Lyssa and her best friend Abbey discover a hideout near the train tracks and spend the summer before sixth grade hanging out and finding freedom from issues at home. Their childhood innocence is lost when the hideout becomes the scene of a tragic death.
As they’re about to graduate from high school, Abbey’s family life spirals out of control while Lyssa is feeling guilty for deceiving Abbey about her sexuality. After another tragic loss, Lyssa finds out that a penny on the tracks is sometimes a huge price to pay for the truth.
I WAS MAKING our favorite sandwich—bologna, lettuce, and cheese smeared with mustard and mayo on white bread—when Abbey called for me from the living room.
“Lyssa! Hurry up! Poison’s on!”
The sandwiches lay on the counter amid a mess of open condiment jars and scattered pieces of lettuce and lunch meat. I quickly smashed the top slices of bread onto both sandwiches against the piled-stack of a sloppy mess I had created and hurried into the next room, dropping bits of food as I ran.
Abbey was standing on the couch, shouting out the lyrics we both knew by heart as Brett Michaels’ voice filled the room.
I handed her a sandwich, jumped on the couch, and screamed out the chorus to “Talk Dirty to Me.” I took bites of my sandwich during the guitar solo, and Abbey held her sandwich high in her left hand, as though it were the end of a guitar, and strummed her right hand against the front of her shirt. We banged our heads in unison, hair (and food) flying everywhere.
Abbey’s house had a bigger TV and better food options than bologna and cheese sandwiches, but we never could have done what we were doing right then if we were at her house.
Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” came on next, and we both lost our minds. We dropped what was left of our food onto the table and yelled out the lyrics to our favorite song. Abbey sang the song with more conviction, as though she had a lot more that she didn’t want to take anymore.
The video ended, and we both collapsed onto the couch and finished our lunch. After, I went into the kitchen and grabbed a couple cans of pop from the fridge. Hanging on a magnet, on the side of the refrigerator, was a note from my mom reminding me she was working late that night and that there were frozen dinners in the freezer. At the end of the note she promised a home-cooked meal soon.
Abbey was often envious of the lack of parental supervision at my place, especially when it came to dinner. She was jealous I got to eat whatever I wanted. Even if my mom left dinner for me in the fridge, if I wanted to eat S’mores for supper, I ate S’mores.
“You eat dinner on the couch while watching TV?” Abbey had asked me one day.
“If I feel like it,” I answered.
“You’re so lucky. My mom makes me eat with her at the table, even if my dad isn’t home yet. And I can’t even put my elbows on the table.”
I ate on the couch while watching TV because my friend didn’t know the loneliness that crept inside a person while eating dinner among empty chairs.
But I had forced a smile. “Yep. I am lucky.”
I walked back into the living room and handed one of the cans to Abbey.
Abbey didn’t take it. “My mom said I drink too much pop.”
“Your mom’s not fucking here.”
Abbey smiled and grabbed the can from my hand.About eight videos later and a sore neck from head banging, Abbey had to go home.
I walked her to the door. “Let’s ride our bikes tomorrow.”
“I don’t know. Somewhere far.”
“Last time we did that we were almost too tired to ride back,” she reminded me.
“That was because of the wind,” I explained. “It was blowing against us on our way back.”
Abbey considered this. “Okay. If it’s not very windy tomorrow, we’ll ride our bikes far.”
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