the map of Love & War

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December 29th, 2012

Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down

By the time the bell rang to signify the end of the day at Placerita High School, Dylan Prescott had already slung her backpack in the back seat of Margot Fenwick’s SUV and was slamming the door shut as she slinked down in the seat, closing her eyes so that no one would see her crying as they pulled out of the parking lot.

“You want to tell me what happened, Dylan?”



Dylan didn’t open her eyes. “It’s just like Mr. Jefferson said. I got in a fight.”

Margot didn’t take her eyes off the road as she gave a slow nod. “Yes, I heard Mr. Jefferson’s side of the story. What I’d like to hear now is your side of the story.” She paused a moment while Dylan cleared her throat three times in a row. She opened and closed her mouth as she did so. “The nurse says she thinks Sterling will probably need a few stitches under his eye. You apparently decked him really good.”

Dylan tried on a small smile, but still she didn’t open her eyes. “Decked him really good,” she repeated. “Good. Sterling is an asshole.”

“Be that as it may, I would like to know what set this whole thing off. I just want to hear it from you. I’m pretty sure I already know — “

“Pretty sure I already know.”

“ — What happened, but I want to hear it from your point of view.”

Dylan cleared her throat, bringing herself into a sitting position. “I had an outburst in class today,” she said softly. “And Sterling called me a fucking retard.” Dylan cleared her throat, tapped her fingers against her knees. One. Three. Five. Seven. She clenched her fists, relaxed her fingers, clearing her throat. “So I got out of my seat and tried to strangle him to death.”

“Jesus Christ, Dylan.” Margot heaved a heavy sigh, like a tire letting out all its air. “What am I supposed to do with that, huh? I thought we talked about this. I thought you said you were gonna try harder this time.”

Dylan felt the tears stinging the back of her throat, feeling for all the world like sandpaper against raw skin. “I am trying,” she said, fighting hard to keep the tears at bay. “I’m trying hard every day. But I’ve been here for three months and I don’t have a single friend, and I’m fucking sick of everybody treating me like a leper.”

“Watch your language,” Margot said, instantly regretting it.

“Thanks, Margot. Big fucking thanks.”

“I didn’t mean it like that. Don’t be fresh with me. I’m trying to help you.” They turned a corner, and when they reached a main road, away from the high school, Margot patted Dylan on the knee. “Roll down the window,” she said.  She reached over to turn the volume up on the radio and began to sing along, badly, with Britney Spears.

It took only a few bars for Dylan to roll down the window, clear her throat three times and shout, “Hot cherry pie, you’re gonna die!” into the wind five times.

When they got home, Dylan went straight to her room, closed and locked the door, and hid in the closet on top of several pairs of old sneakers. She’d been sitting there tapping out odd numbers against her knees and crying for ten minutes when her phone buzzed.

She fished it from her pocket. When she glanced down, she smiled. It was Rheeann.

“You’ve still got epic timing,” Dylan said by way of greeting.

“Badass,” came the reply. “Why, what’s going on?”

Dylan cleared her throat. “Got suspended.”

“For how long?”

“Three days.”

“For what? That cherry pie shit?”

Dylan shook her head. “Cherry pie shit. Not this time. This guy called me a fucking retard so I punched him in the face and tried to choke him out.”

Several hundred miles away, Rheeann guffawed. “Sounds reasonable. Guy calls you a name, you make him think twice ‘fore he fucks with you again, am I right?”

Dylan sighed. “It’s different this time, Rhee. I don’t want to fuck this up.” She blinked back her tears, pulled her knees close to her chest. “It’s okay here. Margot takes me shopping, Peter doesn’t yell or hit or drink, and Daniel…” Dylan tried to bite back the urge to cry, but it broke its way out of her anyway. “Hot cherry pie, you’re gonna die!” she barked.

“I know it, girlfriend, ain’t we all,” came Rheeann’s unperturbed reply. “Everything gonna be okay?”

Dylan swallowed hard. “Margot rolled the window down in the car and turned on the radio so I could tic without being embarrassed,” she said around the soft formation of a smile, keeping her voice low. “It’s not much, but it’s something.”

“It is,” Rheeann agreed. “She seems all right.”


“When you coming up to see me?”

At this, Dylan sighed, shaking her head. “I don’t have money, Rheeann. And even if I did, I don’t think Margot would just let me get on a bus and go back to Odessa. Besides. I’m not sure I want to go back there.” She swallowed. “I don’t think I’m ready.”

“Hey. No. Don’t do that. What do I always tell you? Don’t let the bastards grind you down. Right, Dilly Weed? Where are you these days anyway? Some piece of shit town down south, Bateman tells me.  Something with a crazy name”

Dylan sniffled three times as she cleared her throat. “Love & War,” she said. “Bateman said this place was my last chance. Nobody else in Odessa would take me.”

Rheeann sniffed. “Because of the Tourettes? Fuck em.”

“That. Plus the fighting. But I have more bad news.”

Rheeann moaned. “Christ, you’re just depressing as a bag of hammers today, aren’t you?”

Dylan frowned. “I don’t…even know what that means.”

“What’s your bad news?”

Dylan reached for the thin gold necklace around her neck, but her fingers could only scratch frantically at the base of her throat as they failed to find the object they sought. “Do you remember my mother’s ring?”

“Sure I do.”

Dylan sighed. “I lost it. I can’t find it anywhere. It’s like it just up and disappeared.”

“I bet your little foster brother took it. What’s his name again?”

“Daniel,” Dylan said, smiling at the thought of him.  “He does come in here and bother my stuff but I never take the ring off my necklace, you know that.”

“So then how’d you lose it?”

Dylan sighed, shrugged a thin shoulder. “I don’t know. I just know it’s gone.”

“Listen, Dilly Weed, I gotta run. You’re eatin’ up all my pre-paid minutes. I was just calling to tell you that I’m eighteen next week. Then I’m outta here.”

For a moment, Dylan couldn’t find her voice. The words stuck in her throat, itching and swelling, daring her to clear her throat or shout a nonsensical phrase like they always did, but this time, Dylan could do nothing but stare mutely at the wall, mind spinning. After a minute, she squeaked out, “Where to?”

“California, baby. That was always the plan. Just me and the sea. Just gotta make it until next week. I have to go. I love you. Text me, okay?”

Dylan nodded silently, trying to find the thing she wanted to say, trying to find the words to tell Rheeann how much she missed her, how far away California was, how much she still needed Rheeann, her only friend after so many years, so many foster homes, so many schools. But as she looked for the right way, as she tried on the words in her mind before letting them find their way to her lips, the line went dead. Dylan never found anything to say at all.

She sat in the closet, absently reaching for a ring at her neck that wasn’t there as she cleared her throat and tapped her fingers compulsively against her knees. One. Three. Five. Seven.


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6 Responses to “Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down”

  1. Javier Jeanbart says:
    December 30th, 2012

    Hello Amber,

    Please delete the above post. It contains the auth code of your domain.

    I did know that your comments are auto approved. I thougth you moderate the comments.

    I tried to contact you via email 2 weeks ago but you did not answer.

    Meanwhile the domain will be LOCKED to prevent someone else to take your domain.

    Contact me on email:

    to arrange the transfer to you.

    Sorry for this situation.

  2. Javier Jeanbart says:
    December 30th, 2012

    Due to rushing to place the comment I made a mistake in previous comment:
    “I did know that your comments are auto approved.”

    I did NOT know that your comments are auto approved.

  3. Javier Jeanbart says:
    December 30th, 2012

    Hi Amber,

    I did send you an email reply back.

    Please check.

    I am going to bed now.


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