“Have you heard about Scott and Abi?” The school bathroom’s deserted as Jodie sidles up to Fliss, her best friend. Jodie’s not usually one to gossip, but she can’t resist passing this on. “They hooked up at Danny’s party last weekend. I saw them getting hot and steamy with each other on the landing.”
“Scott and Abi?” Fliss says in surprise. “I thought he was dating Lauren.”
“Maybe they broke up.” Jodie pauses to consider the possibilities. “Or maybe he’s cheating on Lauren with Abi. I wonder if she knows…”
“Poor Lauren,” Fliss says. It’s so sad that it’s always the girlfriend who’s the last to know.
“Don’t tell anyone else.” Perhaps Jodie’s conscience is catching up with her. Or perhaps she just likes having a secret.
“I won’t tell anyone else. I promise.”
But she does.
“Have you heard about Scott and Abi?” Fliss has had a secret crush on Brandon for weeks, but she’s always so tongue-tied around him. Now, she finally has something to say. She puts her lunch tray down on the table he’s seated at and takes a chair.
“What about Scott and Abi?” Brandon pauses between mouthfuls to ask the question. “Are they both running for class president or something?”
Fliss picks imaginary fluff off her sweater, spinning out the suspense. “They’re doing it behind Lauren’s back.”
Brandon’s fork is halfway to his mouth. It freezes in shock, then he lets out a whistle. “I thought he was really into Lauren. I mean, Abi’s cute, but…”
But she isn’t Lauren. Lauren’s been every boy’s fantasy since Freshman year with her long dark hair and her deep, throaty laugh. At sixteen, she’s the hottest girl Brandon knows, and he’s longed hopelessly for her as long as he can remember.
Fliss blushes. “I shouldn’t have told you that. It’s meant to be a secret.”
“I won’t tell anyone else. I promise.”
But he does.
“Have you heard about Scott and Abi?”
Brandon and Mandy are meant to be testing elements to determine whether or not they’re metal, but his chem partner is Lauren’s best friend and if anyone will know what’s going on, then Mandy will.
For a moment, she doesn’t reply, too busy testing the chemical reactivity of lithium. “That’s another alkali metal,” she mutters, scribbling in her notebook.
Brandon tries again. “Has she said anything to you?”
“No, Lauren. About Scott and Abi.” If Lauren doesn’t already know, then this is as good a way as any to get the news to her.
“Scott and Abi? You mean…” Mandy pauses delicately.
Brandon nods. “Yep. They’ve been doing it for months, and laughing at Lauren behind her back.”
He doesn’t swear Mandy to secrecy. Why should he? He wants Lauren to know because then she’ll realize Scott isn’t boyfriend material – and Brandon can make sure he’s on hand himself to dry Lauren’s tears and give her a shoulder to cry on.
Mandy doesn’t tell Lauren. She can’t bear to think of Lauren’s tears when she finds out that Scott’s cheating on her. If anything, Mandy feels disappointed with Scott. She’d always thought he was such a great guy: so courteous, and if you’d asked her before today, she would have said he worshipped the ground Lauren walks on.
No, she can’t tell Lauren, but she confides in her boyfriend, Sam, asking for advice. “Scott’s been boinking Abi, but he’s meant to be Lauren’s boyfriend. Do you think I should say something?”
“Say what?” Sam asks. “Tell them not to do it, or tell them to be careful?”
“Careful?” Mandy echoes. Does Sam mean Scott and Abi should be careful not to get caught – or careful not to get pregnant? What was it her grandmother used to say? “If you can’t be good, be careful; and if you can’t be careful, watch the calendar.”
“They’re not being careful?” Sam looks worried. “Man, that could mess up both their lives!”
Sam can’t believe how anyone could be so irresponsible. His cousin Jeannie fell pregnant in her senior year and it was all his mom’s side of the family talked about for years. As soon as he was old enough to start dating, his dad had sat him down and given him ‘The Talk’: the one that embarrasses the teenager as much as the parent. Sam knows all there is to know and more about planned parenthood: heck, he could probably write a mid-term paper on condoms and other contraceptives! What on earth were Scott and Abi thinking?
But Scott doesn’t look like a teenager who’s unexpectedly become a parent. Maybe he doesn’t know!
“Why are you still in the locker room?” Harvey asks curiously. Sam is sitting on a bench, one sweat sock on his foot and the other in his hand.
Sam’s train of thought slams to a halt. He climbs down from it slowly, wondering if Harvey knows they’ll be losing their star player when Abi’s baby comes along.
“Scott’s been playing away from home,” he says. “Abi thinks she’s pregnant but she hasn’t told Scott. She doesn’t know whether he’ll stand by her or go back to Lauren.”
“What a jerk!” Harvey sounds angry. “He had a football scholarship lined up, but I guess he’ll have to change his plans now Abi’s having his baby.”
“Unless she drops out of school herself,” Sam says.
When Harvey sees Ryan, he thinks he’d better prepare him for taking Scott’s place as quarterback. “Make sure you turn up at tomorrow’s practice,” he says, “because I think Scott’s going to be too busy for football for a while.”
“Busy!” Ryan looks puzzled.
“Preoccupied.” Harvey corrects himself, then tries to make a pun. “He’s been getting busy with Abi, and now she’s pregnant and dropping out of school.”
“Are you sure this isn’t just gossip?” Ryan’s had a thing for Abi for ages and is devastated by Harvey’s news.
“Dude, I heard it from Sam and his girlfriend’s in the loop. She and Scott’s girlfriend are friends for life or whatever they call it. Trust me – my source is 100% reliable,” Harvey says with conviction.
Ryan tries to ignore the pain in his heart, but Harvey’s information is a sharp pair of scissors, puncturing his gut and twisting his insides.
“Abi, can I talk to you?”
Autumn sunlight glints off Abi’s hair. At this moment, she looks so golden, so perfect, that Ryan can’t imagine her heavy with child. He wonders how long it will be before the baby bump becomes noticeable.
“Sure. What do you want?”
A week ago – even a day ago – he would have done anything for a smile like the one she’s giving him now: a smile that lights up her face and makes the universe seem right. He’s heard people talk about ‘faking it until you make it’, but until now, he’s never understood the expression. Abi’s fake cheerfulness is Oscar-worthy. She looks as if she genuinely doesn’t have a care in the world.
“I know your secret,” he says.
Her smile freezes into something else.
“How do you know?” she asks.
“It’s going round the school,” Ryan tells her. “Everyone knows about your baby.”
“My baby?” She seems mystified.
“And that you’re dropping out sometime next semester,” Ryan adds.
“Is that what people are saying?”
She seems surprised. Ryan nods.
“Ryan,” he corrects her.
“Sorry. Ryan, I’m not having a baby, and I’m not dropping out of school.” He must look as confused as he feels because she adds, “And if you hear anyone else saying this, you have to put them straight.”
Now he’s talked to Abi, Ryan doesn’t feel any less anxious than he did before. Abi was quite adamant that she’s not having the baby, but abortion’s not without complications either. And will Abi be able to get a termination? He knows the laws have changed recently – they had a class discussion in social studies a few weeks ago. Will this make things easier for Abi or more difficult?
“Can girls your age get legal abortions?” he whispers to Fliss during algebra.
“What? Why would you ask me something like that?” Perhaps Fliss doesn’t know.
“Abi told me she’s having an abortion,” he writes on his notepad. “It’s Scott’s baby.”
Fliss is wide-eyed as she reads his note.
“I knew they were doing it, but I didn’t know it had gone that far,” she scribbles back.
Ryan wants to carry on the conversation, but he can feel Mr Montezumo’s eyes boring into him from across the room, so he puts his head down and concentrates on x and y. Meanwhile, Fliss finds it hard to focus on her own equations, her mind dwelling on what Ryan’s just told her. Someone needs to tell Lauren – and that someone should be Fliss.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Jodie asks.
Fliss nods. She and Jodie were the first people to find out about Abi: it seems only fitting that they should now be the final link in the chain as well. She’s aware that half their year group seem to know about Scott and Abi, but she’s not sure how the news has got around so quickly. She only told one person. Perhaps Jodie mentioned it to a few others.
Lauren’s house is only a few blocks away. It looks like a fairly well-to-do neighborhood – you can tell by the cars that are parked outside and the well-kept lawns at the front of the houses. Fliss feels a little nervous: she doesn’t usually turn up at people’s front doors without an invitation.
The woman who answers the door to them looks like an older version of Lauren. Her mom, Fliss thinks. She tells them Lauren is in her room, doing homework; but when Jodie lies and says the three of them are working on an English presentation together, Mrs Hilson says they can go on up.
“Lauren?” Fliss taps on the door nervously. The strains of a song by some boy band float through the closed door. Perhaps Lauren has her headphones on and can’t hear the knocking.
Jodie takes over, knocking more loudly this time and then opening the door. Lauren looks up from her desk, a surprised look on her face. She removes her headphones and looks at her visitors. “What do you want?” she asks.
Fliss and Jodie look at one another. They’ve agreed that Jodie will do the talking: after all, she was the one who saw what happened.
“Lauren…” Jodie tries to make her voice sympathetic. “There’s something we need to tell you. It’s about Scott… And Abi.”
Lauren’s eyes narrow. “Go on,” she says.
“Last weekend, I went to Danny’s party,” Jodie begins. She can still see the scene clearly in her mind: the crowded room full of teenagers laughing, talking, drinking; the way that some people had started pairing off and disappearing outside to smooch on the terrace or upstairs to do goodness knows what in one of the bedrooms. She’d gone upstairs herself – not with a boy but because she wanted to use the bathroom.
That’s when she’d seen them – Scott and Abi locked in an embrace, their arms wrapped tightly around each other. They hadn’t been kissing; but you don’t hug someone for as long as that if you’re just friends.
“I saw them both making out on the landing,” she says. “Scott’s been cheating on you, Lauren.”
“You saw what?” Lauren sounds incredulous.
“They were holding each other really tightly,” Jodie says. “The way people do when they’ve just been kissing – or doing other stuff.”
“Other stuff?” Lauren repeats.
“Abi’s pregnant,” Fliss says helpfully. “It’s Scott’s baby, but he doesn’t know yet. She’s having an abortion.”
“She told you this?” Lauren seems to be in denial.
Jodie reddens. “Well, not exactly…” She turns to Fliss. “You told me she was having an abortion.”
“That’s what she told Ryan,” Fliss says defensively. “And Ryan got the story from Harvey before he talked to Abi. Everyone knows about it by now.”
“Abi isn’t pregnant with Scott’s baby,” Lauren says. “And they’re certainly not romantically involved.” She takes a deep breath. “Abi’s his sister.”
“What?” Fliss and Jodie look at each other. The idea is preposterous.
“Scott was adopted as a baby,” Lauren says. “Once he turned 16, he was told he could have some information about his birth mother. That’s when he found out he had a twin sister: Abi.”
“But she looks nothing like him!” Jodie says in surprise.
“They’re fraternal twins,” Lauren tells us. “I assume you do know what ‘fraternal’ means?”
“But if she’s really his sister,” Jodie protests as if she’s struggling to buy into this herself, “why haven’t they told people at school? They could have said something when Abi started as a transfer student In August.”
“I think she wanted to make friends with people on her own merits,” Lauren says. “Of course, she didn’t know someone was going to start a rumour about her…” She looks pointedly at Jodie.
Jodie reddens again and looks at Fliss who is twisting her hair around her little finger in a somewhat anxious manner. “I told you not to tell anyone,” Jodie says.
“It was only one person,” Fliss says defensively. She has a feeling she and Jodie won’t be on the guest list if Abi has a party herself.
“We’re sorry,” Jodie says, and Fliss nods her agreement.
“It’s not me you need to apologise to,” Lauren says. She opens her bedroom door. “At least now we know where the rumours started,” she tells them. “I assume you’re going to set the record straight? About Scott and Abi not being romantically involved, I mean. They’ll let people know they’re brother and sister when they’re ready.”
“We won’t tell anyone,” Fliss and Jodie promise.
But they do.