in the final trilogy about 90s Seattle, can James, Kristin, scott and heather continue their pursuit in the fast lane without consequence? or will they lose themselves the more they embrace a life without restraint.
Monday, april 24, 1995. 8 A.M.
Scott sat next to Kristin on the hood of her car as they waited for James and Heather to show up. A cigarette dangled from her lip when Veronica Steinz parked her black ’93 Chevy Caprice next to them.
In an exaggerated attempt to show off her teased brunet hair and red lipstick, she proudly wore a pink oxford and green argyle skirt as if it were something she’d wear outside of school.
She shut the door and brusquely walked around the car.
“What the fuck you glaring at,” Kristin snarled.
Veronica’s bright blue eyes firmly held her ground. “Just that nasty thing you love sucking on.”
“Tell me. Does passing gas from all three holes happen to you a lot?”
“Keep on piping—because it’s all ya good for.”
“Come on over for a few lessons. Turn ya into a real pro.”
“Drop dead, asshole.”
“Ready when you are honey.”
Veronica rolled her eyes and walked away.
Smoke spewed from the sides of Kristin’s lips as she heartened the possibility of “running” the “bitch” over after school.
“The speed limit on campus wouldn’t do much damage.”
“I can defend myself by saying a rabid raccoon tried attacking the car.”
Scott found the perverse humor amusing. “Even if I vouched the attack, that wouldn’t do much either.”
“To bad. A murder on school grounds. That would be a first.”
They imagined the humiliation the scandal would generate for the school and laughed.
“Remind me why you hate each other—cause it keeps changing?”
“Her bubble-butt boyfriend Brian Jones has a fetish over my ass.”
He smirked behind a pair of black Ray-Bans because he knew she liked the attention. “You can’t exactly be proud of the fact that he’s already slept with half the cheerleading squad.”
“Explains why the cunt incessantly watches me.”
“If you think she’ll stop complaining to Mrs. Vezzetti about your short skirts. Think again.”
“I don’t get it,” she fervently divulged, “no one tells her she can’t do the same, so what the fuck.”
“Either way, the last thing Mrs. Vezzetti wants is an earshot from your mother, so I doubt she’ll ever tell you anything.”
“So wrong, but true.”
He removed a report from his bag and placed it on his lap. “Thanks for staying up till 3 in the morning last night. I’m so ready to blow Brett Hannity out of the water.”
“Will all those insider-tips I gave you, you better. Fuck up and I’ll run you over, instead.”
“Least your mom’s good for something.”
“Christ, don’t say that,” she quickly blurted, “trying to give me bad luck or ‘somethin?”
“How else would we’ve gotten the report done?”
“Like I said, most of the info came from my dad’s book, so we didn’t have to use her for anything.”
Scott never liked to be acknowledged as a third wheel, so whenever it happened, he relished in correcting the miscalculation. “Hey, I managed some research on my own, you know.”
“I still don’t think you cited his book enough.”
“As much as I wanted to—the paper wasn’t about your father, Kristin.”
The tragedy may have occurred ten months ago, but hearing his name still relinquished the deepest of emotion.
“So what. What’s Mrs. Thomas gonna do? Fail you for writing an awesome paper.”
“No. But that wasn’t the assignment.”
She agreed with the statement and inhaled a long drag as her mind swirled with ideas.
“Did you like the book?”
“Yeah, it was enthralling. Honest.”
“Still amazes me how he finished the manuscript in nine months.”
“Sounds like a mission your dad would’ve taken on.”
“I know. It wasn’t surprising when Cornell University Press rushed it to publication once they got a hold of it in December of ‘94.”
“I guess Appellate Judges really do get hefty perks, huh.”
“Well, the book was good. Why else would Random House buy the rights to it in June? Just three months after publication.”
“Like you said,” Scott asserted, “why schedule a sixteen week tour, if it wasn’t.”
Kristin tapped the cigarette and recalled the plans she’d made with him. “Getting to be a groupie sounded like a blast. Something to strike off the bucket list.”
“How would’ve that gone down if school started in August?”
“We were gonna do everything the weeks before it did. That way there wasn’t any rush getting home.”
“And your mom was cool with that?”
“Yeah, things were different then.”
“In what way?”
“The weight of the world didn’t affect her like it does now.”
“Maybe that’ll pass.”
She looked at Scott as if he were crazy. “If it did, these past months have shown me who she really is, so there’s no way things will ever be the same.”
“What about all the money. That has to count for something?”
“That’s my point, Scott,” Kristin declared, “with all the royalties on top of the life-insurance we’re getting. You’d think she’d be happy—but she isn’t.”
“I know. So whatever she has planned will eventually come out.”
Scott found the honesty sobering since he wasn’t sure how he would react if one of his parents died suddenly. “Do you really wanna know—cuz I wouldn’t.”
“I do. I want to know everything from the day they met.”
Taken aback by the comment, he wanted to clarify that she didn’t “think” her mother made “plans” for anything to “actually” happen.
“Fuck no. I’m admitting that his death ruined her scheme.”
Out of everyone in the group, Scott adored Kristin’s bluntness because it gauged her emotions. It’s not that anyone in the group hid things from one another, but transparency meant a lot to her, and Scott was content in emulating that.
“I don’t think you need to be this paranoid.”
“For one, the book is still on the Times’ Bestsellers list for Non-fiction, and she has yet to read it.”
“I don’t believe that.”
“Dude, I would know. She’s read excerpts, but other than that the project doesn’t exist.”
“Wow. It just made her jealous.”
Kristin laughed as her black hair glistened in the rising sun. “It’s more than that.”
“Yeah, even before the book was thought of, she was constantly looking for cases to bring her fame. But when the deal didn’t come to her, she never got over it.”
“That’s fucked up.”
“The fact she couldn’t replicate the fervent energy he used to finish the manuscript threw her over the edge.”
Scott looked over at the sprinklers spraying the football field as the track team finished their morning routine. He’d thought about joining in the past, but he felt he wouldn’t have been fast enough, so he never tried out.
He looked at Kristin and added that his mother said “writers” could get “creative bursts” that possessed them without “warning,” so whenever it came, they “rode” it like it would “never” return.
“Explains why the spare bedroom became a temporary office.”
“Yeah, it was awesome.”
“My mom did the same years ago and it drove me crazy.”
“I used to have two rooms to hangout in.”
Kristin lit another cigarette and offered James one, but she always forgot that he only smoked pot and not cigarettes.
“Don’t tell me you wouldn’t have been bummed out too.”
“I was,” as a swirl of smoke moved about her face, “but after listening to the vinyl he spun when he wrote. The tradeoff was worthwhile.”
“I do miss that about you dad. He really liked music.”
“I used to love lying next to the door just so I could hear the typewriter mesh with the music.”
“Man, if he caught you snooping around, he woulda ripped your head off.”
“He didn’t—but my mother did.”
“Bet she loved that.”
“She hated it because it reminded her of how hard it was to get me to work at her office during the summers. Every time I went it was hell, so I quit going.”
Scott understood how honesty could be taxing so he asked if she wanted to “stop talking” about the “past” if she wanted.
“Talking helps,” she replied warmly, “I’m just glad I kept his music.”
“You should spin them more often.”
“I do whenever I have a bad day.”
“Fuck. I bet he had a wild side he never talked about.”
“He had to,” Kristin proudly admitted, “cuz he got into stuff like Black Sabbath’s Technical Ecstasy, Type-O-Negative, Rush, Motorhead, Judas Priest, AC/DC, Slayer, Aerosmith, Venom, Mercyful Fate, Candlemass, Witchfinder General, Trouble, White Spirit, Rainbow and Iron Maiden.”
“But after the stunt my mother pulled, I was ready to hit her.”
Scott looked at her as if she confessed something for the first time. “Did she try taking the vinyl from you?”
“Worse. Two weeks after the funeral, she donated all his clothes and belongings to charity.”
“Wow. If you hadn’t been paying attention, those records would be gone by now.”
“I know. She just dumped them in two milk crates and tossed them in the garage like shit.”
Scott lowered his sunglasses and looked at Kristin because he couldn’t believe what she revealed. What mesmerized him most was how unaffected she had described the incident—as if she were numb.
He felt grateful his parents didn’t come home complaining about their jobs as if their lives were some kind of penance. His parents also weren’t afraid to openly address his attitude, but never to the point of shutting him out. They understood the importance of parental direction, so they didn’t want that to ever be diluted in jeopardy.
“Why didn’t you tell us about that,” Scott asked.
“I didn’t have the strength to.”
“All the more for us to know. I’m upset you hid that from us.”
“It doesn’t matter anymore because I’ve already learned to pretend that I’ve forgiven her.”
Scott looked over at her, but the blue lenses on her sunglasses concealed her eyes.
“At least I can see why you think she’s up to something. Hell, I’m surprised she didn’t burn the house down.”
“She’s probably waiting for me to do that,” Kristin snickered.
“Hey, don’t get any ideas now.”
“Just wait and see.”
Scott laughed and added that he still couldn’t “believe” her father was an “appellate judge.”
“Neither can I, but he loved the law so much he practiced pro bono whenever it felt right. If he couldn’t, he found someone who would.”
“It’s all about reputation, man. You gotta make your move if you want to win at anything.”
“Funny you say that.”
“Because the few times I met his buds, they all joked that he would be appointed to the State Supreme Court one day.”
“Hum,” Scott uttered with reluctance. “Maybe that’s what agitates your mom rather than the book deal.”
“I don’t know. I just think the accident canned her judiciary future. Once the energy from his coat-tails cool off, who knows what she’ll make of herself.”
“Maybe the appellate courts are all she wants?”
“It’s not,” as Kristin tossed the cigarette butt onto the wipers of Veronica’s car. “I’ve heard vague mentions of a book, but I doubt that’ll happen because she has a real problem with multitasking, and everyone knows it’s something she won’t outgrow.”
Both Kristin and Scott looked across the parking lot when Heather and James pulled in. The windows were rolled down as Immune System blared from her gray ’92 Ford Tempo.
When they got out, their crisp uniforms melted into the fresh morning.
“What’s up guys,” Heather said.
“Just getting Scott pumped for the debate.”
James walked over and greeted him with their secret handshake. “Don’t worry man—you got this. Brett Hannity may be the quarterback but he doesn’t stand a chance.”
Heather threw her red backpack over her shoulder and adjusted her white sunglasses. “Isn’t his best friend in that class?”
“Which one,” Scott said, “there’s too many of them.”
“Whoever the running-back is.”
“Brian Jones, eah, don’t remind me,” Kristin replied.
Heather grunted when she put a name to the face. “Don’t know how you put up with him always checkin you out.”
“As long as he’s infatuated, I’ll be a nail in Veronica’s ass.”
“And the fact that she knows he’s a slut makes her look so spineless.”
Kristin slid off the car when the first bell rang. “Guess that’s what captain of the varsity cheerleading team gets you—a whole lot of variety.”
Together they walked under lush trees around the open campus. Various staff watched as the student body hustled with books, papers and binders toward the classrooms. The jostle was enough to revive anyone exhausted from a night full of cramming, but that came with the territory.
Scott and Kristin stood by a red door where 140-B was inscribed in a brass plate. They waved good-bye as Heather and James flowed away in the racket of whistles, laughter and clamoring footsteps.
Inside, glossy red and orange desks filled the white minimalist room with design as they took their seats and continued talking.
At the other end of the room, a few students hung around Mrs. Thomas’ beige desk with chrome legs. No one knew what was being discussed, but it was likely no one in the room cared.
The clatter in the room was clearly evident, but there was no denying the message plastered on the green chalkboard.
Abortion: Murder or Right. 40 mins
After the morning’s prayer and announcements concluded, Mrs. Thomas stood up in a gray blouse tucked in black trousers. Her gray loafers looked new because Kristin hadn’t noticed them before. Even her gold-framed glasses seemed to sparkle under the blinding fluorescent lights. But the biggest difference was how her blonde hair was neatly braided in a ponytail.
“All right everyone settle down. As you know, today is our first in a series of debates. They’ll continue for the next two weeks until everyone has presented. But even for those going last, all reports must be turned in by the end of class. If not, your project and final-exam will be docked a whole letter grade. Does that mean there won’t be a final? No, because this is it. So depending on how well you’ve prepared yourselves, these debates are tallied twice. One as an exam and one as your final.”
She looked at the clock and asked that “Pruitt” and “Hannity” hand their “papers” in before taking their “posts.” The only set of “materials” allowed during the debate was a “single-page” outline “without” a pen or pencil.
As Mrs. Thomas occupied an empty desk at the back of the room, she boisterously said “everyone” had “two weeks” to research their topics, so “excuses” for a shoddy performance weren’t “permissible.”
She went on to clarify that she was grading for “accuracy” and “presentation”—not—“organization” and “style” because this wasn’t “Communist China.” Therefore, differences of “opinion” and “belief” is what she “expected” out of everyone.
She wished them “good luck” and set the timer on her stopwatch.