Chapter 92 – A Gracious Host – Holly Hayfield
Our Friday afternoon student council meeting went on longer than usual. It went on so long that I was the one running out of time to discuss our plans. Normally during such meetings Val and Jay were the first ones to depart via Val's motorcycle. This was usually followed by Sam calling up a rideshare service or calling her older sister for a ride home. Normally Lilith and I would be the last ones to leave. My ride home was usually the last to show up. Lilith typically walked home so she usually just hung out in the library until I left. On a few occasions my mom would drop Lilith off at her place.
This time we couldn't decide on any finalizing details for the spirit week event. I still lacked any sort of guiding image of what the spirit week would be despite the fact that I came up with the idea in the first place. All of my ideas were disjointed concepts taken from spirit rallies and homecoming events from my previous schools. That gave us a place to start, but not a lot to work with. This was further complicated once the girls started telling me about similar spirit events from their own former schools. We all had somewhat separate ideas of what should take place.
My idea was more like a traditional homecoming event that we had every year at my last high school. Admittedly those were more about hyping up the school sports season rather than being spirit oriented, but had the effect that I aspired to achieve here in our alternative school. Val's idea of a spirit week seemed more akin to some sort of field day festival with a new event on each day. Lilith didn't have a coherent concept of a spirit week at all and was advocating something more along the lines as a series of 'Free Days' in which people would be free to self-study during all of spirit week.
"Doesn't that defeat the purpose of a spirit week?" Sam asked in confusion. "I mean, weren't we told that this thing has to happen before Thanksgiving break? If that were the case then why not just have Thanksgiving break start earlier?"
"I was just thinking of what would sound good to a lot of the students here." Lilith said.
Val smirked at this.
"You mean you were thinking about what would sound good to you." Val said teasingly.
"Well, yeah," Lilith said, "Isn't that what we're coming up with ideas for? This is about improving student morale, isn't it? An excuse to get out of class would definitely improve my morale..."
The rest of the table laughed at this.
"I think your heart is in the right place, Lilith." I said before turning towards Jay. "Jay, what did your last school do for spirit week?"
"Uhh..." Jay said as she looked up from the notebook she was writing in, "Hardly anything beyond making a few posters... Spirit week was just something that happened in the background to our homecoming assembly. No one aside from the teachers really talked much about it."
"What about you, Sam?" I asked.
Sam rolled her head back tiredly.
"Ugh, where should I even start...?" Sam asked.
Sam leaned her chair back on two legs and kicked her feet up on the student council table. Val promptly slapped Sam's feet off the table, causing Sam to jerk to her original position.
"Well, you'd probably be better off asking Alison instead of me. We went to the same school, after all." Sam said.
Val rolled her eyes.
"Don't invoke her in any way that might give her a reason to come snooping around in here." Val said. "If she heard what you were saying right now she'd be all too happy to use it as an excuse to get her foot in the door all next week."
"I'm not kidding!" Sam said defensively. "Her family used to have a huge hand in public events like that. Our school used it as an excuse to try bragging to the world just how great our school really was. They'd spend ridiculous amounts of money on every single event like they were trying to prove something to someone. All the money they wasted on campus grounds, advertisements, and these types of events could fund a small country."
"It sounds like you have more to say about that than you're letting on." I noted.
"Hell yeah I do!" Sam said, "But I'll spare you all a long session of ranting."
"Then let's talk about some of the ideas we have so far and try to arrange them into something useful." I said.
"Well, my notes aren't all that organized yet." Jay said. "I've been writing all this stuff down but it's just a handfull of bullet points right now."
My phone vibrated. I checked it and grimaced.
"I really hate to end things here but I don't want to keep my mom waiting." I said.
Val nodded and stood up from the table.
"We'll have to continue this over the weekend or something. I'd like to have something more presentable by Monday. The staff is already questioning me about some sort of final schedule that they can work around." Val said. "It was just announced today and they’re already jumping down my throat for being unorganized after I explained that I don't have any finalizations."
"It's going to be hard communicating this all over ChatCat..." Jay said. "Maybe we could meet up at the library or something."
Lilith smiled at this.
"That's a great idea!" Lilith said.
"The library...?" I asked while gathering my things, "That may not be the best place if we're going to be talking a lot like this."
"That's true," Val said, "Maybe there's somewhere else we could meet up."
"You should all come to my place!" Sam said.
We all looked at Sam questioningly.
"Would that be okay?" I asked. "Your parents..."
"I don't live with my parents, remember?" Sam asked. "You don't need anyone's permission other than mine!"
We all looked between each other. Val shrugged.
"Hey, as long as your place is clean enough to receive guests then I guess that's..."
"Oh crap!" Sam said over Val. Sam quickly started putting her things into her bag. "Yeah, I'm going to get going too! I'll talk to you all tonight over ChatCat to hammer out the details!"
Sam moved so quickly that she was out the door before I was. Lilith laughed at her as she ran off.
"As expected," Val said flatly.
That night we clarified the vague details of our planned meet up. A far more confident Sam jokingly declared her home fit for human habitation. Even a playful announcement like that had everyone feeling a little nervous about the entire thing. The address was about a ten minute drive from where Lilith lived. So when Saturday rolled around my mother agreed to give Lilith a lift also since her house was on the way. Lilith jokingly told my mother that Sam's place would probably be questionable given Sam's personality. Lilith and I weren't sure what to expect on our way there.
When I first heard that Sam was living alone I thought that meant an apartment or maybe even a condo. What I definitely wasn't expecting, however, was a fairly normal suburban house. This didn't look like something a teenager would live in alone. It looked like something a normal family might buy or rent. I assumed that Sam's family already previously owned this property or was just renting it so that Sam could be closer to school. No matter the case, it was still a great length to go through so that Sam could go to our school. The arrangement Sam had with her parents had to be something serious.
Val and Jay arrived just after my mother was leaving. Lilith and I hadn’t even made it to the door yet by the time they pulled into the driveway. Val usually gave Jay a ride home from time to time so it wasn’t unusual that they’d arrive together. They probably lived near each other. They dismounted the motorcycle and took off their helmets.
“You two just get here?” Val asked as she walked up.
“Yep, we were just about to ring the doorbell.” I said.
Jay shook her head in surprise as she looked over the house exterior.
“This is some place Sam’s got to herself.” Jay said. “I knew her family was loaded but this place is bigger than mine.”
“I was just thinking something similar.” I admitted. “I got the feeling that Sam and her parents hated each other. I’m reconsidering that idea after seeing that this is the place their putting her up in.”
“If I were living on my own my parents would just tell me to make the money for myself and pay for the place on my own.” Val said.
“I don’t understand, is it really all that great?” Lilith asked, “This seems like a pretty regular house.”
The three of us looked at Lilith, probably something similar in mind. However, I was the one willing to set the record straight.
“Lilith, you may not realize it but your house is pretty unreal by normal standards.” I said. “Your entire sense of money and house value is likely to be warped.”
“Whatever you say,” Lilith said, “Let’s ring the doorbell and get inside. It’s already getting cold and I didn’t bring a jacket.”
“I did warn you before we left…” I said. “But yeah, let’s go.”
We went up to the door together and I gave the doorbell a brief press. A full minute later and there was no response. I pressed it politely once again. Just like before, there was no response. We started exchanging nervous looks between each other. Lilith was the first one to become impatient. She stepped up to the doorbell and started pressing it repeatedly. As if that weren't enough, Val started banging on the door heavily. Between the sounds of repetitive ringing and constant knocking it sounded like they were trying to make music.
"She better be here!" Val said angrily, "I swear if she forgot about our meeting time then..."
"I'm coming! Hold your horses! Yeesh!" A voice came from inside.
The door opened and we were greeted by someone that wasn't Sam. This girl had clearly just woke up despite the fact that it was well past noon. She was still in her pajamas and squinting at us while using her hand to block the sunlight from her face. She looked too groggy to make out who we were with the light shining in from behind us. At first I didn't recognize who she was. Her hair was down all the way and her pajamas made me realize the she was shorter than I actually thought she was. I had mistaken her age upon seeing her like this, but quickly realized who this was.
"N-Naomi...?" I asked. "What are you doing here?"
"Holly!" Naomi said once she realized who she was talking to, "Sam's letting me stay at her place for a while. I think the better question is what are you doing here?"
"Sam didn't tell you that we were coming over?" Val asked.
Naomi blinked several times, trying to clear her sleepy vision.
"Oh, you know what, I think she did mention something like that... That's why she was busy cleaning up all evening yesterday." Naomi said. "I didn't know she meant it was happening so soon. It's good to see you here, girls!"
"Is Sam here?" Jay asked.
"I think she said something about going to the store." Naomi said.
Lilith rubbed her own arms to try keeping warm. She was wearing a sleeveless shirt that, going by the chic design, was probably something that her aunt was having her wear.
"Can we please come inside?" Lilith asked. "I'm freezing out here!"
"I'll keep you warm, Lily!"
Naomi reached out to hug Lilith. Lilith ducked beneath Naomi's arms like a professional boxer and walked past her to go inside. The rest of us followed her in. All of us looked around curiously as we came in. Naomi came in after us, locking the door behind her.
Much like the outside, there was nothing on the inside that immediately gave away the fact that this was a teenager's place. Going by the family portraits aesthetically hung up on the wall my theory about this property previously being Sam's family’s seemed to be correct. They already owned this place rather than it being something they rented just for Sam. Their family looked quite happy in these images. It made it hard to imagine just how things went so wrong for Sam. Then again, a picture could be deceiving so it was wrong of me to judge.
Naomi spread her arms out and spun around.
"It's a sweet place, huh?" Naomi bragged, "It's a hell of a lot better than the dump I was staying at before."
I had questions about that but thought it would be better to move on.
"Can you take us into the living room?" I asked.
"Sure!" Naomi said.
The living room was very suburban standard, much like the rest of the house. This room had the first hints that this wasn’t exactly a family home. There were video game controllers and discs sprawled out wildly in front of the TV. There were three empty alcohol bottles on the table and an overflowing ash tray surrounded with cigarette buds. The rest of the table was messy with old wrappers and half-eaten foodstuff. There were also a few blankets just haphazardly pushed against the sides of the room.
"Ah," Naomi said as she caught us looking around at the mess, "We had a few girlfriends over last night. They pop by sometimes."
"Pitiful," Val said, "Let's clean up this mess before doing anything else."
"Naomi, is there a vacuum in the house?" I asked.
"Sure is," she said.
"Please bring it here," I said.
Whatever’s Sam’s definition of clean was, it wasn’t clean enough. It took the four of us a solid thirty minutes of cleaning just to get things to our liking. Naomi was content to lie down on the couch and go back to sleep as we moved around her to get the place into shape. We didn’t bother going up the stairs because we knew we’d find only more of the same story. Instead, we decided to stay on the first floor since that would be where our meeting was held.
We got to work on the living room floor now that it was sufficiently clean. There was a large table in the dining room that would've been more familiar to our student council room. We decided against it for a more informal approach on the floor. Our sitting arrangement around the living room coffee table was similar to our student council seating positions. I was sitting across from Val, beside Lilith. Jay was sitting next to Val, across from Lilith. Naoimi left the room to go get dressed into her regular clothes.
The first order of business was seperating the ideas we had for the spirit week into buckets of sorts. This way we could at least begin organizing our lists into something usable. We were mainly using a mix of Val's ideas alongside my own. Her primary idea was that each day of this spirit week would come with a new little event of its own. The final day of the spirit week would be an assembly and free-day like Lilith was asking for.
"I'm back!" Sam called from the entryway hall as she came in, "Has anyone showed up yet?"
"No, it looks like they forgot!" Naomi shouted from upstairs. "You'll have to call them about it later."
"Damn..." We heard Sam mutter, "You mind helping me bring in the groceries? They're all on the porch."
"Sorry, I'm getting dressed." Naomi sang from one of the upstair rooms.
I got up and poked my head around the corner. This startled Sam enough that she dropped the two bags of groceries that she was carrying in. I laughed.
"How about we help you out instead?" I asked.
The other girls came around the corner and Sam realized just how much Naomi had been pulling her leg. She glared up the stairs, as if to pierce Naomi through the walls.
"Sorry I'm late." Sam said, "My older sister took me to buy some groceries. There are just a few bags to pull inside."
We all came over to help Sam out. It looked like her sister was already gone by the time we walked outside. It took a few back and forths before everything was inside of Sam's kitchen. Sam was looking around with a sense of wonder and realized that we had finished cleaning up the place. According to her, she had things clean last night but things were complicated after Naomi's girlfriends came over.
When that was done we all gathered in the living room to show Sam the progress that we made so far. Naomi joined in too for some reason. Val was taking the lead and hearing feedback while Jay wrote down any changes that Sam suggested. Naomi pitched in a few ideas also, and offered her group's help to the decoration assistance once again. I didn't have much to add since my ideas were already there. To me, this was more a matter of organization and preparation now that the main concepts were out of the way.
While they were working, I noticed that Lilith was still rubbing her arms as if she were cold. Without thinking much about it, I started to put my arms around her and share my warmth with her. It was when she jumped a little that I started to think about this more carefully. She turned around and gave me a questioning look and I retreated. After recalling Zoe's story I had mixed feelings about touching her this way. It felt natural to me because I did this same thing with other friends from my past schools. Lilith may have hated this sort of thing after what happened between her and Zoe.
Actually, Zoe's entire story put my touchiness with Lilith into new context. I had been so pushy with her before because I had my own clinginess to fulfill. Now, I realized that I may have overstepped an important boundary without thinking about it. What felt warm and caring to me may have felt inappropriate and unsettling to her. How much was too much between friends?
My considerations were blown away the moment that Lilith took my arms for herself and wrapped them back around herself. I was surprised at first since I didn't suspect that she'd do something like this on her own. Then I felt just how cold her arms were and it seemed less surprising. In all actuality she probably didn't think about this type of thing on the level that I did. She was just cold and willing to accept my hug in the moment.
"Don't you dislike it when I touch you?" I asked her curiously.
"I don't care that much. I'm used to it by now." Lilith said monotonously.
Just like I thought, she didn't put any emotional stock into contact like this. Sometimes I wished I could be so detached. It would make burdening troublesome emotions easier. I wanted to tell Lilith about what Zoe said but I wasn't sure if this was a good time to bring it up, depending on her reaction. The others seemed too busy to care about what Lilith and I were talking about.
"Zoe told me about what happened between the two of you in the past." I whispered to her somewhat nervously.
"Nothing happened between us," Lilith said matter-of-factly.
Lilith turned back towards me.
"Nothing happened," She said, this time in a far more determined tone.
So that's how she was going about it? She probably knew exactly what I wanted to say, but wasn't allowing me the chance to say it. She turned back around like she had nothing else to say on the topic.
"She still wants to be friends with you." I said.
Lilith turned back.
"Really...? She said that?" Lilith asked.
"She feels hurt by what happened in the past, but wants to look past it." I said. "How would you feel if I went through with mediating a meeting between you two?"
"I'm not looking forward to it but I think it's for the best. I'd like to be on speaking terms with her, at least."
Naomi noticed me holding onto Lilith and wrapped her arms around both of us.
"What the-..." Lilith asked.
We fell over and collapsed against the floor. Naomi and I were laughing but Lilith was trying to push away Naomi.
"Get off of me you big oaf!" Lilith said.
"Aw, what a mean thing to say,” Naomi said, "Can't I join in the hug too?"
"If you want a hug, go hug a tree." Lilith said.
“Cruel!” Naomi shouted.
"Let's get back up." I said seriously, "There's more to discuss. I want to tell everyone what Erica said since we're all here."
Bio: I'm an artist and writer fond of works from many different genres. I particularly love anime, manga, etc. However, I also follow many western works as well. My favorite genre is mostly fantasy but I write and read other genres as well. I have history writing both fantasy and contemporary stories.