Sisters in Sanity(11) by Gayle Forman

“That was my interpretation, darling,” Bebe concurred.

“V, how are we gonna do this?” I asked.

We all turned to V, expecting her to stop and ponder, but she immediately launched into a plan: “Okay, here’s the deal. There’s supposed to be a Level Five and Six field trip sometime next week, so barring another blizzard, Cassie or I will make sure that one of us gets a spot. It’s pretty easy to sneak away, and one of us will call my moles to see if they can pick you up. You’ll use the pass key to unlock the door. I’ll leave it in the fake plant next to Clayton’s office. And listen up, because this is the fun part. At night most of the doors are alarmed, but here’s the trick: If a door’s left open, its alarm system isn’t activated. So on the day of the concert, one of us is going to have to fake sick, get sent to the infirmary, and jam a piece of paper in the doorjamb on the way back. Brit, you just go to bed as usual.

“Now the goon goes to get his coffee at ten thirty, and then he takes a piss. I hear him walk by every night. That’s your window, Brit. You’ll sneak out to the infirmary, climb the big cottonwood tree, and hop the fence. It’s not easy, but it can be done. Your ride will be waiting for you. You’ll be back by morning roll call, and you’ll get in the same way you got out.”

V stopped. We all stared at her, our mouths hanging open. “What. I’ve had a lot of time to consider this.”

“What are you still doing here, Moses? You obviously could’ve pulled an exodus ages ago.” Cassie was stunned.

“I could’ve, but where would I go?”

“What about the cameras?” I asked.

V shrugged. “Look, this is risky. You’ll for sure be seen by the cameras, but the question is, will anyone see what the camera catches? No one watches the closed-circuit TV, and they just recycle the tapes over and over. You know how cheap and lazy this place is.”

“It seems really risky, Brit,” Martha warned.

“I don’t care. I’d walk through fire to see Jed. What do I do about Helga, the nurse?”

“She doesn’t sleep here.”

“What about Tiffany?” Martha asked.

“Has Tiffany ever noticed you three missing for our meetings?”

“No.”

“We always make sure she’s sleeping before we leave,” Bebe said. “She snores like a freight train.” “And this will be less risky because only one of you is leaving. Brit, bunch some pillows under the covers so it looks like you’re in bed.”

“That solves the logistics. But there’s another problem.”

“Birth control?” Bebe asked. “You can get condoms in town, or maybe not. It’s really Mormon around here.”

“Bebe! I’m not ha**ng s*x with Jed. That’s not what I’m talking about. I was just wondering what to wear. All I have is this lame uniform.”

The girls fell silent for a second. “Oh, that is a conundrum,” Bebe said. “We can fix up your hair and do your makeup with my stash of beauty products. But fashion-wise? You might be stuck.”

“I’m sorry, but I haven’t seen Jed and the rest of them for six months and I’m going to be mortified if I have to show up in chinos and a polo shirt.”

“I’d be mortified too, darling.”

“What about the clothes we were wearing when we got here? Does anyone know where they are?” I asked. I’d had on a vintage skirt and a Clash T-shirt. It wasn’t exactly sexy, but it was better than nothing.

“I was wearin’ my pj’s. They nabbed me at night,” Cassie said.

“Me too,” Bebe said. “Though lingerie might not be too bad.”

“I don’t think she’s after the harlot look, Bebe,” Cassie said.

“It doesn’t matter,” V interrupted. “They keep all that stuff, along with everything else they confiscate, in a locked closet in Sheriff’s office. Let’s not blow the whole plan by trying to break in.”

“What about your secret agents in town?”

“They’re nice and helpful, but of the sweats and sneakers variety,” V said. “And much bigger than you.”

“You could make something,” Martha piped up.

“Out of what?” I asked.

“Maybe we could take a pair of shorts and pull out the seams and stitch them into a cute A-line skirt. That wouldn’t be so bad. And you could take the polo shirt and rip off the sleeves and collar and turn it inside out, so it looks kind of frayed and rough. And you could wear knee socks and your Converse shoes. That would be kinda punk, right?”

“Slutty schoolgirl? Martha darling, you’re a genius,” Bebe said.

“Can you do any of that stuff?” I asked.

“Sure,” Martha said sweetly, “but I’ll need a needle and thread and something to pull the seams out with.”

“I can smuggle that stuff from Home Ec,” Cassie said.

“They have Home Ec here?” Bebe asked. “How did I not know that?”

“I think it’s just for the, well, you know.”

“Ahh, the Ellens…..”

“Ellens?” Martha asked.

“As in DeGeneres,” Bebe explained.

“Yeah, it’s part of their plan to domesticate me. If I told ’em I wanted to sew, I could probably lay my hands on a needle and thread. I mean how much damage can you do with one little pin?”

Martha looked like she was about to burst with excitement. “Brit, I promise I’ll do a good job. I used to make all my costumes.”

“Costumes?” the four of us asked in unison.

“From when I was a Junior Miss.”

“You were a beauty queen?” Cassie asked.

“Yeah. I was Miss Junior Columbus, Ohio, when I was twelve.”

We all stared at her, completely astonished. Martha? A beauty queen? It wasn’t that she wasn’t pretty. She was. She had big green eyes and pretty pink skin. But Martha was a big girl, and she carried herself like she was trying to disappear. She just didn’t have the aura of a Junior Miss.

“Martha darling. Don’t take this the wrong way, but was it a plus-size beauty contest?” Leave it to Bebe. We’d all been thinking the same thing, but only she had the nerve to say it.

“It was a normal contest, Bebe, but I was skinny then,” Martha said wistfully. “I only ballooned a few years ago. I guess my metabolism crashed,” she said, looking down at her hands. “But I can still sew. Really, my costumes were gorgeous.”

“Martha,” V said. “You are a woman of mystery.”

“I am?” she asked.

“You are,” V replied. And with that Martha smiled a dazzling smile, and you could almost see the beauty queen within.

Chapter 15

“How awful is it? Are they mistreating you? Withholding food? We saw them do that to one inmate.”

It was the night of March 15th and I was being smuggled to St. George with Beth and Ansley. V’s plan had worked perfectly. It hadn’t snowed again. Cassie had gone on a bowling field trip and slipped away to call our moles. Bebe had faked a case of food poisoning and jammed the infirmary door open, and Martha had worked magic transforming the Red Rock uniform into an almost-hip outfit. At twenty minutes after lights-out, I snuck out of my room, down the hall, out the door, up the tree, and over the fence, not even skinning my knee. When I saw Beth’s pickup truck waiting for me, I couldn’t believe how easy it was.

Beth and Ansley were chatty and dying to know about Red Rock. Normally I’d have welcomed the chance to spread the word about the fraudulent therapy going down there, but I was too busy trying to avoid puking. My stomach was in knots. I’d spent the previous three weeks worrying about V’s master plan, imagining all the worst-case scenarios, having horrid nightmares about Sheriff grabbing my arm as I went out the door or Clayton and my dad waiting for me on the other side of the fence. In fact, I’d been so busy obsessing about my prison break that I hadn’t really given much thought to why I was breaking out: to see Clod, to see Jed.

But now I was about to be reunited with my band—except they weren’t my band anymore. I was going to be a spectator this time. Which was going to be weird. And speaking of weird—Jed. His letters, his affection, his distant support—he’d been like my firefly the last six months, something to light up the dreariness of Red Rock. I thought about him all the time, way more than I would’ve if I had my normal, full life. Way more, I was sure, than he’d been thinking about me. “Firefly” was probably just his way of being nice and encouraging. Riding toward town, I tried to let go of my well-nursed fantasies and started steeling myself for a major disappointment. It would be good to see Jed, and Denise and Erik anyhow, I told myself.

If I could find them. All I knew was that Clod was playing in St. George. I had no idea where or what time. It would be eleven o’clock at the earliest by the time I got there, and they might be long gone.

“Oh, no problem. St. George is dinky. There are only a couple of places where a band could play. We’ll swing by Java Jive and Cafenomica,” Ansley said.

“I’m sure they’ll be playing at one of those,” Beth added.

“We don’t get many new bands in town,” Ansley said. “Utah isn’t exactly known for its music scene.”

“Yeah, this is a real treat. We’re going to go to the show too, if you don’t mind,” Beth said.

“No, that’s great. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your help.”

“It’s nothing. We’re glad to do it. We wish we could do more for you girls,” Ansley said, “like getting that dump shut down.”

We arrived in town, a cute place full of motels and galleries selling Indian art. At a stoplight, we saw a bunch of skater kids loitering near the corner. Ansley rolled down her window and asked if they knew where a band called Clod was playing, and we got the answer we were hoping for: Cafenomica.

I saw Denise first. She was onstage tinkering with the bass amp. “Brit, Oh my God!” she screamed as she ran toward me, tackling me in the world’s hugest hug. “It’s Brit. She made it. She made it!” she shouted to the crowd. “C’mon, the guys are out back. They’re gonna shit a brick when they see you. And your timing is perfect. We’re on at eleven thirty.”

We went out to the parking lot, and there was the Vanagon, just like always. Erik was leaning against it, smoking a cigarette and talking to some girls. He waved wildly when he saw me, and then motioned for me to wait a second. He ran to the back of the van and pulled out a grease-stained paper bag. “Dude, you made it. I knew you would,” he said, handing me the bag.

I sniffed it. “You got me a burrito?” I asked.

“Yah. Naturally. It’s tradition. Except we already ate ours.”

“Erik had the munchies,” Denise said.

“I’ll bet you did,” I said, hugging him tightly. “Thanks.”

“You’re not gonna cry over a burrito, are you? I can’t deal when chicks cry,” Erik said.

I wiped my eyes. “No, I’m not gonna cry. I’m just happy to see you guys, that’s all.”

“We’re happy to see you too, Brit.” I heard his voice first. It sent a shiver up my spine. Then I felt his hand on my shoulder and my skin went hot where he touched it. I slowly turned around to face him, drinking in the sight of him. He was as beautiful as ever with his sleepy green eyes, his hair curling down around the nape of his neck. He leaned over to kiss my cheek but I turned my head and he kind of hit me on the side of the mouth. It was like a bolt of electricity went through me.

“Hi Jed,” was all I could manage.

“Hi Brit.” Jed smiled.

“Hi Jed,” I said again.

Erik interrupted us. “Dudes, hate to cut the reunion short, but we gotta go play.”

“Oh, of course. I’ll just meet you guys after. I wanna get a good seat.”

“Seat?” Jed looked at me like I must have been kidding. “You’re playing too.”

“I am?”

“Of course you are,” Jed insisted. “You’re a quarter Clod.”

“But not anymore. You guys are totally doing awesome.” I tried not to sound disappointed. “And besides, it’s been six months. Who knows if I’ll even remember how to play.”

“You will,” Jed said.

“But I don’t have my guitar.”

“Oh man, wait here,” Erik said, and ran to the back of the van again. He pulled out my Gibson SG, my old friend.

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