Looking through the Piepers' family photo album, you'd see many pictures:
Veronica and Eric playing in the sand, their toddler fingers still chubby and uncoordinated, Ronnie's blond curls tied back with a pink ribbon.
Ronnie and Eric acting in Mrs. Cole's second grade production of the Princess and the Pea, Eric being the prince-- in a red and gold beaded cheap child's costume-- and Ronnie's golden hair in a long braid that trailed down to her butt, wearing a pretty flowy pink princess dress. Even then, Eric's mother thought the two made a handsome couple.
Ronnie and Eric playing baseball.
Veronica Pieper tied her blond hair back with a ponytail, and squinted against the bright, UV rays that made her freckled skin tinge pink. The small church softball field smelled like chalky dust and baseball glove leather, and the old chain-link fence rattled behind her as she made her way up to bat. Adjusting her baseball cap so it covered her frizzy golden bangs, Ronnie narrowed her eyes and tightened her grip on the baseball bat.
Ronnie stared at Eric, waiting for him to pitch the ball, hard and fast and sending a 'woosh' of air towards her. Eric, his dark hair covered by a blue baseball cap, met her eye contact, trying to look intimidating and manly, even though he was only thirteen.
Ronnie watched in anticipation as Eric began his wind up, his body curling into itself like he was on self-destruct. Eric's muscular, tan arm whipped around like a windmill, and released the ball with as much might as he possessed.
Veronica, her eyes growing wide like saucers as the ball came flying towards her, stared at the ball, suddenly terrified. Saying a quick prayer and squeezing her eyes shut, Veronica swung the bat, a satifying 'crack' ringing in her ears and resulting in the ball flying far over Eric's head.
Staring in disbelief, Eric stumbled and fumbled to get a good running start as he chased after the ball. Wayne Pieper, blinking in shock, scrambled after the ball also. Ronnie just stood there, paralyzed and disbelieving of her eyes.
"Go, Veronica," Lisa Pieper cried from the stands, chuckling at her daughter's shocked face. Ronnie, as though just clueing in, began running, her skinny pale legs carrying her quickly against the wind.
"Go, Ronnie," Edward Kingston yelled, laughing with Ronnie's father while they finished grilling.
That summed up almost every night of the summer before eighth grade. The Kingstons and Piepers would gather, whether it be at one of their houses or the local diners or the softball diamonds, together like one big family. It was simply the only way of life they knew.
Fast forward two years, and suddenly Eric and Ronnie are going to homecoming together, later announced 'the cutest freshman couple'. Ronnie-- wearing a midnight blue, floor length gauzy dress-- smiles fakely as both their parents encourage them to get a snapshot kissing. They stand in front of the brick mantle, and cling to each other convincingly, like they were survivors from a shipwreck.
Kissing Eric was like kissing your brother.
Eric was handsome, a shaggy mop of chocolate brown hair hanging in his pretty ocean blue eyes, and was still so much taller than her. His tan skin looked like sunshine against pale, freckled winter snow, and his fake smile was much more convincing. The skin on his face, on his cheeks, was rough in Ronnie's hands as her mother clicked a snapshot of Ronnie gazing adoringly into his eyes, like they were on the cover of an old romance novel.
Ronnie, letting her mother capture one more picture of her lips pressed against Eric's, knew pretending to be in love with him was much easier than admitting to her parents the truth.
Veronica had just finished the stack of pancakes on her plate when she heard the familiar honking of Eric's car in the driveway. Her mother, a dizzying tornado of red hair and anxiety, barreled into the kitchen, just as Ronnie finished drinking her orange juice.
"Veronica, Eric's waiting at the door," she cried, gathering the dirty soccer socks Ronnie's older brother Wayne had left lying on the floor, and dove for the phone as soon as its shrill cry rang through the bustling kitchen. Juggling the basket of socks in one hand, the phone tucked into her shoulder, Lisa Pieper somehow still managed to flip the rest of the pancakes that were beginning to brown on the gridle. Ronnie sighed.
"Tell him I'm almo-"
Just then, Wayne and Eric came into the kitchen, laughing at something funny Eric said. Eric always said funny things. Of course Wayne had let Eric into the house, Ronnie thought irritatedly, everyone loved when Eric was over.
Wayne, his hair the same fiery shade as his mother's, was shorter than Eric, even though he was graduating in the spring. He had the same freckled, pale skin and light, mint green eyes as Ronnie, though.
"Hey, look what the mailman dropped off," Wayne joked, nudging Eric playfully. Eric laughed politely, before catching Ronnie's eye and crossing the kitchen to place a kiss on her forehead. Eric is always so polite, she thought, trying not to let the annoyance in her head show on her face.
"Surprised?," he whispered in her ear, grinning like a Cheshire. Lisa, who took the time out of her telephone conversation to fawn over the two, smiled as she watched. Ronnie fought the urge to roll her eyes, and gave him a quick peck on the lips.
"Hardly. We should go, before we're late for class," she suggested, reaching for her bag until Eric grabbed it for her. Ronnie, plastering on another fake smile, took his hand and hugged her mother goodbye. "I'll be back right after Eric's baseball practice."
"That's fine, dear," Lisa mouthed, hugging her daughter before grabbing the spatuala, and went back to her conversation with Mrs. Henderson about the night's PTA meeting. After one more sip of orange juice, and Eric's hand resting right on the small of her back, Ronnie made her way through the house, right to the front door.
Only after they had settled into Eric's Buick did he release her hand and throw her her bookbag. He dropped the nice guy facade quickly, and glanced over at her void expression. Ronnie, glancing at the cup holder to see the familiar Starbucks cup just for her, smiled.
"Ronnie," he sighed, giving her a teasingly questioning grin, "when are we breaking up, again?"
Great, Ronnie thought, the perfect question to start the day. As they pulled out of the driveway and onto the street, Ronnie laughed over the engine at the thought, gave him a 'get-real' look. "Eric, I can't tell them we 'broke up' and that I didn't get into Harvard in the same week. They'd have an anurysm. And then, your parents would have one because my parents had one."
Sighing, Ronnie leaned her head on his shoulder. Even just speaking of the unforesaken rejection letter that was hiding under her pillow made Ronnie want to crawl under a rock. Her brother was going to Princeton next fall; Eric was looking at Dartmouth and Barden University. And Veronica? She was looking at Feldman's, an art school in upstate New York.
"Right," he chuckled, giving her another strange look, "so when are we going to break up....?"
Veronica shrugged. "I don't know... how about after prom? We could go, and then, a few hours later, I could come home crying about how you 'pressured me' or something," she suggested, putting quotes around the words 'pressured' and 'me', before grabbing her Starbuck cup and taking a sip.
"Yeah... about that," Eric sighed, scratching the back of his neck. "I, uh... Look, my parents asked if we had sex.... Wait, why do I have to be the bad guy?!"
Ronnie, her eyes widening in disbelief, dribbled the hot coffee back into her cup to keep from spewing it all over the front seat. "You told them we had sex," she cried in disbelief, punching his shoulder harshly. As Eric turned onto Olive Street, he took the time to raise his hands in defense.
"Well, we've been 'dating'," he insisted, "for almost three years. I mean, if I told them we haven't.... It's not a big deal, Ronnie, really. The worst-"
"Shit," Ronnie cried, interrupting him, loudly and made him jump, "Eric, my parents are going to find out we had fictional sex! My dad's probably going to hand me a box of fucking condoms and tell me to be careful... Jesus," she sighed, pulling her wild, curly blond hair into a ponytail and squeezing her eyes shut. She could not believe this. Maybe it was a bad dream, she told herself, trying her best to sound consoling.
"Hey, we could always fix that problem and have a go at it in the backseat," Eric suggested, shooting her a naughty grin. Ronnie just rolled her eyes.
"In you dreams, Bud," she grumbled. Eric, raising his brows in disbelief, wrapped his arm around her shoulder as they pulled into the parking lot of Hamilton High School.
"You're seriously that upset about your parents thinking we had sex," he asked, parking the car in their usual spot, before unbuckling his seat and looking her in the eyes.
Eric was very handsome. After years of football, which his father was so proud of; baseball, which Ronnie's father was so proud of; swimming, which all of her friends would fawn over, Eric was muscular. And he was always tan, his skin like gold against Veronica's. He had the bluest eyes Veronica had ever seen, and a dimple in his right cheek.
Staring into those blue eyes, Ronnie sighed. "Eric... they're probably planning our wedding. Doesn't that... bug you?"
Eric chuckled and pat her shoulder playfully. "Hey, at least I can say my wife is a hottie. Now, come on, Future Mrs. Kingston, we'll be late for our first block," he teased, placing a very convincing kiss smack on her mouth, even though the words 'Future Mrs. Kingston' made Ronnie feel just a bit woozy.
Kate Summers watched from beneath her glasses, as Eric Kingston pulled into Hamilton High's parking lot, sighing in utter adoration. He was gorgeous. No, gorgeous was too bland of a word. She could just picture herself being eveloped in those muscular, tan arms, which could probably bench press her weight. Kate, despite her inner battle not to, had been taking not so secretive glances at his stomach muscles during the summer, when he and Veronica would parade around the public pool like they owned it. And, he had the bluest eyes, and this cute little curl above his ear and-
Was practically suffocating Veronica Pieper with his mouth, who, blond curls and pouty lips, seemed to be taking it in stride. Great, Kate thought bitterly, watching as the two, like Barbie and Ken, pranced over to the Quad. The Quad was the place the gods of Hamilton High sat during lunch, and drank out of little Dixie cups filled with Le Pin wine and Coke, to cover up the scent of liqour.
"Katie," Sara chuckled, rolling her eyes and sticking a Post-it in her text book, giving her friend that 'get-over-that-tool' look every girl gets when enviously staring at Eric and his arm candy Veronica. Sara's hair, almost glittering in sunlight, was up in a messy knot, the red and orange and fiery yellow strands and streaks falling out to create tendrils that framed her pretty pale face.
Kate, snapping out of her envious trance, jerked her hand, accidentally spilling juice all over her textbook. "Shit," she sighed, grabbing her textbook and shaking it, hoping the apple juice wouldn't stain the pages. Sara just laughed.
"Katie, I think you were having a wet dream about Eric Kingston," she giggled, and then, catching her friend's glare, added, "Again."
"I wasn't... I didn't...," Kate stuttered, before admitting defeat and grabbing a large wad of disintegrating cheap napkins. Placing the large pile in the middle of the table and ineffectively mopping up the juice, Kate sat back down, dabbing her textbook with a seperate stack of napkins.
"Katie Summers," Sara purred amusedly, helping her friend by throwing away the sopping mess of napkins int he middle of the table, "you have it bad. I've never seen your face so red, and I was there in second grade, when you had to be the pea in Mrs. Cole's play, and got so nervous you threw up all over the first two rows. You really are a theatrical genuis, by the way-- that green shade in the vomit really pulled the whole show together."
Kate just rolled her eyes, before smiling just a bit, and throwing the damp wad of napkins at her best friend. "Whatever, doofus. Just... shut up."
Sara laughed, her husky, raspy voice sounding so sexy and seductive. Why, Kate thought, can't I have such an awesome voice? Or, she mentally added, glancing over at Veronica Pieper, C cups. Are C cup really too big of a wish?
Kate was one of those girls you see everyday on the street, and forget five minutes later. It wasn't that she was ugly, she was just bland looking. She had stick-straight, brown, shoulder-length hair that acted more as a curtain half the time than actual hair. Her eyes were a bright hazel color people always commented on, but she insisted on wearing her horrendously thick glasses, and was against make-up.
As if to prove her invisibility, Taylor Merrick barreled into her, his grease stained hands grasping her arm right before she fell onto the cold hard concrete. Taylor, shaggy blond hair falling into his eyes, fumbled before steadying her properly, and shot her a sheepish smile.
"Sorry, didn't see you there," he grinned, before taking in her yellow-stained t-shirt, and the grease he had smudged on her t-shirt. "Jeesh, are you the community napkin or something?"
Kate just rolled her eyes and glanced at the newest stain on her t-shirt. This was just great. It wasn't even first block, and she was already dubbed the community napkin.
Once upon a time, Ronnie was just Veronica Pieper. Not 'Ronnie Pieper, Eric Kingston's beautiful girlfriend'; not 'Future Mrs. Kingston'; not 'Law School Applicant of 2013'. Instead, she was a gangly, freckled fourteen year old who felt ugly. That's when everything happened.
It was the night of the eighth grade winter dance, and Ronnie had been brushing and straightening and spritzing her usual golden ringlets into partially straight strands. She stared in the white vanity mirror and touched the soft flesh of her cheek. Maybe, she thought, maybe Eric will finally notice me, and as more than his adopted sister.
She had had a crush on Eric for almost a year now, not that she had breathed a word of it to anyone. If she told her mother, he mother would tell her father over the salad bowl at dinner time, who would mention it to Eric's father while playing their ritual game of golf and beers at the Hamilton Golf Course, who would blurt it out late at night to Eric's mother, who would bustle into the kitchen the next morning, ordering Eric to pronounce his love for Veronica Pieper. And Ronnie was not taking her chances on that happening-- not only was it embarrassing, having your parents be your wingmen, but Eric would have been pressured into it, whether he actually liked her or not.
Ronnie tugged at a blond lock of hair that refused to stay straight, and sighed. It was official-- her lion's mane hated her, with a passion. She finally gave a gargling cry of desperation and turned to the pile of cosmetics she had snuck from her mother's bathroom drawer. It was the first tiime she'd ever wear make-up.
Her eyes sweeping across the tops of the glass containers and oddly shaped bottles and wrinkle-spot-correcting serums, Ronnie grasped onto the small bottle of foundation and half-heartedly opened the bottle. Squirting a loud, wet glob of the pale paste onto her fingers, Ronnie dotted her face with the foundation. Was she doing this right?
After attempting to even it out, she sighed in defeat. Now, with splotches of ivory, freckle-less skin and her normal rosy flush, she felt like a Dalmation. Just great.
This is embarrassing, she told herself as she grabbed hold of her mother's eyelash curler. Bringing it to her long lashes, she stared at her reflection. Her dark lashes were pushed and tugged at, making her eyes water as she accidentally pulled a lashes from her eyelids. Blinking back the pained tears, Ronnie grabbed hold of the tube of mascara.
She could feel the real tears brimming now. She felt ridiculous! Not only did she have uneven skin, but her lashes were resembling spider legs with each coat of mascara she applied. She was ugly; Eric would never like her back. Just then, as she dabbed at the tears that had collected, she heard her mother calling her name.
"Veronica," her mother yelled, before knocking on the door. Ronnie hastily gathered the make up she had stolen and shoved as much as she could into the drawers, only to end up dropping a large glass jar of face powder all over her fresh, fluffy white carpet. "Veronica, sweetie, what ar-"
Lisa Pieper pushed her way into the doorway, freezing when she caught sight of her daughter. Tears staining her unevenly colored cheeks, Veronica tried to wipe at the wet, slick spot on her skin.
"Veronica, what are you...? Sweetie, why are you crying?"
Veronica wiped at her cheeks, and shook her head. "I... It's nothing, Mom. I-I'm just getting ready and-"
"Sweetheart, you're ruining your make-up! C'mere," her mother cooed, hugging her daughter before wiping her cheeks and placing a kiss on her forehead. After removing the makeup and making her daughter smile, Lisa Pieper smiled, and began to work her magic.
When Eric saw Ronnie, he had to blink a couple hundred times. Her flowy white dress made her porcelain, rosy skin glow and look dewy and soft. And Ronnie, who spent the summers in t-shirts and chasing frogs, never looked soft.
Her usually unruly golden hair was up in a wavy, loose side bun that left those curly little tendrils hang around her face. Her cheeks looked even pinker than usual, thanks to the pale blush her mother had applied. Glittering mint green irises were rimmed with smoky eyes purple eyeshadow.
This wasn't Ronnie, Eric decided as his date Andrea DePaolo pulled on his arm and whined about taking a picture, as he stared at the alien in Veronica's body. She descended down the stairs, her silver heels clicking against the dark wood steps, looking like an angel.
He almost hadn't realized he was staring until Ronnie's date, Jack Santree, pushed past Eric and offered his arm for the alien. Veronica smiled, those rosy cheeks becoming full like the moon, and took his hand, her gaze never tearing from Jack's. She hadn't even looked at Eric!
The night changed when, on the dance floor, Veronica awkwardly dancing with Jack, Eric decided to cut in. Angela had practically thrown a fit, and yet Eric didn't really care.
Ronnie's skin was softer than he remembered, her hair shinier. Maybe it was just his imagination. People always told stories of their partners becoming cuter as they more and more in love, but Eric wasn't in love with Veronica.
Dark, long looking lashes fanned her eyes, as she daringly peeked up at him. A slow song lulled from the speakers at the front of the stage, where their teacher Mr. Waltz was the DJ. Balloons littered every corner of the room, and chairs lined the walls for the lonely one's who didn't have a date. Ronnie was, for once, not sitting in those chairs. No, she was dancing with Eric.
Taylor Merrick hated just about everyone in his Art 1 class. Literally, he could count on his hand the people who didn't nauseate him with every giggle and hair flip, and every jock's complaint of last night's Rumor. The few freshman who were in his class looked green at just the mention of tonight's Rumor: eating an entire goldifhs, gills and all. Taylor, who just a few years ago would have laughed with them, was now rolling his eyes and crossing his arms in front of his chest.
Freshman year might have been a little different for him if Alex hadn't died. Freshman year, he would have been on the footballl team with all the other guys; he would have fit in. Now, in one of his last few months of high school, Taylor had done some major reflecting. Not only did he realize the sole reason some people bothered to remember his name is becuase of Alex, he also figured out his only possible friend was the sandy-haired kid named Laker Keating. Laker was a sophomore, and everyone knew about him, and his infamous brother who somehow managed to steal Hamilton's heart.
Nick had graduated two years before, when Taylor was only a sophomore himself, and Taylor faintly remembered him. He sat on the Quad, with the rest of the varsity team, laughing and smiling and looking like a king. Taylor tried to remember if Nick had showed at Alex's memorial service or not.
And, lounging right in front of him, was the spitting image of the graduated quarterback. Laker sat in his three-legged stool with enough laziness to look like he didn't care; the whole time he stared at the back of Veronica Pieper's head like she might actually turn around and give him the time of day.
"Laker," Alex teased, patting the back of the kid's head, "I think you're drooling."
Laker scrunched up his nose, and made a face at Taylor, his blue eyes crinkling. "I am not! You're making me sound like a chick!"
Taylor shrugged teasingly before Mrs. Frost, the hefty fifty-some teacher who had the eyesight of a mole, made her way to the front of the classroom.
Tag der Veröffentlichung: 27.06.2013
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