has the same ablility.” She jerked her thumb at Kevin. “His sisters do though.”

“’ey! I don’t know what you’re talking about but I have rhythm,” Kevin interjected. As if to prove a point, a drum solo came on. We rode the last few blocks with musical accompaniment. It wasn’t that bad, the music. Symba was jamming the whole way. Kevin joined in after he was done pouting.

“Here you go,” Symba said, pulling up to the curb in front of my house. It looked quite cozy but it was my own personal prison cell.

“Thanks,” I said, cheerily on the outside, sad on the inside, as I hopped out.

The door to the car clanked shut behind me. I walked up our concrete utopia to my door, grasped the knob and stepped inside.


 

 

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