Leah, Sarah and a few other girls sat in the Smith's livingroom awaiting that horrifying moment when their parents would walk through the front door. Mr. and Mrs. Smith came home early from their holiday and had walked in just in time to see their thirteen year old daughter, along with her friends and several older people that the Smith's had never met before, start playing Kings, a popular drinking game. The older kids left but the younger ones had no choice but to stay and wait for their parents to come. Mrs. Smith had gallantly decided to called each and every parent and inform them of their daughters' activities.
"This is bad" Sarah whispered to Leah.
"Really bad" Leah responded.
A girl they had never met before was sitting with them on the large couch. She must have come as a "friend of a friend."
"Seriously.....really bad" the girl said.
"I'm Leah, this is Sarah" Leah said kindly.
"Alana" she replied. She seemed friendly. "Any chance one of your parents will take me home too? My aunt and uncle are gonna kill me" she said. Although she said this with somewhat of a joking smile, everyone could tell she was half-serious.
"Trust me, you don't want to come with me...my sister's gonna be really....really mad" Leah said.
"I'd take my chances" Alana replied.
"We should hang out some time" Sarah suggested, taking an instant liking to Alana. She seemed very similar to Leah and herself. Alana took out a pen and a piece of paper and wrote her phone number down.
"Call me, that would be cool" she said, handing the paper to Sarah, and another to Leah.
The doorbell rang and the room went silent. Everyone held their breath and looked toward the hallway. Mrs. Smith went to answer the door.
"I am SO sorry" Leah heard Meredith say. She felt sick. She was scared, as she should be. They talked as they walked toward the livingroom. Leah turned to see both Meredith and John standing there. Meredith had her arms crossed and was glaring at Leah while speaking with Mrs. Smith.
"Leah will come back tomorrow and help clean up the mess....we're so sorry" she said. As Mrs. Smith and Meredith continued speaking Alana leaned in and whispered in Leah's ear.
"Oh my God, Meredith Forrester is your sister?! I LOVE her! I have a subscription to her magazine and her shows are all so awesome, you're soo lucky!!" she said excitedly.
"Lucky? She's going to kill me!" Leah whispered back.
"No she's not! She's like...the coolest nicest person I've ever seen in my life" Alana whispered back, shocked.
"Yeah, she's cool....but she's scary when she's mad...trust me"
"So are my aunt and uncle...." Alana said, just as the door opened to reveal Ruth who also began apologizing to Mrs. Smith. As the three women were talking John wondered over to Leah.
"Come on Leah, let's go" he said seriously. Leah stood up.
"I'm here to keep your sister calm...don't give her any attitude, or any reason to be angrier than she already is" John warned firmly.
"Is she really mad?" Leah asked, worried.
"Of course she is! You snuck out after you were told to stay home, and now here you are, there are half-empty bottles of rum everywhere!" he exclaimed. Leah's gaze fell toward the floor. She was embarassed to be yelled at in front of her friends, and also embarassed that she had acted so irresponsibly.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Smith, Ruth and Meredith had come to join John in front of the couch, Leah standing off to the side. All three girls looked pale.
"Come on Sarah, I'll drive you home" Meredith said without her usual bubbly flare. Instead, she sounded exhausted. Sarah stood up.
"You've all been volunteered to clean my house tomorrow, so I'll see you in the morning" Mrs. Smith said as the group made their way to the door. Meredith and Ruth both apologized agaian, and Leah, Sarah and Alana followed suit, and the group left.
The drive to Sarah's house was silent. When John put the car in park, he got out and opened Sarah's door. She got out slowly, looked to Leah for help, and when Leah didn't offer any, she allowed herself to be lead to the door by John, who rang the doorbell, waiting for Sarah's parents to open the door.
Meanwhile, in the car, Meredith turned around and shot Leah one of the scariest looks she had ever seen. But neither sister said anything. John came back to the car and they began to drive home, in silent. Leah knew that Meredith would only be able to stay silent for so long, and she was right. About ten minutes into their drive, Meredith turned around.
"What were you thinking?" she demanded angrily. Leah looked out the window, and didn't respond. She figured it was useless. No matter what she said it would be the wrong answer.
"Hey! I asked you a question" Meredith demanded.
"I don't know" Leah said.
"You don't know? I want a real answer, young lady" she said.
Leah was annoyed that Meredith wouldn't leave her alone. They had had this same conversation hundreds of times, and it was pointless. It was always going to have the same conclusion.
"No, I don't know! If you had just let me go in the first place this wouldn't have been an issue!" Leah exclaimed, tired and afraid, her fear translating into anger. She knew by the look on her sister's face that she shouldn't have said that..or at least said it in a more respectful tone.
"Oh yeah, about that! What happened to "I'm just going to Sarah's?" Meredith exclaimed, imitating Leah's original claim. "I know you think I'm stupid Leah, but that wasn't Sarah's house!"
"Oh, no, ya think!?" Leah yelled back.
"Shhh, can you guys be quiet? The roads are really bad" John said, annoyed.
"Don't take that tone with me!" Meredith yelled, ignoring John. "I want to know! I want you to tell me right now, how you expected me not to notice that you had snuck out!"
"I didn't care if you knew! I wanted to go!" Leah yelled.
"Oh my God, are we seriously going to have this arguement AGAIN?! You're thirteen, I said no, you listen!! What is it about that that you can't get?"
"I get it! Okay? I get it!" Leah cried, tears rolling down her face.
Before Meredith had a chance to respond their car slid right into the back of the car in front of them that had stopped abruptly. Meredith turned to John.
"What happenend?" she asked, surprised.
"That's great...that's just great! I told you two to stop yelling!" John said, frustrated. He got out and went to talk to the driver of the other car and assess the damage. Meredith followed him, and Leah crossed her arms and leaned back against the seat. She hadn't had a moment of silence to think since the Smith's came home, and only now did she fully understand just how much trouble she was in. A few minutes later Meredith opened Leah's door.
"Get out" she said.
"Come on, we can't drive the car home, the lights are broken. The tow truck's here, and Addie's on her way to pick us up." she said, collecting some things from the car. Leah got out and followed Meredith to where John and a couple other people were standing. They stood making small-talk with the people from the other car for what seemed like a really long time, waiting for Addie. Finally Leah couldn't stand it any more. It was raining and snowing at the same time, the wind was blowing it forcefully into her face, and she was beyond freezing.
"Mere I'm SO cold! Do you have a hat or anything in your bag?" she asked desperately.
"You're cold? Too bad!" John spat at her. "We're out here because of you...this is exactly why we didn't want you out tonight!"
"I'm sorry" Leah's small voice said. She sniffed back some tears, and shivered. Meredith looked down at her little sister and thought about the memory that had lead her to realize that Leah was gone. She knew what it was like to be a kid, and she knew that it was hard. She wrapped her arm around Leah and pulled her close to her side, holding her up against her and rubbed her arm, trying to warm her up a little. Leah leaned into Meredith and allowed herself to be held. There was such a degree of comfort that she felt from her sister, even though she knew how angry she was.
Later that night when they finally walked through the front door into the warmth of their home Leah stood awkwardly in the hallway unsure of what to do. While the three of them took their wet coats off and hung them up Leah was shaking with fear inside. She had never done something quite this bad before, and didn't know what was going to happen to her.
"You can go to bed Leah, we'll talk about this in the morning" Meredith said, heading into the kitchen, probably to make more coffee so that she could work later into the night.
"But...uh..." Leah said, and then hesitated.
"What is it?" Meredith asked, turning back to her.
"Can I still go to yoga in the morning?"
"No" Meredith said simply. Leah nodded and headed up the staircase to her room.
Leah tossed and turned in bed unable to sleep. After a couple of hours of miserable efforts she gave up, turned her lamp on and tried to read. But she couldn't concentrate. She couldn't stop thinking about the car accident she had caused, and although nobody was hurt, they could have been. John's car was smashed, and he was right. It was her fault, and they shouldn't have been out there in the first place. Her mind kept spinning in circles, thinking about John and Meredith, and how much they loved her, and how much stress she caused them because she just had to have her own way all the time. Finally she got up, slid her fluffy blue slippers on, and quietly went downstairs.
She filled a big pot up with water and put it on the stove to boil. She opened up the fridge, looked at the contents, and then made a decision. She gathered up some bacon, grape tomatoes, peppers and cheese, and went to work cooking something she was sure her sister would love. She would wake up in the morning, come down to make coffee, and see that Leah had made her a delicious meal. Maybe that would demonstrate how sorry she was.
Unfortunately, Meredith was still up working and heard Leah banging around in the kitchen. She ignored the sounds for a while, but finally padded down the stairs. She stopped in the kitchen doorway and took in the scene. Leah's long blond hair was being held back by a sporty black headband, and hanging down with shiny waves...clearly the result of the curling job she had done in preparation for the party. She was wearing a grey Adidas hoody, loose black capri track pants, and fluffy blue slippers. Without looking up she pulled a pan of roasted grape tomatoes out of the oven and put them ontop to cool. In Meredith's opinion, there couldn't be anyone more adorable in the entire world. She stepped into the kitchen.
"So...what are you doing?" Meredith asked, stepping in further. Leah looked up and let out a surprised yelp.
"You scared me!" she whispered.
"Sorry. What are you doing?" she repeated.
"Um...I'm making you some pasta" Leah said, looking down, a little embarassed.
"I hope this isn't some attempt to bribe me out of punishing you" Meredith warned.
"It's not!" Leah said, looking up. As her bright blue eyes met Meredith's, she continued. "You always say that the best way to say sorry to someone, or show them that you appreciate them is to cook for them...I couldn't sleep. I feel so bad, I shouldn't have snuck out tonight or lied to you, or been such a jerk. I'm sorry Meredith" Leah said slowly.
Meredith was silent for a minute.
"Awww pumpkin" Meredith said, clearly touched, and rushed around to Leah and pulled her into a big bear hug.
"I'm so sorry!" Leah cried, tears falling down her cheeks.
Meredith wiped a few tears from her own face, and told Leah that it was okay, that everyone makes mistakes. After a few minutes of clinging to eachother, Leah jumped.
"My pasta!" she cried, running to the stove and pulling it off, knowing that it had now been boiling for a few minutes too many.
"Oh my little Leah, you're the best" she said, walking around to the counter and starting to grate the cheese.
.....to be continued