Hardboil High: Chapter 1

It was the first day of classes, the start of a new year.  But really it just felt like an extension of the ongoing surrealism that was the life and times of the Masterson home life.  Mercedes stood staring at her skinny figure in the mirror.  She had just slipped into the usual white T-shirt and black cargo pants that were her quickly becoming her trademark.  It didn't help that she really only owned two pairs of pants that fit.  But even those needed help from an old belt she'd pillaged from her dad's stuff.  She had to poke a few extra, seven, holes to make it work.  She had been losing weight fast, too fast.
    Her long, dark brunette hair was still dripping wet from the shower she'd just rushed in cold water.  Johnny, her brother, wasn't going to let her live it down this morning for using up all the warm water.  Though she couldn't remember ever really having much warm water anyway.  It was like the trailer park owner was somehow sending them messages, by way of crudely cold liquid to the skin.
    She was 14, but felt much older.  A hallmark of a kid who had to grow up fast, and in very little time.  She turned to get a check of her profile, placing one hand on the small of her back, and the other on her stomach.  This flattened her shirt so she could see that she was only a few, maybe three, inches thick in the middle.  She figured it would hurt, or that she would constantly feel miserable.  But she was surprised that the lack of nutrition didn't seem to bother her at all.
    She stepped onto their old, pink weight scale and then subtracted five digits to compensate for the difference lost at the beginning on the old piece of junk’s dial.  She was almost 75 pounds.  She had gone up three pounds since starting to work out with some old dumbbells of her dad's she'd found two weeks ago.  At first she could only get three repetitions in on each arm, but she was up to five now.  Each weight was a whopping fifteen pounds.
    Since Jimmy Masterson had ran off and left the family with his gambling debts, she had begun to take great pleasure in rummaging through his old stuff.  She kept finding all manner of interesting things, but she had to wait to rummage while mom was out otherwise she would inevitably go into some emotional hysteria.  She couldn't understand her mom, and refused to do so.  The guy was a coward, and idiot who ran away... he's not worth a minute of the day.
    Johnny knocked, no pounded, on the bathroom door.  "HEY!"
    "WHAT?"  She yelled back.
    "You're taking forever."
    "I've been in here for ten minutes, retard!"
    He pounded three times harder.  "Come on!"
    Johnny was a senior this year, and she was glad to constantly remind herself of that fact.  He would be graduating and presumably moving out and on to college after this year.  That meant it would just be her and the emotional train wreck left in the house, and so long as she could ignore her most of the time things would be peaceful for a change.
    "Mercedes!"  Her mom was on the other side of the door now.  "Hurry up, your brother has been waiting a long time."
    "Learn to read a clock!"  She growled with toothpaste oozing out of her mouth, she quickly brushed the top row of teeth and almost spit out the paste.  She held it back and then swallowed.  Beggars can't be choosers.
    "Don't be mouthy, Mercedes.  Come on."  Her mom reprimanded politely.  Mercedes couldn't stand that calm, light tone she used to reprimand with.  It was more annoying than being yelled at, because it said things like, I'm so disappointed in you.  Where did we go wrong?  I wish you'd never been born.
    She quickly swallowed a cup of water and made certain to moan when she pushed through her impatient mother and brother on the way to the kitchen.
    "Idiot."  Johnny said and slammed the door.
    "Nimrod!"  She yelled back at him without turning or stopping.
    "Guys," mom was cutting back in again, "Do we have to do this every morning?"  Neither child responded, and when she heard the shower turn on she gave up and went to the living room to continue skimming the job listings.  She had been desperately trying to get a job since her husband disappeared one day, and she had been turned down so many times.  It was a painful procession, but she kept pushing.  She had to.
    Mercedes opened the refrigerator and saw outdated milk, moldy casserole and bologna sitting next to a half jar of mayonnaise.  She couldn't stand the site, smell, texture and taste of bologna and had made this fact quite clear.  She couldn't understand the reasoning of buying it, when turkey was just as cheap.  She had to keep up her rebellion of refusing to eat the stuff, otherwise mom would never get the picture.  But Johnny kept eating the stuff, which was countering her ploy to get mom to buy something else.  Though lately, she hadn't bought much of anything.  She figured they were almost completely drained of money, but mom didn't have the heart to say it out loud.  If she ever did, she would undoubtedly break into an uncontrollable flood of tears.  Mercedes shook her head at the thought, and closed the refrigerator door.
    She found one package of Pop Tarts in the cupboard and figured that would suffice for today.  She could drink some water from the fountains at school.
    The phone rang, which surprised her and she almost didn't answer it.  She had figured it was turned off by now, since they hadn't paid the phone bill when it came due ast week.
    "Hello?"  She asked into the phone, wondering who in the world would be calling.
    "May I speak with Abigail Masterson, please?"
    "Mom!  Phone!"  She sat the receiver on the counter and her mom rushed into the kitchen, trying to get rid of the wrinkles in her dress (as if it mattered for a phone call).  "Who is it?"  She asked.
    "I'm you're secretary now?"
    Her mom just rolled her eyes and answered the phone in that polite tone.  "Yes?  Oh, hello.  Yes, I could.  OK.  Eleven?  Yes, that's fine.  Thank you so much for calling." She hung up the phone and looked so giddy that Mercedes had to stop and ask what was up.  "That, Mercedes, was me getting an interview for a job today."  She sighed in great relief, and then went to iron the same grey suit she'd been wearing to interviews for the past month now.
    Johnny passed on his way to the door, pulling his backpack over his shoulder on the way out.  "You used up all the warm water, jerk."
    "There wasn't any anyway."
    "Right."  The screen door slammed behind him.
    The school bus was pulling up outside and kids were getting on to it.  Mercedes yelled out at him to hold the bus while she grabbed her bag.  She ran into her room, grabbed her backpack and a black, denim vest that was also becoming part of her persona.  She shoved the Pop Tarts into her vest pocket and burst out the screen door of their single-wide trailer just in time to see the bus turn the corner.
    At least it wasn't raining, maybe a walk would be a good change of pace.