Oh, how I love Soap Opera Sunday, that bloggy brainchild of Brillig and Kate! See their sites for other soapy fun. If you need to refresh yourself on earlier installments of Clever Trevor, click here and here.Laura woke up at the crack of dawn on Friday. Normally if she woke up that early, she’d roll over, doze, and wait for her alarm clock, but today was different. She was going to see Colin again! She got up and started packing.
Twee had made a nest for himself in the covers of her unmade bed. He lay like a statue watching her, only the very tip of his tail twitching. “You know I can’t go with you.”
Laura nodded. “I know,” she said with a cheerfulness she did not feel. “We’ll be alright.’
“You also know that if Marie asks me anything, I can’t lie for you.”
“She won’t ask. We’ve got the perfect cover story. She works this weekend; she’s so tired, she won’t even miss me. Twee, I couldn’t pass an adventure like this up; I’d regret it forever if I did.”
Twee stood and stretched, arching his back and sinking his claws into her bedspread. “I’ll try to keep an eye on you from here. Just don’t do anything stupider than your current plan, okay?”
“Okay,” Laura sighed. “But it’s going to be fine. You’ll see.”
Jill and Laura met at the deserted Speech & Debate Room after school. “Are you ready for the party of your life?” Jill asked, bouncing up and down.
“I haven’t been able to concentrate all day; I can’t wait to see Colin! Get your briefcase and let’s get out of here.” Her own briefcase was just for show; she’d unloaded all of their competition files into her locker at lunchtime.
Jill paused in the middle of putting on her backpack. “My briefcase? I left it at home,” she said.
Laura couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “Jill, are you out of your mind? We’re supposed to be going to a debate tournament! What is your mother going to think if she sees your briefcase? At the very least, she’ll do something heroic like drive it down to Fresno; you know how ‘supportive’ she is. She’ll ruin everything!”
Jill thought for a moment.
“I’m pretty sure I left it in my closet.”
“How sure is pretty sure? Maybe we should go by your house before we go downtown.”
“No way. If we do that, we’ll miss the bus.” Jill frowned. “It’s definitely in my closet; I remember now,” she announced. “Let’s just go.”
Laura looked at her friend for a long moment. “Alright,” she said finally. “If you’re sure.”
“I’m sure. Come on!”
Marie was nursing a diet cola while she paid the bills; she had to leave for work soon, and she’d discovered for herself why they called her shift ‘graveyard.’ Intellectually, she knew she wasn’t anywhere near death, but she sure felt like it. The cola helped take the edge off of her enormous fatigue.
The phone rang; she ignored it, betting that it was someone calling for Laura. But whoever it was persistent, refusing to hang up even after ten rings. Finally, Marie got up with a groan from the kitchen table to answer it.
“Hello, Marie, it’s Joan Westphal. Jill’s mother?”
“Oh, of course, Joan. How are you? Is everything okay?
“Fine, fine. But I just realized that Jill’s debate briefcase is sitting here by the garage door, so I thought I’d swing by and drop it off.”
“I don’t understand. Why would you bring it here?”
There was a pause. “I’m fairly certain the girls will need it for the tournament tomorrow. You know, they’re really on a roll; I think they could go all the way to State.”
Marie rubbed her forehead. She must be more tired than she had previously thought; clearly she was missing something. “I’m sure you’re right, but Laura said that the girls were sleeping over at your house tonight. I was relieved, because I knew I wouldn’t be off my shift tomorrow morning in time to drive Laura to meet the school bus for the trip to Fresno.”
Another pause. “I—I’m not sure what to say, Marie. Jill told me that you didn’t have to work this weekend, and that the girls were sleeping at your house tonight.”
Anger woke Marie up fully, a feat that the diet cola had been unable to accomplish. “No, they aren’t here.” She thought for a moment. “Listen, give me a couple minutes. I’ll see whether I can track the girls down. In the meantime, why don’t you call Mr. Jack and get the details on tomorrow’s tournament? I don’t know what’s going on, but this doesn’t seem right.”
“Okay. I’ll call you back soon.” Joan Westphal hung up.
Marie placed the receiver back on its base with extra care, because what she really felt like doing was throwing it across the room. She stalked down the hall and into Laura’s bedroom.
“Twee!” she yelled, looking around. “Twee, where are you?”
Twee detached himself from the shadows under the window. He arched his back and yawned.
“Looking for Laura?” he inquired in a bored voice.
“Where are they, Twee? And why did you let her leave you home?”
“You know I can only stay with her when she listens to me. She went against my counsel; I had to withdraw.”
Marie had to restrain herself from wringing the cat’s neck. “Where did they go?” she demanded with false patience.
“They took a Greyhound Bus to San Francisco to see those British boys play rugby. They’re planning to stay at the Fairmont Hotel. That’s where the team is staying.”
Marie sank to the carpet. “I don’t believe it,” she whispered.
Twee bristled. “You know I’m not allowed to prevaricate.”
“Of course, Twee; this is not about you,” Marie snapped. “I just can’t believe she would do something so stupid.”
Twee jumped down off of Laura’s desk, sauntered to Marie, and wound himself around her legs. She petted him absently.
“She’s lonely,” the cat said. “And she’s fifteen; it’s her job to do stupid things. She’s just trying to find her way.”
“I know, Twee, but she’s in over her head this time. And how will this look to Jill’s parents? I’m sure they won’t see this the same way we do. It’s so embarrassing. The single mother who can’t control her teenager; it’s such a cliché.”
“I’ve never known you to care what other people think,” Twee said.
“And look where it’s gotten me. I’ve been trying a different tack since we moved here; I’m going for respectability. But Laura may have just blown that to Hades.”
“Mrs. Westphal is calling.”
“Thanks, Twee.” Marie got up off the floor and got to the bedroom door just as the phone rang. “I’ll see what I can do to minimize this,” she said. “Let me know if anything changes.”