The Almost Biography of Another Troubled Teen
(A novel I will probably never finish by Shoshanah Steinberg)
The wind blew with renewed strength and whipped her hair roughly around her head. She glanced around at the emptiness surrounding her. Nothing but tall waving grass and the rocky cliff behind her. The water below called to her, its white-tipped waves coaxing her down. Goodbye. She chuckled; she always did love roller coaster drops the best. This would be her last ride. The final fall. She took a step forward, took a deep breath, and jumped. I’ll see you soon, Dad.
Ch 1 -- 10 months earlier
Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!
“Ugh, it’s too early.” A moan came from under the heap of clothing and blankets from the corner of the room.
Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!
“You've got to be kidding me.” A head with shaggy black and blue hair materialized, with yesterday’s eyeliner smeared under her right eye. Another groan, and a figure of a girl emerged from the pile and stumbled across the room.
Beep! Beep! Be-
The alarm shut off abruptly. “Finally.” The girl sighed and flopped down again on her makeshift bed and was just drifting off again when she heard, “SORIAH!!!” She rolled her eyes and sighed. What made her think that this morning was any different? “Coming, Mom!” She walked as slowly as she could down the stairs, avoiding her mother for the longest possible time. “Soriah! Get down here right now!”
No, she thought. She turned around and was going back to her room when she heard the cabinet slam. Fuck. She’s been drinking. Having an alcoholic mother was a truth that Soriah had long since accepted. She didn’t know what to do about it, so she tended to just avoid her. Dad would have known what to do. She went back to her bedroom and blasted her music into her ears, knowing the longer she stayed away from her mom, the better. Who cares if she was late to school again? It was Monday; still the weekend in her opinion.
She stretched out on the floor and looked around her room. There was a bed covered in boxes and old notebooks and other miscellaneous stuff. Her closet, half open, revealed a few clothes hung haphazardly on hangers and more clothes lining the bottom. The rest of her wooden floor contained the jeans she wore yesterday, her favorite combat boots, and the black beanbag chair in the corner, covered in blankets and yet more laundry. This was where she slept. Soriah’s mom always asked why she never slept in her bed when she had a perfectly fine one already. Soriah always gave the same response: “I’m practicing for when I’m homeless.” Her mom tended to roll her eyes and ignore that.
Soriah’s gaze landed in the far corner by her lamp. Her notebook. Writing was her only joy, aside from her music. The surrounding floor area, including a shag rug that used to be purple, was covered in small pieces of paper with scribbles, doodles, poems, lyrics, and ideas. On the wall above her bed was a black and white photo of her dad’s old ranch. She remembered those days fondly. Those were the last happy memories she had left. Her happiness had died with him after the accident.
Soriah thought back to the previous night, after another one of the many fights she got into with her mom. This one was the worst in months, probably the worst since her father’s death. Her mom had been scolding her for being so isolated, only listening to “weird bands” and asking, "Is that even music anyway?" Her old favorite, “Why do you never do your homework?” recently gave way to the latest one, “A girl your age should have friends, where are yours?”
Soriah got this most nights and usually ignored it, but that night something inside her snapped when she heard, “Your father probably raised you like this. He was a damned bad influence, that ass.” A choked cry escaped her throat. “What did you call my father?” Soriah cried, knowing that whatever her mom said, Soriah would never forgive her. Ever.
The sunshine licked her skin and the smell of earth and horses filled her nose. This was home. Her Daddy was brushing Cinnamon’s coat and Soriah was washing the red horse’s legs and belly.
“When I get big I can reach her face! I almost can now!” Soriah exclaimed. She lifted the brush with soapy water and continued scrubbing.
A strong arm lifted the little girl off the ground. Squealing, she raised the hand still holding the brush and began to brush the animal’s nose. Cinnamon whinnied. “Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades,” her Daddy remarked, tightening the strong arm around her waist.
“She likes me, Daddy!” The man in the blue flannel shirt laughed.
“One day you may have to lift me up to brush the horses,” he chuckled. Soriah giggled.
“Silly Daddy, you’ll be here forever.” She smiled at him. “You're Daddy!”
She snapped out of her memories only find herself crying softly on her favorite shirt, the same blue flannel her dad had worn all those years ago. She never wore it, but kept it anyway, a small token of her childhood that had yet to be taken from her.
Soriah sniffed, and went over to her mirror. It was still cracked in the corner where she’d thrown her phone at it a number of weeks ago. Somehow the phone had survived, but then again that phone had been through a lot. It had been dropped, stepped on, thrown, submerged in water, screamed through, cried on, left at the beach, and lost in a taxi. And here it was again, though now with a broken case, shattered screen, and the letters fading off the buttons, but regardless, it could send a text message and place a call and that’s all her phone really needed to do anyway. She always felt like she could relate well to her phone, as she had gone through a fair amount of destruction as well. She sighed.
“Soriah!” A shrill screech made its way up the hall. Soriah turned up her music in reply.
"Soriah Ashley James you have five seconds to get your lazy spoiled ass downstairs or your only hope of–" The music pouring out of her earbuds drowned out her mother's ranting. Fuck you, Mother. She yanked aside her curtains and opened her window. She nimbly climbed out, landing on the ground beside the garbage cans.
The bus smelled like cigarettes and feet. She watched morosely as her school’s street approached on her right. She ignored the shouts and cries of the crowd of teenagers, most plagued with acne, some with braces, and all with unnatural enthusiasm for a Monday. Soriah hated school. The kids, the teachers, the lockers; it all seemed so superficial and fake; a cardboard cutout of what reality was supposed to be. It was like painting Times Square at midnight in pastel.
Sitting in the belly of the yellow monster, Soriah heard the screech of centuries-old brakes and smelled the dust as it drifted in through the dirty window. Whee, thought Soriah unenthusiastically. School. As the mob raced off the bus, Soriah waited behind in her seat to add to the doodle she had started a few weeks ago on the back of the seat in front of her. It was a dragon. Or was it a flower? The bus driver called for anyone left on the bus, so Soriah grabbed her black backpack and strolled off the bus onto the campus of Oakwood High.
Instantly, she was hit with immense regret for not ditching the bus. Girls in shorts too short and tops that barely covered anything strutted in sandals, flipping blonde, clearly dyed hair out of heavily made up eyes. Guys with gelled hair in shorts and tees greeted each other with chest bumps and cheerfully exclaimed choruses of "Bro!"
Soriah rolled her eyes. I hate Mondays.
It was August in Oakwood, a suburban Nowheresville surrounded by trees and not much else. The weather was a "wonderful" ninety one degrees, but to Soriah, it was too hot. The black skinny jeans and hoodie that she wore made it hard to stand the heat. She lurked in a corner of the quad, waiting by the door to the classroom that she would inevitably have to waste her morning in. A shrill ringing blasted through the stifling air and with that invitation, students began to fist bump their friends good bye and file into the air conditioned jail cells with desks and whiteboards.
It was time for Math, but Soriah didn’t care. She never paid attention in Math anyway, so today she decided to ditch. She had better things to do besides memorizing the quadratic formula.
She passed her classroom and kept walking to the path she knew led off campus. Because she had never learned to drive, nor had she any interest, she walked to the bus stop near her school. She slipped onto the bus and turned up her music. She didn’t know where she was going, and she didn’t care. Anywhere would be better than school.
When the smelly brakes screeched the bus to a halt in front of the shopping center in town, Soriah hopped off and blended into the crowd of shoppers. Her stomach growled and she realized she never had breakfast. The coffee shop at the corner was always busy, but she went there anyway, knowing that no one would see her in such a crowd.
There, she pulled out her phone and sighed. Sixteen new messages from her mom. The first few were just jumbled letters, then they started forming words, like, “Sorrrijiaahjk youu stipppuid girlkl” and “Wwillliamn gddammnit. Fuckk uu” Soriah turned her screen off. Her mom must be really drunk. She only called her dad William when she was completely wasted. Oh well.
At the front of the line, the overly cheery barista asked Soriah if she wanted anything. She declined because she didn't have any money. Instead, she turned to leave, but before she could walk out the door, she heard a voice that made her blood freeze in her veins.
“I kn-know she was in her room thish morning! Then I go upshtairsh, her window is open, and sh-she isn’t at shchool!”
Damn, thought Soriah. I always forget to close the window.
Before her mother could notice her, she ducked out the back door of the shop, grabbing a partially eaten donut off the counter for breakfast. Whoever had bought it wouldn’t miss it. She stepped into the blinding sun, and thought of a day when everything would be better.
Back outside, she crossed the street to get to the park nearby. She saw a young girl in the sandbox and a group of teenage boys on the rocket-shaped jungle gym smoking cigarettes. One of them started picking at the peeling paint on the monkey bars, and Soriah had to resist the urge to tell him to stop. She remembered when the park was brand new.
She could hear the laughter from the car. A brightly colored playground shaped like a giant spaceship protruded from the sandbox. Two little boys were playing on the tire swing.
"Daddy! Come on! We're gonna miss our flight!" yelled the eight-year-old in the pink tights. Her pigtails slapped against her face as the giant rocket grew closer.
"Soriah, honey, I'm coming. I'm coming. Your old man’s knees ain’t what they used to be.”
As Soriah ran up the steps to the ship, she grabbed hold of the steering wheel.
“Daddy! Hurry up!”
Panting, her father reached the deck. “Where are we going, sweet pea?”
“To a new planet! Just with us! And nobody else!”
A smile slowly crossed his face.
“Three, two, one, BLASTOFF!!!
“Honey, it’s time to go!” Soriah’s head snapped back, thinking she heard her father, but it was a balding man in a faded tee shirt calling to the girl in the sand. Soriah sighed. Nothing would ever be the same.
In the sea of legs, Soriah felt small and lost. They had only been at the market for a few minutes, but already she had gotten separated from her mommy. She looked for the crisply ironed skirt that her mom always wore, navy blue with the gold buttons. There! Soriah followed the skirt around the corner to the baked goods, yelling, “Mommy! Mommy!”
When she reached the skirt, however, it wasn’t her mom after all, but a young blonde woman with a baby in her arms. Her eyes opened wide when she saw Soriah, a young girl with dark hair and tears in her eyes.
“Mommy?” But Soriah knew better. Mommy was gone. Mommy was always gone.
The sea of faces and backpacks swallowed Soriah as she pushed back on campus hoping to avoid Marge, also known as Ms. Sullivan, or as kids liked to call her, Ms. Satan. Nine out of ten detentions given at Oakwood High were just Ms. Sullivan telling off kids when she was in a bad mood. Luckily she ran into Pete, a large middle aged man who cleaned up the campus and let people sneak off at lunch. Pete was the unspoken hero of the school.
“Thanks,” whispered Soriah as she slipped by his cart into the crowd. Pete winked and turned away.
As the bell rang for lunch, Soriah made a note on the back of her hand to go talk to Miss Foster, the school counselor. She was a young woman in her late twenties who had long blonde hair, usually with flowers twisted into it, who wore long flowy skirts and tye-dyed tops.
She was one of the coolest faculty at the school and a lot of boys liked to flirt with her, especially Dustin Harley. He was the only kid in school who had already gotten tattoos, and he had two of them. One was a set of gears on his collarbone and the other was a raven on a skull on his right hipbone that he liked to show off by lifting his shirt, usually in the presence of girls. He would flirt with anything that moved. He was the guitarist in a local garage band called Fyx. He, Nikki Bender, Azura Anderson a.k.a. Z, and Nate Lincoln were the go-to band for any party held by Oakwood students.
Nikki was a short ginger girl who always wrote song lyrics in the margins of her papers and blew everyone away singing Monster by Paramore at last year’s school Halloween event. Z was dating Roxy, a butch girl who everyone thought was a guy for the first month of school. Z was also known schoolwide as the girl who shaved her head freshman year. She currently had short hair dyed dark red and buzzed up one side. Nate was a quiet guy with messy black hair that hung in his bright blue eyes, who was never seen without a black hoodie and earbuds. Dustin and Nate were in English with Soriah and her best friend Melanie, who had been dating Nate since sophomore year.
The four band members always ate lunch together, and Melanie and Soriah tended to eat with them because Nate and Melanie were constantly attached at the hip, and usually mouth. This left Soriah and Dustin no one to talk to but each other, and they had become rather close. They compared opinions about song lyrics and what they thought they meant, Dustin would go on long tirades about the guitarist in Ghost Faction, the most popular band these days, and how he could play so much better. Soriah had heard this rant enough times and usually tuned him out. They also complained about Mrs. Sullivan and made up limericks about her and the other faculty when no one else was listening.
Melanie and Nate were oblivious to their laughter, as they were too into each other. Soriah always felt a little jealous of her best friend, but she would never say anything. She wished she could have someone like that in her life. She ignored their daily makeout sessions and just hung out with Dustin.
“Did you finish your essay?” Dustin asked, snapping Soriah out of her thoughts.
“Not quite, but I’m almost done. Just need a conclusion.”
“Oh I totally get that. Summarizing is stupid, though. I mean, I already said everything in the essay, why write it all again, you know?” Dustin shrugged. “Whatever.”
Soriah laughed and picked up her backpack as the bell rang and the four friends walked to English.
Miss Silver had just walked in when Cade stumbled into the room, his hair a total mess. He was a relatively popular guy who was pretty nice as long as he wasn’t around his friends. He ran his fingers through his hair and shrugged. "Sorry I'm late, guys... I was busy... uh... doing something." A few eye rolls met his response, and as though on cue, Katie, a blonde girl in a crop top and shorts who was rumored to have slept with every guy on the football team in the same week, stepped through the door out of breath with her lipstick smudged onto her cheek.
"I think we found the 'something'!" called Charlie from the back. Alec whistled and the two best friends high-fived, met with an exaggerated eye roll from Deja. Deja was a typical grouchy goth with raccoon eyes and black lipstick. She sighed loudly, looked away, and continued drinking her gigantic cup of coffee.
"Seriously you two. If you guys are gonna fuck, do it somewhere else. We have a class going on here."
"Like you care about class," Melanie muttered. "The only class you care about is the senior class and the only senior you care about is Nate and he's mine. Bitch." Soriah snickered. Deja had been after Nate since seventh grade. Today, Deja was wearing all black to match her attitude, while Melanie was wearing jeans with more patches than denim with an old faded grey shirt that said "My pet dinosaur is cooler than you." Melanie’s wavy brown hair was in a messy bun with a few small braids hanging out.
“Settle down, everyone,” called Mrs. Silver. Mrs. Silver was an older woman with hair to match her name. She was the sweetest person Soriah knew, and was to her the mother figure she never had.
Soriah slid into her desk next to Melanie “What did I miss last class?”
“Dustin and Katie left early…” she whispered, raising her eyebrows up and down. “Katie? Really?” Soriah sighed. “Wow.” What am I going to do with him?
“Dustin has to get some standards.” Soriah whispered back. “One of these days he’s going to-”
"Settle down, class," Mrs. Silver requested again, interrupting Soriah. "Today we are going to start a project." The whole class groaned. "Don't be like that. You'll be writing memoirs!"
Charlie and Alec pretended to shoot each other and Charlie dramatically fell out of his desk onto the floor while Alec clutched his chest and made gasping sounds. Deja turned around in her seat and glared at them.
Memoirs. Soriah smiled. I'm probably the only one here who's looking forward to this.
"Turn to page 327 for the chapter on memoir writing."
The sound of paper flipping echoed throughout the classroom. Soriah grinned. This is going to be cake.
She opened her tattered textbook with decades of vandalism declaring everything from "Nick is gay" to "Megan = whore" to a scribble in the corner of page 286 with a phone number and two stick figures having sex.
Sighing, Soriah focused on the page in front of her. "Write about an event in your life that shaped who you are today." An event that shaped me? I don't know... My dad dying? My mom drinking? The release of Ghost Faction's latest album? She shook her head. This is harder than I thought.
Before she knew it, the bell had rung and the crowd of teenagers spilled out of the room. Soriah stayed back.
"Mrs. Silver?" Soriah walked slowly to the older woman.
"Soriah! Honey! How was your weekend?" Mrs. Silver beamed at her favorite student.
"Actually kind of miserable," Soriah sighed. "Mom went on a drunken rant when she found my dad's old yearbook I kept under my bed and she ripped it up. I didn’t even get to save his picture before she threw it out."
"Oh honey, that sounds awful!" Soriah nodded and wiped away the tears that were forming against her will.
"Anyhow, I was wondering, can I write more than the assignment asked for? I have a lot going on in my life."
The older woman fixed her gaze on the girl in black, and Soriah felt like her teacher knew more than she let on.
"For you, yes. But make sure you only focus on one topic."
Soriah groaned quietly. "But that's impossible!"
Mrs. Silver nodded sagely. "You can do it. I believe in you."
The bell rang again interrupting their conversation. At this point Soriah was sure to be tardy to History, but she tended to sleep though it anyway. She slid into her desk just as class began and put her head down on her desk. She couldn’t wait for school to be over.
To be continued…